The Onion factory camp

An abandoned onion factory in Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.

We recently visited one of the many informal camps spread throughout Bekaa Valley, Lebanon. It is located in and around an abandoned onion factory. This factory was damaged during the Lebanese civil war and was never rebuilt. It is now home to several dozen Syrian families.

We spent some time with these families. Our goal was to better understand what they are experiencing, see how they live, and share this with others. We shared countless cups of chai with the people here, and the one thing they kept saying was they just want to go home.

Because of the continued fighting in Syria this doesn't seem possible anytime soon, but what we can do is share with others what it is like to live in these camps. To remind the people living here that they aren't forgotten, and encourage others to get involved.

And so that is what we will do.

We will be visiting more camps this summer to share their stories, and to create profiles of the different camps. We are also working on a program for some of the kids living in these camps this summer and will provide more details about this project in the coming weeks.

The Onion Factory Camp will be our first camp profile, and while we work on finishing this new section of the website, check out a few of the photos below.

Photos: Quentin Bruno

Aflatoun and Mobaderoon - The Art of Recycling

We have been sitting in our houses for a week now, over 50 bombs have struck our neighborhood and fear is trenching in the air.
— Sarah, Aflatoun club member

At the Al-Shahba Institute in Aleppo, in the midst of an on-going civil war that has claimed the lives of well over 200,000 people, the plain and human concerns of the children caught up in the conflict are given voice.

By addressing a desire for normality by providing lessons in creative and empowering craftworks, Aflatoun works directly with these children through a number of programs:

In the “Journey” Club, situated in the Damascene countryside, the kids learn about saving and recycling. With the goal of “creating something out of nothing”, damaged materials from the school’s backyards are re-purposed into imaginative and artistic creations that are, in turn, put on sale during a bazaar that allows the children an opportunity to see the real, immediate value of their creations. Members of the surrounding community happily supported the effort, with every one of the recycled pieces sold.

Following the Bazaar project, the club members learned about utilizing used materials in artistic displays, for exhibition in an art gallery. They turned unused rugs, plastic bags, cartons, cement bags, plastic bottles, CDs, floppy disks, and the like into original works, such as bracelets, picture frames and notebooks. These efforts were organized and presented at a gallery, where the work was sold – affording the club members funds to buy school supplies.

The hope is that these projects teach club members important life skills in financial management while also providing a foundational opportunity for them to just be kids – for them to learn and have fun – despite the circumstances.

-written by Maysson and Chris Cyrek

The club [is] a chance for the children to heal their pains and get a time off from thinking of their everyday problems after being displaced and losing their homes.
— one of the Club supervisors

The Beauty of Sports

In Latakieh, Syria, one of the Mobaderoon’s facilitators, Majed, is a national basketball player. Believing in the power of sports to help individuals from various backgrounds create a joint understanding, find team spirit, and build trust between themselves Majed gathered a group of young basketball trainers to teach children the game. The children, aged 8-14 and on teams bearing names of positive values, are taught life skills through hours of discussions, meetings and basketball metaphors during training.

So popular was this creative approach that 40 young basketball players volunteered and nearly 200 children were recruited. Building a positive coexistence between the local children of Latakieh and those arriving as refugees from other provinces of Syria has proved successful and been applauded by families and others in the local community who now cheer for their teams – “Peace”, “Coexistence”, “Education”, “Dialogue”, and many others.

- Written by Majed / Edited by Jack Daly

What does family mean to you?

At a time when many Syrian children have been torn apart from their families, a group of facilitators working with Mobaderoon in Syria asked children what family means to them.

The children shared their sorrows, groups were formed to support these children, and they made these beautiful drawings depicting what family means to them.