Back in January 2017, I was told about the opportunity to visit Lebanon and form part of a team of individuals who will be teaching and helping Syrian refugees. Without further ado, I said yes and was determined to form part of the team.
From a young age, I always felt the inclination towards voluntary work and I felt that this experience would be a good introduction to the world of voluntary work. Six months later, I remember us waiting for our check in at the airport – full of energy and positive vibes. Who would have told us that in two weeks’ time we will be returning back home exhausted, but with a positive attitude towards helping others!
All the laughter, our sharing of experiences and funny stories helped the time pass during our connection at Istanbul airport. Our excitement was growing stronger as we stepped on the plane to Beirut. I dare say that the fear and excitement of the unknown were common feelings amongst us all. The raging war in Syria would soon enough be our neighbour and the refugees, who according to the daily news, were creating a crisis in the world will become our friends.
A few hours later, we were in Beqaa Valley, organizing and preparing our laptops for our first day in Chtaura and Majdal Anjar. We split ourselves in two teams; one for Majdal and one for Chtaura. Anxiety and excitement could
be seen on all our faces! Let’s face it, meeting someone new already poses challenges; meeting someone new from Lebanon, who might know very little English, who has a different culture, and holds different traditions might be a bit more challenging. As soon as we arrived in Majdal Anjar (we were almost an hour late as Lebanese people do not understand the concept of being on time!), all our students were waiting outside with faces full of curiosity. Well, we’re European and we were in Majdal especially for them! How could they not be curious?
I must say that our daily lessons were demanding. The language barrier was a huge hurdle! Until, Boom! We spoke Maltese and they could understand us! Haha! Who knew? The look of astonishment on our faces when we were saying “Jiena nitkellem bil-Malti u inti tifhimni” was something extraordinary – they did in fact understand us and we actually could understand them when they spoke in Lebanese (Ok… Ok…. they needed to speak slowly in Lebanese for us to understand them!).
Looking back, I can confirm that the people we worked with are keen to learn when given the opportunity. They are worthy of the certificates which we gave them on our last day of training! In just few hours of training, they actually managed to learn new topics themselves and give presentations to others about the subjects! Amazing isn’t it?
During the two weeks of voluntary work, I believe that I have built strong friendships with the people I met in Lebanon. Their hospitality was out of this world! I thank agara and the PoléPolé Team for giving me the opportunity to have this amazing experience in Lebanon!
Jeanpierre Giordano – Lebanon 2017 Member