American University of Beirut

MEPI-TLG Gives for a Change

CAP Projects in Collaboration with the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS)

The scholars are currently working on their CAP (Civic Action Plan) projects with the Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (CCECS) at AUB. Students are at different phases of their CAP project cycle, with some doing their internship requirements, and others working on their thesis and publications, and fulfilling their volunteering requirements. Maha Weiss, one of the MEPI-TLG  Leaders in Data Science (LiDS) scholars, said “Working on CAP project allows me to speak out loud about what I believe in regarding gender issues in our community and gives me a chance to do something to contribute to minimizing violence against women and increasing the awareness about their rights. Personally, I think, being in a team that each of us has her own perspective of viewing such issues is really beneficial, where we practice accepting different opinions and ways of thinking."

Volunteering Rotations Fall Semester 2020-2021

Among the 23 MEPI-TLG LiDS and PGRM students (12 females and 11 males), the following six students (4 females and 2 males) reported engaging in volunteer activities.

Aya Bou Fakhreddine (Lebanon) volunteered with I Leaf Art,. an art movement that applies art therapy, directly or indirectly with all kinds of populations, mostly the unprivileged, the disabled, prisoners, the orphaned and the ill. Aya supported the initiatives' efforts in illustrating walls for a child friendly space in Karantina in collaboration with SOS Village.

Aya colored child-friendly drawings on walls and then supervised children, aged 6-15 years old, while they colored. Aya further volunteered with FoodBlessed, a local hunger relief initiative run by a group of volunteers with a passion and will to fight hunger in Lebanon. They work with strategic partners –including food and non-food companies – by recovering surplus food from events, organizing food drives, and fundraiser events to collect food (which includes surplus perishable food and non-perishable food items) and distributing it to local non-profit partners in need. Aya helped prepare and fill the boxes with basic nutritional needs such as rice, sugar, flour and cheese. The boxes were distributed to needy families.

Hussein Darwish (Lebanon) volunteered in the Lebanon Recovery Project implemented with CCECS and Al Maymouna (a Lebanese NGO that provides quality education). The project aims to rehabilitate homes in Mar Mikhael, Armenia street after the Beirut Explosion to help families get back to their homes. Hussein helped with other volunteers to address urgent needs like clearing debris and shattered glass from streets and homes, minor repairs such as sealing broken windows with plastic, in addition to assisting experts in plastering, sanding the walls, painting, roof insulation, and woodworks.

Sara Harba (Syria) volunteered at INJAZ as a trainer and mentor. INJAZ Lebanon is a non-profit organization that aims to educate and prepare Lebanon's youth to become successful entrepreneurs and qualified employees, stimulating their communities. Sara volunteered as a trainer in December 2020 to educate the youth about the skills that they can acquire online through the Maharat Google platform through two-hour sessions for students from all around Lebanon.

Shaima Bin Othman (Yemen) volunteered at Meemz Arts Initiative in her home country. The initiative believes in art for change and advocacy for pressing societal issues. Shaima volunteered by writing proposals, meeting with donors, and manage its social media platforms.

Samer Abdel Rahim (Lebanon) also volunteered at FoodBlessed in December 2020. The community based, volunteer driven food rescue program provides an effective and efficient solution to hunger while addressing the serious growing problem of food waste in Lebanon. Samer was able to provide meals and food to the needy, especially those who were impacted by the Beirut Explosion. The targeted community welcomed their help and were glad to have food on their table, especially around the holidays. Samer washed and cut vegetables and ingredients, and prepared sandwiches around the clock. There were times where he cooked Lebanese dishes and meals that required a lot of hard work and collaboration with other volunteers, under the orders of the main chef. Regarding his experience, Samer stated: “I am really honored to have volunteered at FoodBlessed. My time there enhanced my interpersonal, leadership, and time management skills. Most importantly, it opened my eyes to a serious problem that our community is facing, which encourages me to raise awareness about this issue, and motivates me to volunteer in the future."

Giving for a Change

Out of the 23 MEPI-TLG LiDS and PGRM students (12 females and 11 males), the following four students reported participating in significant events related to civic issues between December 2020 and March 2021.

Sarah Al Bouery (Lebanon) participated in an event with GYBN Lebanon National Consultation in March 2021. The aim of the event was to raise awareness of biodiversity and its governance, discuss the complexity of Lebanon's biodiversity crisis, and collectively think of a way forward. The workshop strengthened her understanding of the biodiversity crisis, its drivers, and its impacts in addition to empowering her to effectively address this global  issue. Sarah stated, “The workshop enriched me with useful information about biodiversity, adding to my pre-existing academic knowledge. It also encouraged the role of youth and their active involvement in affecting the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework". Sarah also attended AUB4Women event, organized by the AUB Alumni Office. The event was centered on the empowerment of women and expanding their horizons whether in their field of work or on a personal level. The purpose of the activity was to bring together women leaders to discuss their challenges and opportunities as women in society on International Women's Day. Sarah said, “The activity was extremely interesting because it made me reflect on so many of the challenges I have faced being a woman in a patriarchal society. However, it also drew on the methods and mechanisms that we as women, could use and benefit from in order to achieve what we want. Despite the age difference, however, I was able to reflect on the experience of participants and learn from what they have achieved."

Naji Fateh (Lebanon) participated in the LGBTQ Health: Peer to Peer Support session held by the Title IX/Equity Office at the American University of Beirut.Dr. Brigitte Khoury from the department of psychiatry at AUBMC and Dr. Antoine Beayno from the Lebanese Medical Association for Sexual Health (LebMASH), organized the training for the Title IX Student Committee on issues related to mental health needs of LGBTQ community, as well as communication skills, with a focus on empathy, listening, reflecting and offering help or referrals. Naji reflected on the training: “The training was very helpful and interesting, and I believe that it added to my existing knowledge of the matters discussed in the training. It was also great to have this type of trainings that recognize our role as Title IX Office representatives, allowing us to benefit the community and its people, not only currently as students in the university, but later in the workplace and in life in general."

Khawla Hamdi (Tunisia) and Rita Hajinazarian (Lebanon) attended a webinar, Leaving No One Behind: Domestic Workers in Lebanon,organized by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This webinar addressed the situation of domestic workers in light of current policies and the need to adapt them to guarantee their safety, rights, and wellbeing. The discussion also revolved around the role of  civil society in this context, as well as the need to change prejudices in society and ways of achieving that. Khawla reflected on the webinar: “The webinar was an eye-opener and an enriching discussion not only about the status quo of domestic migrant workers but potential solutions moving forward."

Rita reflects: “My role is to use everything that was said in this webinar when engaging in discussions about domestic workers in order to further help in raising awareness. In addition, as a MEPI-TLG scholar, I should not only focus on writing papers related to gender injustice, but also racial injustice as well". As a MEPI-TLG scholar, I took a course on“Gender and Forced Displacement" which focused a lot on the discrimination that domestic workers face on a daily basis. This webinar provided us with even more facts that show how extremely damaging the situation is. I believe that all the speakers talked about very alarming issues, and I was mostly affected by Mrs. Tsigereda Birhanu, since she was talking from her own personal experience. It is always different when you hear from individuals who have actually been in the situation and are still fighting for their rights. I have always been aware of the extreme negative effects the Kafala system has on domestic workers, but there are many issues that I had not thought about. This webinar further showed me how much domestic workers are deprived oftheir basic rights. It showed that discrimination has always been present, and became even more apparent after the explosion. Non-Lebanese workers who lost their homes because of the explosion were not considered  a “priority". Help was mainly provided to Lebanese citizens, leaving behind many non-Lebanese individuals who were also in need of support." ​


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