Karima, Ebad and Sunflowers in Lebanon

We are happy to share a story from the school project in Lebanon today. With the generous help of Acronis and our implementing partner Zeltschule e.V., we were able to establish an extraordinary school in the year 2019.
Two properly equipped classrooms accommodate 250 children, who attend classes in morning and afternoon shifts in the Beqaa Valley, Lebanon.

Karima drew this picture.
Karima is 13 years old and has been in Lebanon for five years. She went to school in her hometown of Hama for a year and a half, then the war caught up with her family and drove them from their home. For months they were internally displaced before making it across the border into Lebanon. When the Sunflower School opened, she was finally able to return to school after a prolonged interruption. She is good at all subjects but loves math and drawing the most. When she hears what precisely the profession of a draftswoman is, she is thrilled; that’s precisely what she would like to do and what she would enjoy. With her excellent grades, she would also be predestined for the indePENdent girl program. Our implementing partner sends gifted girls from the age of 15 to secondary schools to obtain a university entrance qualification. „You could be an engineer,“ they tell her, and she beams.

This is the drawing of Ebad.
Ebad is eight years old and the oldest of three boys. Without the Sunflower School, he would have been working in the fields every day . He would be the only one who could feed the family since adult Syrians are subject to a work ban, and his two brothers are still too young. Instead, he can be what he would have been at home in Syria without the war: a child. A student. He can deal with reading. He can learn and be busy playing – and his brothers too.


How’s the situation for refugees in Lebanon?
Since the war began in 2011, more than 1.5 million Syrians have crossed the border into Lebanon as war refugees. They are allowed into the country but are then completely on their own. Adult Syrian refugees are banned from working, making it impossible for them to provide for their families, but at the same time, there is no government support. Syrian refugees are only allowed to work in „mobile constructions.“ Therefore there are more than 2000 so-called „wild“ refugee camps (i.e., not supervised by any international organization) in the Beqaa Plain (border area between Syria and Lebanon). Since the labor contract is only for Syrian adults, Syrian children are in demand as harvest workers in the numerous fields around the Beqaa Plain. At the age of seven or eight, the children start to work, earn a few dollars for 10 hours of challenging fieldwork, and have to use this money to pay the rent for the temporary tent in which the family lives and feed the family.


Let’s take a look at the current situation in Lebanon as well.
In October 2019, Lebanon began the revolution that resulted in the overthrow of the government and the establishment of a technocratic transitional government. During the political upheaval came Corona. The country’s ailing healthcare system and lack of infrastructure made dealing with the pandemic more than problematic. On August 4, 2020, the Beirut Harbour exploded. Two thousand seven hundred people died in seconds, and to this day, the country is struggling with the aftershocks. For months, the government has been in free fall, with a hyperinflation rate of over 500%. More than half of the Lebanese population have slipped below the poverty line by now.


The situation in the Sunflower School
The Sunflower School has a new wall: after a long, cold, wet winter, there were leaks in the tent roof, and in spring, not only the outer tarpaulins were replaced, but also a beautiful sunflower tarpaulin was installed inside.

317 children currently attend the Sunflower School. In addition, there are 43 indePENdent girls in the camp, i.e., girls between the ages of 15 and 19, whom our implementing partner Zeltschule e.V. particularly supports to give them a self-determined path into the future and to protect them from marriages.

Due to the current political developments in the Middle East, the economic free fall of Lebanon, the resurgence of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and Lebanon’s involvement in it, the families in our Sunflower Camp are also unsettled and frightened. The future seems more fragile and unpredictable than ever before. For this reason, it is even more important to give the children as much security, childhood, and normality as possible – as long as the Sunflower School exists, this is possible.