A HANDS-ON APPROACH TO CHANGING LIVES

As SAT-7’s educational shows provide more than a million children with a brighter future, a hands-on new project is planned to make the impact even greater. The new Social and Cultural Centre in Lebanon will offer a life-changing curriculum for refugee children, based around SAT-7 programming.

For the first time SAT-7, as a media ministry, has decided to take a new approach to helping its viewers, by setting up the SAT-7 Social and Cultural Centre, in Lebanon. The objective is to provide refugee children and families a place to receive alternative education and support for their educational and personal needs. Through this approach, SAT-7 hopes to learn first-hand about the needs of refugee families and to be able to improve on its programming as a result.

THE STAKES COULD NOT BE HIGHER

As Nicoletta Michael, SAT-7’s Projects Manager, explains, “The ultimate aim of a humanitarian response should be to empower people to return and restore their country.” Educational, psychological, and cultural support for families play a vital part in making this possible. This kind of response also helps protect refugees and their children from falling victim to sexual violence, recruitment into fighting forces, prostitution, and other life-destroying threats.

SAT-7’s new Social and Cultural Centre will open in the mountain town of Ehden, Lebanon, which is home to both Syrian and Iraqi refugee families. Using SAT-7 shows, including the on-air school program My School, the centre will provide year-round alternative education for 75 refugee and underprivileged children aged 5–8. It will also offer emotional support and informal lessons in hygiene, cooking, and gardening, as well as fun activities. Parents and caregivers will benefit from education, support, and family activities, and the centre will also provide teacher training.

REACHING THOSE WHO ARE LEFT OUT

The centre’s support is aimed at vulnerable children who are missing out on other educational opportunities, or who may be struggling with illiteracy, learning difficulties, or psychological trauma. The isolated location, where residents are often trapped by snowy winter conditions, also contributes to families missing out on support.

“We chose this area because we saw there was a need in the community,” Nicoletta explains. “Other NGOs had come and left, but the need was still there. SAT-7 has always strived to reach people who are left out. Those behind closed doors, those who are forgotten, or those who do not have access.”

The facilitators will be trained to deal with challenging behaviour and to recognise and address underlying trauma. Spending time with the youngsters during a healthy breakfast and lunch will help staff identify children’s needs, so they may benefit fully from the educational programs.

AN ETHOS OF RESPECT AND DIGNITY
Nicoletta Michael, SAT-7’s Projects Manager

Nicoletta explains that 5–6 years ago, these families could not have imagined that they would be in such a situation. “They deserve this help, and we are currently the fortunate ones who are able to offer it. We want to believe that if this was us someday, and the roles were reversed, they would help us too.”

Operated in partnership with cultural organisation Biladi, the centre will also give children the chance to develop pride for their cultures through taking part in music, theatre, and storytelling. For some displaced children, this may be their first chance to learn about their own culture. “We do not want children to be ashamed to say where they are from” Nicoletta explains. “When you say that you are from a certain place, people tend to associate you with a specific image. We want children to feel proud of their heritage and not be stuck on the image of the past six years of conflict, but to remember the image that their countries have had for hundreds of years.”

While there is a need for similar centres all over the Middle East and North Africa, SAT-7 does not plan to operate multiple facilities. Instead, Nicoletta’s vision is that other organisations will be inspired to replicate the idea in other locations. “The excitement I feel for this centre is like the excitement I felt on my first day of school,” she says. “I am imagining the first day that these children will come to the centre and see their lives begin to change.”

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