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Campaign Stories
  Acting on Pope Francis' call for inter-religious cooperation in the Middle East
  Lebanon: before and after displacement, through a Syrian refugee child's eyes
  Dialogue is the Solution in Syria, not War
  Displaced by conflict in Syria, refugee helps others
  Examining the role of women from a humanitarian perspective in response to the conflict in Syria
  Families flee Syria to protect their children
  In Syria conflict, persecution affects Muslims and Christians
  Jesuit priest: people of Homs hunger for normality
  Jesuit Refugee Service stands with Syria
  Jesuit Refugee Service Syria staff stand together in serving the displaced
  Jordan: accompaniment comes first for refugees
  Jordan: eat dust here or die in Syria
  Jordan: living in the shadow of Syria's crisis
  JRS in Iraq as winter imperils displaced families
  JRS Jordan director visits U.S. universities, parishes
  JRS urges Australia, U.S. to increase humanitarian intake
  Lebanon: educational boost for refugee children
  Lebanon: families from Syria seek safety, shelter
  Lebanon: space for refugees from Syria to learn
  Lebanon: Syrian children need more than a traditional education
  Lebanon: Syrian refugee children counting on school
  Middle East: updates from JRS
  Pope urges concrete help for refugees
  Syria: between fear of violence and the struggle to survive
  Syria: bringing families together
  Syria: daily life a struggle to survive
  Syria: amidst upheaval, JRS expands services
  Syria: enduring spirit remains despite the rubble
  Syria: five years on, time for diplomacy to deliver
  Syria: food & fuel shortages add to daily woes
  Syria: interfaith family volunteers in Aleppo
  Syria: JRS refugee center destroyed, our work continues
  Syria: let this fourth anniversary of the war be the last
  Syria: maintaining normalcy in Aleppo
  Syria: Refugees from Iraq on the sidelines of yet another conflict
  Syria: shelter and food difficult to find
  Syria: thousands more displaced by violence in Aleppo
  Syria: turning pain into their most powerful weapon
  Syria: urgent need for winter supplies
  Syria: violence in Damascus fuels hopelessness, fear
  Syria: When Hope Returns – Rama’s Story
  Syria: why people flee and why they need protection
  Syrian refugees face food cuts in Jordan, Lebanon
  Water is a precious gift in Syria
  Witnessing the hope and resilience of Syrians
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Jesuit Refugee Service students at a graduation ceremony in Kafr Zabad, Lebanon, June 2015. JRS educates many of the estimated 502,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children living in Lebanon. (Photo Credit: Jesuit Refugee Service)
(Beirut) January 20, 2016 – Gharam, a 14-year-old girl who fled to Lebanon from Syria with her family to escape her country’s longstanding civil war, longs to return home. But in the meantime, a Jesuit Refugee Service school she attends in her host country has been a welcomed oasis in an otherwise turbulent world.

“When I miss a day of school, I feel like life has returned and closed the doors,” said Gharam, who lives in Jbeil, a district in northeast Lebanon where tens of thousands of Syrian refugees live. “When I return to school I feel like I have returned to life because that’s where the teachers and friends are who helped me forget my sadness and anger from the war, as if I’m in another world that is beautiful and wonderful.”

Lebanon has welcomed about 1.5 million Syrian refugees since civil war erupted in neighboring Syria in 2011, accounting for about a quarter Lebanon’s current population. But the influx of an estimated 502,000 school-aged Syrian refugee children has stretched the host country’s public schools to the limits.

Even when Syrian refugee children are accepted into Syrian schools they often find it difficult to assimilate, as they face challenges such as foreign languages barriers, discrimination, bullying, social and economic issues, and unpredictable enrolment regulations.

So in response, Jesuit Refugee Service offers extensive education and language training programs in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad – two areas in Lebanon with high concentrations of Syrian refugees – to help refugee children prepare for Lebanese public schools.

While final figures for 2015 aren’t yet available, more than 800 children were enrolled in JRS- classes in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad during the first half of the year – about double compared with the same time period in 2014. And despite the program’s progress, increasingly high demand for classes mean there is a waiting list of potential students eager to enroll.

“I was expecting (the JRS program) would be like other schools where they treat students aggressively and hit and abuse them,” Gharam said. “But I felt comfortable and adapted quickly, and I started to feel a change in my life in the way I treated other people with respect and tolerance and love, and a change in the level of my education.”

All of the more than 170 JRS students in Jbeil and in Kafr Zabad who took placement tests for the Lebanese school system during the first half of 2015 earned passing grades. But with classroom space tight, it’s uncertain how many children will have the opportunity to attend regular public schools.

Increasingly desperate living conditions of refugee families have created stressful home environments that threaten to undermine their children’s education, with some children dropping out of school so they can work to support their family. So JRS added social workers to its educational programs in 2015. Absentee and dropout rates since have dropped significantly. 

In addition to education needs, JRS also routinely provides refugee families with food baskets, hygiene products and items to help them cope with winter, such as blankets, heaters, drapes and carpet.

JRS students in Lebanon say they’re grateful for the opportunity to continue their studies but can’t wait to one day return to their home country.  

“JRS changed my whole life,” wrote Nour Sawan, 14, a JRS student in Kafr Zabad. “The most beautiful thing in my school is my special teachers. They illuminate my future and guide me and encourage me to continue my studies and to be a special person in the community. (But) I miss my home in Syria and my relatives and my friends. I wish to go back to Syria and realize my dream, which is to become a famous fashion designer.”

Mahdi Al Hussein, 15-year-old JRS student in Kafr Zabad, wanted to be a doctor as a young child in Syria. Now, another profession has caught his interest.

“I hope to become a pilot in the future to go away from the discrimination and bigotry in this world,” he wrote. “I hope that peace return(s) to Syria, my lovely country.”


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