During the past two weeks I have been working to research the economic situation of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. This involves interviews with NGO leaders and refugees in Shatila and Bourj el Barajneh in Beirut, al Buss in Tyre and Ein el Helweh in Sidon. I have been traveling a lot over the past few weeks and will be heading to Tyr first thing in the morning to meet with the micro-credits coordinator of Najdeh.
Yesterday I had an amazing experience at Bourj el Barajneh, where I was able to interview 10-12 kids aged 15-19 who spend time taking vocational training courses with NAVTSS (National Association for Vocational Training and Social Services). Typically, children who drop out of UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) schools will opt for vocational training in areas such as nursing, graphic and interior design, photography, administration and accounting. The kids were all in very good spirits and happy to be filmed and interviewed. They were clearly aware of their situation, the lack of freedom to work outside of the camps legally, and the discrimination and racism that they faced outside of the camps.
Interestingly, there were several Lebanese children volunteers at the NAVTSS center and I was finally able to see evidence of a positive relationship between Palestinians and Lebanese youth. This reinforces the hope conditions will change for Palestinians, as the younger generation becomes more active and aware of the conflict the remains within Lebanon.
Though my main objective is to collect data on the economic struggle, my own interests often lead me astray from the task at hand. After our interview, one of the girls, Nihal offered to give me a tour of her community and her home. I gladly accepted. Although Bourj el Barajneh is not as diverse as Shatila, there is the same sense of community and everyone knows everyone. At 15, Nihal is extremely bright and aware of her rights, or lack thereof, and is incredibly knowledgeable about the camp. The electrical wires of the camp are far worse than what I saw in Shatila. They are everywhere, near to water pipes and in reach of every child. The wires are a priority on Nihal’s agenda of things to improve in the camp. In fact, she started a campaign to find a solution to the wire problem (see picture below).