16 July 2019
Students at Fratelli enjoy a sports class. (photo: Tamara Abdul Hadi)
In the new edition of ONE, journalist Doreen Abi Raad profiles a place Where Education Is Alive, the Fratelli Center in Lebanon. She offers some additional impressions below.
To reach the Fratelli Center in Rmeileh, Lebanon, the exit from the coastal highway near the southern city of Sidon leads to a lovely, winding road dotted with all kinds of flowering trees.
I imagine that Syrian refugee children, living nearby in dire conditions, perhaps also admire the beautiful landscape on their way to and from the center on the bus provided by CNEWA.
Fratelli is a non-profit association jointly founded by the De La Salle Brothers and Marist Brothers in Lebanon in 2016 with the goal of organizing educational, social and cultural activities for poor and vulnerable children.
From the former Marist Our Lady of Fatima school in Rmeileh, abandoned during Lebanon’s civil war, the Fratelli Center serves more than 600 children and youth, Syrian refugees as well as poor Lebanese. Most of the students are Muslim. Teachers and volunteers are Muslim and Christian alike.
It’s morning recess time. Children are running, screeching, laughing, some kicking soccer balls, immersed in exuberant momentum. Yet there’s nothing chaotic: It’s simply blissful joy, every child’s face radiant with a smile.
Three young boys run to Marist Brother Andrés Porras, hugging him in unison, nearly knocking him over with their enthusiasm. “How are you today?” he asks the students, returning their hugs and encouraging them to speak in English.
“For me, these children are the daily presence of God, it is very transparent, how they share their happiness and look in your eyes with such pureness,” Brother Andrés says.
When it’s time to get serious at the ringing of a teacher’s handbell, the children quietly line up, ready to return to classrooms, still brimming with joy. They are so eager to learn.
In the first grade classroom for Syrian refugee children, a colorful poster of “Fratelli Class Rules” is prominently displayed. The rules include: ”I will be honest and kind…I will respect myself and others…I will not be a bully…I will do my best…I come to school to learn.” The students indeed are doing their best, listening to their teacher with rapt attention and confidently reciting arithmetic drills in English.
For Fratelli’s afternoon basic literacy and numeracy program for youth, 16-year-old Zahra arrives with a sweet smile, after working in agriculture from 6 am to noon with her father, to help support her family. They fled to Lebanon from Idlib, Syria in 2012.
Zahra expected that with no fear of war, everything would be better in Lebanon. But life in her adopted country has been very difficult, she admits with a mature resolve. Her family lives in poverty; she missed out on school for several years, and she must work to help out financially.
Thanks to Fratelli, Zahra has restarted her education, opening a path for a better future. Ever since she was young, Zahra dreamed of being a pediatrician.
Zahra hopes to return to her homeland someday. But she would like her country to be as it was before the war.
For now, Zahra considers Fratelli “my second home.”
“Or to be honest, it is my main home. It’s the place where I feel free,” she says, adding that the teachers “are like a family to me.”
Read more about Fratelli in the July 2019 edition of ONE.
Tags: Lebanon Refugees