The current crisis engulfing Lebanon poses a range of health, economic and social challenges that threaten the well-being of a generation of children. The coronavirus (COVID-19) and the dire situation in Lebanon have made the life of children harder. Those who witnessed both the Beirut explosion and the unprecedented economic crisis, directly and indirectly, also suffer from various psychological problems threatening their mental health, such as anxiety and nightmares. Moreover, when coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, with one or both parents jobless, these households can’t afford to meet basic needs like food or medicine. Children feel insecure. Sometimes, they are forced into child labor to generate family income. Without proper support, those children might face long-term consequences.
The SSVP Lebanon launched an exciting project for some of these children: While enjoying a one-month summer camp (from August 2nd to September 2nd), they were cared for by specialists and mentors who guided them out of the day-to-day suffering.
This summer camp was organized under the supervision of a Vincentian school psychologist. 55 children from poor backgrounds were gathered in three different groups. They were excited about spending their time with volunteers and mentors (indoor and outdoor activities, field trips…). The team had the opportunity to monitor the children in the normal setting of a summer camp and helped them talk about their fears and worries, which were mainly due to the dire situation in Lebanon. They accompanied them in the process of strengthening their prosocial behavior. Topics covered were mainly school bullying, cyber harassment, self-defense (how to say no), how to behave in presence of persons with special needs, etc.
The psychologist and the team met with the parents for half a day, and shared feedback. Parents were unanimous about the positive changes in their children’s attitudes. Follow-up sessions for parents will be scheduled during the school year to embrace new topics such as communication with children; emotions, stress physiology, regulations, and the role of adults; non-violent communication and empathetic approach; fraternal jealousy; and the teenager’s behavior with parents.
This summer camp was relaxing and informative for all participants: children, parents and instructors. They learned from each other: children had fun; parents learned from the school psychologist how to deal with specific difficult issues; and instructors gained experience. All of them had the chance to see how the Vincentian spirit works.