It’s been about a year since I started this blog, and nearly as long since I last updated it. Although I haven’t been posting much, my efforts in Lebanon have not ceased, and I’m continuing to film for my documentary on education and working to provide more educational opportunities for Syrians in Lebanon. I will warn you now, this will be a long post. And although longer than I would like this to be, it is more important for you to read this post than any of the others that have come before.
These intervening months since last writing have been a strange mix of drastic change and of complete stagnation. The tidal wave of Syrians flowing into Lebanon has not diminished, and the number of registered refugees has now reached well over one million. For the past ten months, more than 1,200 Syrians fled into Lebanon each and every day, and while the plight of Syrians in general continues to change on a daily basis, the individual circumstances of many of the Syrian children in Lebanon have sadly remained exactly the same. Most of these children continue to sit at home each and every day with nothing to occupy their time other than watching TV, or perhaps playing outside with their siblings. Most of these children have had no opportunities to learn in a formal educational setting for a couple of years now, and by doing nothing, have therefore moved further away from the potential of ever going back to school.
One positive development in the lives of Syrians in Lebanon is that more attention is being paid to addressing the educational needs of their children. An increasing number of schools are opening for Syrians to attend, and the UN is reimbursing more families for their children’s school tuition costs when they attend Lebanese schools. Many nonprofits have also dedicated themselves to providing educational and psychological support to these children, who are in desperate need of both.
Although this is a great improvement over how things were even last year, there is still much to be desired in this reimbursement process. The payment of tuition costs for children here in Lebanon, while not insignificant, is still not allowing Syrian parents to send their children to school. Syrian parents are responsible for paying for transportation to and from school for their children, and sometimes also for uniforms, books and notebooks. Combined, these costs add up to $415 per 9-month school year, an amount that most Syrian families are unable to afford.
As you know from my previous posts, I was planning on opening a school here in Lebanon. My goal was to help the children in one specific town, as I have become close with the families living there and wanted to directly influence their situations. Luckily there are now several schools in the vicinity of this town, and the UN is now going to pay for their tuition costs. The unfortunate part though, as I mentioned, is the high costs of transportation, uniforms and books, which will still prohibit these families from sending their children to school this year. I have therefore shifted my plans to take advantage of the existing infrastructure here, as well as the UN’s payment of school tuition.
I have decided to start an educational sponsorship program for Syrian children in Lebanon. For this sponsorship program, I am proposing the following conditions: I will pair one donor with one child in Lebanon. You, the individual, family, or group, will agree to cover the yearly school expenses of one Syrian child ($415). In exchange, you will receive photos and information about the child you sponsor, and I will also provide updates periodically throughout the school year. Additionally, if you would like to help sponsor a child but cannot afford the entire $415 amount, your donation (of whatever amount) would also be greatly welcomed. In this case, I will pool your donation with that of other partial donors in order to cover one child’s yearly costs.
Also, I will be throwing in something extra for those who agree to commit to the full yearly sponsorship. If you are able to pay the full $415 amount, I will provide you a free photo session, with the caveat that this will only be possible if you live in an area I will be traveling to in the coming year (right now, you can consider yourself covered if you live in southern California, Las Vegas, Utah, DC, or Portland/Seattle). If you don’t live in one of these places, I will speak with you individually to see if we can work something out. These photo sessions will also give us an opportunity to catch up or to get to know each other, and for me to tell you first hand about the child you will be sponsoring and about my experiences in Lebanon (check out my photography at www.brantstewartphotography.com).
Additionally, I will be initiating steps to establish a nonprofit as soon as I return to the States this fall. Education for Syrian refugees is a cause I am extremely passionate about, and an issue that will have serious lasting consequences if not dealt with soon. Initially, it is my goal to raise the money to send six children to school this fall. These children have gone far too long without education, and I am committed to making sure this does not persist. And although my initial focus is on these six, I already personally know many more children whose families are in need of sponsorship. In other words, don’t feel shy to sign up to sponsor a child, thinking that there are only six children who need to be covered. There are many, many more. In the future, I hope to be able to affect the lives of many more children on a larger scale, and I believe this nonprofit will better enable me to do so.
Since I do not yet have a nonprofit set up, you will be sending the money to me, and in turn I will ensure the money gets to the children in need. Even if I am not in Lebanon, I have a network of trustworthy friends here who will help ensure the money gets to the appropriate places. Money will not be given to the families, but rather, I will ensure your money goes directly to the service providers.
If you would like to sponsor a Syrian refugee child in Lebanon, thereby allowing them to attend school this fall, please send me an email at email@example.com. Although the school year isn’t starting here until mid-September, I will be leaving Lebanon in mid-August, and it would therefore be preferable if you are able to make the donation before then.
I look forward to working with you in changing the lives of some amazing children.