Every day, one hundred children from the Shatila refugee camp go to school at the Bukra Ahla center in Beirut where they are taught by SB Overseas staff from Syria and international volunteers from all over the world who support the staff primarily by giving Math and English classes.

Sarah, Kaitlyn, Aphra and Morgane landed in Lebanon in December 2016 to begin their two month placement, and with Christmas around the corner they soon came up with the idea of fundraising through a Facebook event to buy a present for every child in the school.

Kevin (Project Manager) wanted to do the same, so he contacted Saint Anthony’s College near Beirut, whose students donated Christmas presents accompanied by handmade cards wishing the children happy holidays. Combined, these two projects made sure each child at Bukra Ahla received a Christmas present.

But in the end, the volunteers were able to do much more than that. They raised an incredible €4300 which allowed them to buy presents for the 100 children in Beirut, the 300 children at SB Overseas’ new Saida center and the 110 children at the Arsal school in the red zone. A total of 510 kids could get a Christmas present thanks to the hard work and generosity of everyone involved.

As a team, the volunteers brainstormed about what to buy and how to buy it. At Bukra Ahla, Wael (Center Director) and the volunteers looked for presents in the Shatila refugee camp market so that the money raised would be injected into the local economy and therefore benefit the community twice over. On December 23rd, each child in the Bukra Ahla center got a whiteboard with markers, a pack of giant bendy pencils, and a kit for making bracelets out of elastic bands. They loved them and have been making the teachers bracelets ever since!

Because the volunteers raised so much, it soon became apparent that it would not be possible to get each kid their present before Christmas, but luckily that meant there was enough time to ensure that the second batch of gifts were both useful and fun. The staff asked the parents what they would prefer and following some careful consideration, SB OverSeas placed an order for 510 colourful tops and 510 pairs of trousers. On January 17th, the volunteers handed them out to all the children enrolled in Beirut, much to their excitement, and the same will happen soon in Saida and Arsal.

Authors: Morgane Van Ermengem and Aphra Evans