UN Op-Ed

The Lebanese International University's submission as part of the global campaign, "Together", led by the United Nations- by Ayah Sharif (LIU)
A Private Lesson!
By Ayah Sharif (LIU)

Discrimination and segregation reflect the stories and experiences of many Syrian refugees and migrants all around the world, especially in Lebanon. To address this social issue, I have decided to share my personal experience in the global campaign led by the United Nations to help in combating Xenophobia.

It's been a pivotal year for my Syrian friend; Mrs. Sahar Al Zoebi and her family living in Bchamoun - Lebanon as concierges for our building. "A new society. A new community. A new country. A new set of norms and values. Simply, a new life” as Sahar says.

And now, a new full-time job for the father; Mr. Alaa Obeid, pursuing his passion working in the baking industry.

The millions of Syrian refugees who have arrived in Lebanon have faced many struggles and restrictions. As Mr. Obeid says: "Perhaps one of our biggest challenges now is finding work with decent life conditions."

I first met this generous and conspicuous family a little over a year ago, when Sahar asked me kindly and nicely to help her little daughter, Lana, in her school studies and duties.

I welcomed Lana with an open heart, since I was really overwhelmed and thrilled to be playing an impactful role in the life of this young lady. I have always believed that education is as important as shelters and clean water for children refugees, and that education, and the hope it brings must become the central point of the humanitarian work of all - releasing the right of every child to be safe, to learn and to fulfill their aspirations.

Creating a sense of security and hope which is often lacking in refugee settings was my ultimate purpose. In addition to the multiple benefits the refugee education plays and it’s immediate, positive and widespread impact on the society.

Throughout our learning sessions, I have always reminded Lana that education will teach her to become self-resilient and will always provide her with both physical and psychological protection. Sahar was always impressed with the ways and techniques I used in teaching her daughter. Session after session, the bond between us became stronger where we started spending much more time together and enjoyed night talks about life, society, marriage, love and our future dreams.

I was really happy throughout our late night heart-to-heart conversations as we cheered up, laughed and planted the sense of hope and security in each other.

Night after night, I started receiving many of complains from my parents concerning my friendship with Sahar; As they believed that in this way they are protecting me from what is perceived as an existential threat. Personally, I indicated that this is related to the abundant negative stories and news reports about the Syrian refugees in Lebanon. However, they are always portrayed in majority as having a "turbulent" effect on the Lebanese society. Here comes the importance of our role - youth and university students - in working together to move from fear of each other to trust in each other, and plant in our minds that diversity in all its forms is an asset, not a threat. In addition, changing negative perceptions and attitudes towards refugees and migrants and strengthening the social contract between the host countries and refugees.
On a personal note, I have learned life lessons from Sahar starting from contentment, patience, simplicity, sincerity, dependability to faith and belief.
Eventually, my purpose was to shed the light on the many other families just like Sahar's, who need to be understood for their true essence not for the stereotype that has been implanted in the minds of people about Syrians.

Link to original article: http://www.liu.edu.lb/lb/SideBar/2017APrivateLesson.php

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