The Lebanese responding to local needs in Lebanon
Caritas MONA is based in Beirut, which allowed us the opportunity to spend three days with the staff during which we learnt about, and visited, some excellent projects, from the regional level to the local level. (Click here for part one of our time with Caritas MONA).
Yesterday, Caritas MONA took us to see a few of the local on-the-ground projects that are meeting the needs of local people in Beirut and Lebanon. Firstly, we met with “The Voice of Lebanese Women”, founded after the war by women volunteers who sought to rebuild their community and to support the many newly-widowed women.
The centre currently provides daycare for more than 55 children at just $50 per month, with free services for those without the means to pay. Women are able to get English lessons, vocational training, and can access start up materials for small enterprises. Teenagers have programs to teach them life skills and are able to explore personal themes through theatre. A recent initiative supported by the US embassy and Caritas U.S. (Catholic Relief Services) provides one month of training on citizenship, teamwork, tolerance, and conflict resolution. This is followed up by the creation of a mock cabinet through which youth simulate the political process in Lebanon.
In the afternoon, we were taken to the large industrial headquarters of “Arcenciel” (arc en ceil means rainbow in french), an organization that attends to the needs of people with disabilities. The facilities contain a number of large workshops, which produce many mobility tools (wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and more), to improve the lives of people with disabilities. Arcenciel employs people with disabilities in order to help them gain skills and become more independent – all the wheelchairs in Lebanon come from this workshop. The facilities also provide free dental care, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and job placement services.
The final project that we witnessed on our tour of Beirut was a drop-in centre that provides support to people living with HIV/AIDS and/or drug addiction. The Centre trains Peer Outreach Workers to provide information and harm-reduction materials to at-risk people, for example gay men and sex workers. The Outreach Workers are also trained to be able to provide on-the-spot testing for HIV and Hepatitis. The increasing demand for drug rehabilitation led the Centre to provide a safe haven for drug-users 2 nights a week, and follow-up with patients on the other 3 nights a week while the Centre is open. Beyond medical assistance, the Centre also provides a social community, legal services, and counseling. New programs are using psychodrama and theatre to help clients deal with their addictions.
In one day we had a chance to see 3 very innovative centres that have developped locally to respond to the needs of the vulnerable and excluded in Lebanon. An excellent snapshot of what grassroots development looks like!
by Jacques St. Laurent