Witty, energetic, and adventurous, adjectives that fit Nancy Yamout perfectly. With a captivating smile and an overflowing positive energy, she describes her work with the most challenging communities in Lebanon. Driven by her passion for crime prevention, Nancy does not hesitate for a moment to put her time and effort into helping vulnerable youth living in disadvantaged areas with a reputation of being “dangerous." Nancy started her crime prevention endeavor by interviewing prisoners accused of extremism and unlawful acts in Roumieh and Barbar El Khazin prisons, Lebanon. Her goal was to develop a “behavioral analysis profile" that would help her build robust crime prevention programs adapted to the Lebanese context. She explains, “After spending around 12 years interviewing prisoners accused of extremism and violent crimes, I noticed that gangs have been recruiting youth in certain disadvantaged areas in Lebanon. I decided to focus my work in these areas and offer culturally adapted crime prevention programs."
Nancy started her career as a translator, but a job with Handicap International led her to shift her career plans. She felt devastated by the difficult living circumstances that vulnerable communities have to deal with. She decided to act. She completed two Master's degrees, in social work and business administration, and a Bachelor's degree in social work. In 2014, she established, along with her sister Maya, a non-governmental organization (NGO): Rescue Me. “Rescue Me" focuses on crime prevention by developing and offering vocational training programs, and expressive art and psychosocial support programs. 'Rescue Me' is among a very few NGOs in Lebanon that focus on forensic psychology and crime prevention.
Building on the interviews that Rescue Me held in Roumieh prison and Barbar El Khazin, the organization started to work in a disadvantaged community in the suburbs of Beirut, where recruitment into violent activities had been taking place. Accessing this community needed careful planning and a permission of the gatekeepers of the area. “Rescue Me" has been working there for three years now. The NGO has been hosting aggression replacement and vocational trainings for at-risk youth. Aggression replacement training helps participants express their feelings, build their communication skills, apply explicit moral reasoning, and use anger management techniques effectively. As a result, many of the participants undergo a tangible positive shift in their personalities. The vocational training program has opened new opportunities for the youth, many of whom have started working in jobs that, without this training, would not have been accessible to them.
Rescue Me also offered, in collaboration with “Dar El Amal," an HIV screening campaign and health promotion activities on sexually transmitted diseases. Nancy notes, “Social work and public health go hand in hand. We need public health experts to develop, implement, and evaluate health promotion programs. But, how many are willing to work in such challenging areas?"
When asked, “How do you keep this beautiful smile while working in such stressful conditions?" Nancy replied, “I love this work! I love helping people to get a better life even if it means living a bit on the edge."
Like a butterfly, Nancy was drawn towards her passion- deciphering unlawful behaviors and building safer communities through crime prevention. For that, Nancy works diligently and, when needed, she collaborates with other NGOs and public health experts. Her aim is to help vulnerable youth escape recruitment into violent activities. This is an art of public health!