A TIS Student getting involved in the children refugees lives’ in Lebanon

This summer, Sixtine T. will go to Lebanon with an association named “SOS chrétiens d’Orient”. This association is meant to help Christian populations which are persecuted in Middle East. It is active in Lebanon but also in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan and Armenia. She started by taking steps to get involved with them because she valued their project. Using profile and personality tests, they decided to send her to Lebanon, where she will be the most useful.

“ – What will you do in Lebanon?

– I will have a lot of propositions like organize and participate to summer camps for Iraqi and Syrian children who are refugees in Lebanon. They are a lot (~18% of the people living in Lebanon). I might be doing French or English classrooms for the adults. I will also visit needy people: elderly, disabled, precarious, in reintegration or in prison, etc. Another aspect is to help manage donations as the association also provides emergency aid and helps reviving the local economy. As an example, last year they helped to grow a vine as there is Lebanese wine. I will probably work there. In short, there is a lot to do. The association is present in Beirut but also in Tripoli, Al Qaa, a northern city next to the Syrian border and Rmeish, next to the Israeli border.

I will be gone for 2 months. My whole humanitarian summer! It won’t really be a vacation time, as there is no break in humanitarian trips. I won’t work from Monday to Friday but from Monday to … Sunday. In this service, it is said that we have 1 week end off in the month to do tourism, walks, to relax and do cool activities with the others volunteers in Lebanon, but I will see the country and discover the culture during my mission. I’m very happy to leave!

Political map of Lebanon

– When did you decide to go and why?

– It’s been a while since I wanted to participate in a humanitarian project. Since middle School I guess. I was wondering when would I have the opportunity, if I would have to take a gap year or not, etc. I really had a lot of questions. At the beginning of my school year in Polytech Grenoble, I discovered that, as I already did last year, my internship was already valid. I realized that I had a 2-month vacation time so that it was the occasion to do something I wanted to live. From the start of the year, I talked about it to my parents and started my researches for an association I could go with. I had to think of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to travel. As a matter of fact, I wanted to go alone (to work with new people and without any of my friends), and in a foreign country.

Humanitarian aid is something you can start where you live. As an example, in Grenoble, there are a lot of poor people in the streets that requires help. The thing is, what I needed was a personal experience while leaving my home and my loved ones for a time abroad, to get to see and help local populations.  As a Christian, I’m affected to see these populations getting persecuted because of their beliefs. I wanted to see and to live with them in order to understand better, in another way than using media. It is also an opportunity to bring a concrete help with whom I am. In fact, I am not rich but I can give them my time. I know that when I’ll get back from Lebanon, I will have personally grown a lot even if I know what I’ll bring them will be ridiculous. Finally, if I can make them smile, forget their daily life for a while, help educate a few ones and offer them some holidays, I would be happy with that. I know this is what I can bring in my own little way. I believe that providing help up to one’s capabilities and being able to live a strong personal experience as this one is necessary to build oneself.

During the school year, we saw Sixtine getting prepared for her trip as they have to get informed on the country’s situation. They also need to know the places they are willing to help: it’s geography and tense situation. They must understand political principles and the population’s situation of the people they will help. She found it very interesting!

 This preparation time is meant to keep them safe while they will be in the villages and to give them the best tools to provide the best help they can to populations they will visit.

“- How many volunteers will be with you?

-I don’t know yet. For now, there are approximately 50 volunteers who stay in their affiliated country during the whole year (16 in Lebanon) but in the summer, a lot of students or young adults swell the ranks. There were some training sessions in Lyon for the potential volunteers to inform them and introduce them to head of mission or some old volunteers. Before you go, you have to know the mission well. I met a few potential fellows in Lyon but they might be sent in Egypt or Syria instead.

My case officer says we will be plenty in Lebanon as there are multiple things to do and they need many people to organize these summer camps for refugee children. The amount of volunteers in Lebanon depends on how many people will volunteer as this volunteership is not insignificant. As you can imagine, it is meaningful to go in Lebanon to help Christian persecuted populations while you are yourself Christian. Even if all securities conditions are respected, the trip is still a little dangerous. In Lebanon, I guess we will be around 30 volunteers or more. “

If you’re hesitating to go on a humanitarian journey, you have to ask yourself the right questions. It will surely be an amazing experience which you might not be able to live many times again. Nevertheless, you need to be ready and to know what you’re capable of. For example, if you are depressed or very afraid of blood it might not be the best idea to go and help in hospitals. You need to question yourself on what experience could suit you the most, or which one could make you grow the most. Do you need to go abroad or do you feel you have to stay where you are? Should you get involved alone, with your companion or with a friend?

Remember that helping others is something you can start in your local sphere, while getting out of work or walking in the streets. Leaving for a trip requires another involvement, if you really want to live something special. In a conclusion, I would say that if you’re hesitating, you won’t regret the journey.

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