Fratelli is an educational project run by the Marist brothers and the De La Salle Brothers (Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools) in Lebanon’s Rmeileh, near the ancient city of Sidon.
The project offers some 700 refugee children from Syria and Iraq the chance to get an education and prepare to return to school.
Since they cannot frequent Lebanon’s state schools, children whose families have fled war in their home countries face the prospect of spending the most formative years of their lives without schooling.
Educating a generation of refugees
“With the Fratelli project,” explains Chris Wills, a Marist brother involved in the initiative, “we want to avoid losing an entire generation of refugee children. Families fleeing from war want to return home or go to another country to settle down and start a new life, but as we know many years can pass before that happens. In the meantime, what will happen with these children? The Fratelli project in Lebanon is only the first in a series of initiatives. It’s like a pilot project that can be copied in similar contexts.”
Fratelli is housed in an old school, called “Les Frères”, that was abandoned during the civil war and now houses barracks of the Lebanese army. It currently hosts 700 children, some 500 of them from Syria and other 200 are kids who have fled violence in Iraq, but the goal is to expand to help the tens of thousands of refugee children living in Lebanon.
Children of long-time immigrants, as well as Lebanon children, also attend the program. Both categories sometimes remain without access to state-run schools due to extreme financial and social challenges.
Skills and hope for life
The Fratelli project is not recognized by Lebanese authorities, so the young students do not receive a formal degree. But the day’s activities are structured just like an official school.
Five teachers – Reem, Manal, Laure, Magida, and Fadi – teach letters, mathematics, and English, among other subjects. They are helped by dozens of other volunteers, as well students of other La Salle and Marist schools in Beirut, Antelias, Amchit, and Jbeil, who animate extracurricular activities for the young refugee students.
Sara Amarillas, a Fratelli volunteer, says the project also offers “recreational programs and psychosocial support” to help them develop fully.
“We work under the values of justice, peace, fraternity, and hope,” she says.