Outside Beirut, in a neighborhood called Bourj Hammoud, JRS provides learning support and early childhood education for Syrian refugees at the Frans van der Lugt Centre. The Centre is named after a Jesuit priest who dedicated his life to peace and helping the most vulnerable.
Since 2014, the Centre has carried forward Fr. van der Lugt’s legacy by serving the Syrian refugee population. The Centre’s teachers and staff conduct home visits and provide a variety of services to refugee youth including homework support, language instruction, a summer program in July and August, and a Youth Club primarily for out-of-school students.
Aida Akl from Lebanon and Hanna Khoury from Syria are both compassionate Kindergarten teachers at the Centre. Aida has taught Kindergarten for two years and says she feels “indescribable happiness” in her job. Hanna arrived in Lebanon over a year ago to flee the civil war in Syria. He understands the challenges his students face and says, “I feel a responsibility to keep them happy, because I know how much they suffered in the war.”
The Centre’s largest program focuses on early childhood education, with a series of eight Kindergarten classes that serve 240 students. The Kindergarten classes offered in the morning and afternoon also provide breakfast and snacks to the children. Students receive critical instruction in a loving environment to prepare them for entry into the Lebanese public school system.
The Centre is also a safe haven for the children and provides peace of mind to their families. Many of the children live in difficult conditions and suffer from neglect and stress, given the trials they and their families have been through and continue to endure. The parents of the children are also appreciative and supportive of the work JRS does to improve the lives of their loved one, “The school has helped build self- esteem and give them a strong foundation for their futures,” said a parent of a student.