“My happiness was indescribable when I stood on the stage”

Despite living in perpetual exile in Lebanon for more than 70 years, Palestinian refugees across the country continue to suffer from social and economic exclusion, discrimination, and extreme poverty.

Residents of the 12 official Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon endure overcrowding, unemployment, poor housing and lack of infrastructure and services. In partnership with UNICEF and five local organisations – Naba’a, Najdeh, NISCVT, Tadamon & the General Union of Palestinian Women – MAP is bringing psychosocial and mental health support to thousands of children growing up in these harsh conditions. The programme aims to empower young people to advocate for their rights with confidence in their context of overlapping political and social restrictions.

Wafa Dakwar, MAP’s Senior Programme Officer in Lebanon, recently met with 15-year-old Doaa, to discuss her experience of being involved in the project:

Hi Doaa, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Hi, I am 15 years old and have two sisters. I live with my family in the outskirts of Burj el Barajneh refugee camp.

How did you hear about the project?

I heard about it from my classmates who used to talk a lot about the project’s activities run at Najdeh’s centre. When I went with my friends to the centre, the animators [peer educators who run the activities] contacted my mother and gave her details about the activities I would be participating in and asked for her consent. My parents were happy about me taking part. They allowed me to go to the centre even though they don’t usually allow me to go to that part of the camp alone as we don’t know any of the residents in that area.

Why did you decide to taka part in this project?

My friends encouraged me. They used to tell me all about the interesting and fun activities they do, and I used to see many exciting photos from the project on the centre’s facebook page. So, I wanted to come to the project too.

What project activities did you participate in?

The main activities that I participate in are SHE DEALs [life skills training activities], yoga, games promoting gender equality, Dabke [traditional Palestinian dance] and dancing, role play, football, interactive theatre and open days.

How has your experience of the project been?

My experience participating in the various activities was a very good one. My happiness was indescribable when I stood on a stage in front of a large crowd and did a Dabke [traditional Palestinian dance] show in one of the community events. People in the audience were cheering and clapping for us. I saw looks of admiration from many members of the audience.

What did you like the most in the project and what did you like the least?

I like group work and role plays with male and female friends the most. I have not been part of such activities before.

What I like least is having to wait my turn when doing activities as I get bored. I like to be active all the time.

What do you suggest we change or add for activities to be more interesting for young people like you?

I suggest adding sporting activities such as organising marathons or musical activities such as piano lessons. I like to have more physical activities.

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to be a football player and photographer in the future.

You can read more about the right to health and the right to work for Palestinian refugees in our Health in Exile report, here. Please also consider making a donation today to help MAP to continue supporting young Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

Source: Medical Aid for Palestinians