In Lebanon, World Vision child sponsorship starts with understanding what is preventing children from surviving and thriving in their community. We work alongside communities to identify the needs, and then bring the pieces of the puzzle together to build a better life for all children. Your sponsorship enables work like this to not only benefit individual children, but to impact entire communities, creating a long-term, sustainable future.
World Vision has a long history of working in Beirut. Our presence in the city before the current refugee crisis, and the partnerships the organization built with city residents and local governments, has made it easier to extend our work to benefit refugees in addition to host communities.
Beirut, the capital city of Lebanon, has been impacted, like many other parts of the country, with a high number of refugees fleeing the war in Syria. The majority of Syrian refugees in Lebanon live, not in settlement camps, but in neighbourhoods they can afford—mostly impoverished and marginalized ones.
Since 1975, when World Vision first started operating in Lebanon, the focus has been on working with youth in poor and marginalized neighbourhoods within the city and on the outskirts. The Beirut team greatly believes in the power of youth to be agents of change in their neighbourhoods, their city and society at large. Therefore, the programming in Beirut is investing in building their skills, particularly as related to local advocacy, to empower them to improve their communities.
One form of engagement has been the creation of Youth Municipal Councils—youth teams that shadow the work of three municipalities in Greater Beirut. Through the use of creative and interactive methods for data collection, the Youth Municipal Councils were able to assess issues that affect up to 3,000 young people across the three areas.
Their collection methods included the use of a digital survey platform called ‘Youth in the Cities,’ created especially for this initiative. By deploying a customized colourful van, parked in different locations across the neighbourhoods, over a period of 12 days, the team was able to engage directly with youth in the streets.
Offering hot beverages and snacks and a pop-up seating area with Wi-Fi connection, tablets were used to complete the surveys. They also worked with local influencers, municipalities and businesses to spread the survey link through their social media channels. In one of the neighbourhoods, 12 female police members offered to market the data collection process by distributing leaflets during their working hours.
The process was inclusive of Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis and others living in the neighbourhoods, adapting an area-based approach rather than focusing on needs of specific people groups. Safety and public space were identified as main priority areas in addition to youth engagement, public transit and clean environment.
Through local level advocacy skills gained by being involved in World Vision’s program, the Youth Municipal Councils developed solutions and reached out to the local municipalities in their neighbourhoods to get their support.
In one of the neighbourhoods, the youth group successfully advocated with the municipality to match funding for setting up playgrounds in an unused space
. This same group is currently advocating with the municipality to ensure that access of Syrian refugees to these playgrounds is granted. This is an important issue in the highly contested environment in the city. Ensuring municipal support to such initiatives is a step forward to building social cohesion between urban residents and ensuring sustainability of efforts.
Engaging urban youth in fun and meaningful ways has potential for empowering them, equipping them to be better citizens and to care for their local environment. After all, with shrinking space in the city and houses becoming smaller, streets become the living room—a place to connect, dialogue and relax— who better than youth in understanding what their neighbourhoods and streets need and who has more resolve than them to hold their local authorities accountable?