Towards a brighter future for young Palestinian refugees: Life skills training in Lebanon

The Palestinian refugee camps and gatherings of Lebanon, established in the wake of the Nakba over 70 years ago, continue to be a tough place to grow up. With limited basic services such as healthcare and unsafe and unsanitary environmental conditions, young refugees face a broad array of challenges to their health and dignity.

On top of this, Palestinians are marginalised from wider society, and excluded from many jobs and opportunities, so it can be hard for young people to imagine a brighter future.

Recognising these challenges, Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP) partners with the National Institution of Social Care and Vocational Training (NISCVT), a local NGO, to provide free health and life skills education for young Palestinian refugees.

This programme’s activities provide psychosocial and mental health support for youth and their communities, as well as empowering young people to advocate for their rights with confidence in a context of many political and social restrictions. These activities are run by young people themselves, who are trained and supported by specialists to become ‘peer educator’ volunteers.

Diana*, one of these peer educators, spoke to MAP about her experience volunteering in the project:

“Since I was a child I used to hang out at NISCVT’s community centers and participate in their various activities. For children in the camp, the community centers are the only safe place where they can play and have fun. Four years ago, the social worker in the centre informed me about the peer education sessions and encouraged me to attend some of them.

I found these sessions very informative and I enjoyed them. It was the first time I heard the term ‘gender’ and discussed gender equality. The sessions opened my eyes to many new concepts and made me question things I considered normal. I informed the social worker of my wish to volunteer in the project, and after receiving trainings on the topics discussed in the project as well as on how to deliver peer education sessions, I started facilitating sessions.

The project made me aware of how much I love working with children and youth. I noticed that they are likely to engage and learn if we use more modern and interactive approaches in conveying messages such as the ones used in peer education sessions. Thus, I decided to major in Educational Sciences at university.

I feel that I’m excelling in my studies because of the training I received in this project and my experience in delivering peer education sessions. For example, standing in front of a group, managing disruptive behavior and conflict within the group, and involving shy group members are things I am comfortable with, but others find difficult.

I will continue to volunteer in the project after I graduate and start working because I believe this project is helping so many young people. I see many young boys and girls partake in risky behaviors and cause harm to themselves and others, often because they didn’t have anyone to talk them, raise their awareness, and involve them in alternative, safe activities. When we start improving young people’s understanding about drug abuse, violence, early marriage and work with them to enhance their conflict resolution, communication, and anger management skills, we are helping them have a better and safer future.”

* Names have been changed to protect identity.

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