Local Workshop for Children In Preparation for the GNRC 4th Forum, Lebanon, February 2012

The GNRC AS Local Workshop for Children in Preparation for the GNRC 4th Forum was organized from 25- 26 February 2012. It was attended by 30 Children and youth from five GNRC youth groups across Lebanon. Moreover, five participants came from Ain El-Hilweh Palestinian Refugee Camp in Lebanon. GNRC Lebanon Committee members and representatives of GNRC Organization members were present throughout the workshop, as well as five Chaperons of Children from different regions in Lebanon. The participants were Muslims (Sunni and Shia’a), Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Maronite), and Druze. They aged 14-17. The Workshop was held in Our Lady of the Mount House, Fatka, Lebanon. The two working days were facilitated by Miss. Hind Farahat with help from Sister Emiline Tanous and Mr. Elie Barrak, members of GNRC Lebanon Committee. Saturday 25 February 2012

The first session started with a silent moment for prayer, as is the tradition in all GNRC AS events. Afterwards, the facilitator welcomed the participants and explained the aim of the workshop. The Program was discussed and agreed upon by the participants and they shared their learning expectations from the workshop.
To start the training, the participants had the chance to introduce themselves via a small ice-breaking activity. A presentation about Arigatou Foundation, GNRC and the Learning to Live Together Toolkit followed. The Participants were briefed about the plans of the GNRC Fourth Forum, its themes, and the importance of their recommendations for the growth of the Network as a whole.
Afterwards, the participants were led into a discussion to define and discuss poverty and its dimensions. They were asked to define poverty as they see it and write their definition on a piece of paper that was provided.

The participants defined Poverty as follows (quoted and translated):

  • Poverty is when there is no balance in distributing what each person needs, even within families.
  • Poverty is the status of the person who is deprived from his/her basic needs. It’s the status of a person who finds himself having less than everybody else. It can also be cultural and mental poverty. I mean where there is no education and a lot of unemployment.
  • Poverty is the deprivation of basic needs that allow you to live in dignity. It can be financial like not having a house or food, or educational and mental like not having skills or education. Poverty can also be spiritual and ethical like not having manners, respect or responsibility.
  • Poverty is not to be able to secure your basic needs.
  • Poverty is not to have a place to live and lack of money. It’s when you can’t live in dignity.
  • The poor person is the person who finds himself lacking something vital.
  • Poverty is when a person doesn’t have clothes or a place to live. But also it’s to lack care, love and a family to protect you.
  • Poverty is not to have equal opportunities and rights like the others. It’s to feel oppressed.
  • To be poor is to lack something. It can be money, social life or spiritual and cultural guidance. It has very bad effects on the personality especially for children.
  • Poverty is to live less than everybody else. It’s to feel alone and helpless. Financial poverty can lead to mental and poverty and lack of education and awareness. It goes in circles. Also, it depends on your country. If your country is rich, you can be rich easily.
  • Poverty is not to have enough money because if you have money you get everything else. You can get good education and grow up with all your needs satisfied.
  • Poverty leads people to think they are worthless because they don’t have money. They stop having social status; they are not really respected much, and they don’t live with dignity. They get taken advantage of and abused.
  • Poverty can mean lack of resources, but it can also mean the bad distribution of resources. What we see today is people who have too much of resources and others who have too little, although, if distributed well, the resources can be enough for all.
  • Poverty for children means not to have their rights.
  • Poverty and its manifestations can lead to sickness and sometimes death.
  • Poverty is to be sad, if you’re not joyful and peaceful inside then you’re poor.
  • Poverty means injustice.
  • Poverty means not being able to reach your potential and be active in your society.
  • Poverty of children means that their families are poor. They might not be able to give them good education. Maybe it can lead to child labor, begging, bad hygiene, and malnutrition.
  • Poverty is not only a personal problem; it’s a big social problem. It degenerates societies and communities.
  • Poverty is to be worried about your future, to be insecure about the resources.

A discussion followed that linked poverty with Child Rights, wants, needs, as well as the types and manifestations of poverty.

The second session was dedicated to discussing the first Sub-theme of the Fourth Forum: Unequal Distribution of Resources. The participants were guided through the LTLT Activity “Diminishing islands” that was slightly adapted to convey the needed ideas. A discussion with inhabitants of each island followed with reflection on how empathizing and reconciliation with others and the universe could be one way to elevate poverty.

The participants touched on the global structures that widen the gap between the rich and the poor. They reflected on how ignorance of the other and their circumstances, and indifference to their problems can increase poverty and estrangement between peoples.

The Participants pointed out two approached to solving the problems of poverty, Charity and Justice.

They were divided into two groups who imagined themselves working to elevate poverty in both the fields of Charity and Justice. They were asked to list things they would do in these fields.

The ‘Charity’ group listed the following:

  • Raise awareness about the importance of empathy and solidarity and the need to give the poor.
  • Encourage Ethics Education and Socialization that is based on values.
  • Arrange campaigns to gather donations for poor children. For example, clothes, food and books.
  • In their groups, arrange to help poor children, who usually don’t have money for tuition classes, in their studies and homework.
  • Contribute to the happiness of people who are less fortunate especially in religious festivals and social occasions, like celebrating Christmas or Eid with orphan or disabled children.
  • Buy gifts for poor children on religious festivals.
  • Gather children from all backgrounds and schools in sports days and events so they can become friends and feel included and empowered.
  • Create a fund for the GNRC youth groups in Lebanon so they can gather money to support their plans.
  • Fundraise for different activities by Charity car washing, concerts and plays by talented youth, cake sales… etc.
  • Encourage Social Work and service. Organize service days for elderly; help them around their households and in their errands.

The ‘Justice’ group planned the following:

The basis of justice is to distribute resources and developmental initiatives and projects in a just way through communities and societies. What our group can do is use our arenas, contacts, social media, and lobbying powers in the following:

Encourage local authorities to hold workshops to raise the capacity and effectiveness of laborers in all fields. For example, train farmers and villagers on new agricultural methods.
Pressure the authorities to take concrete moves to fight poverty through peaceful demonstrations and media appearances [three in the group have their own local radio and internet channel].
Encourage small projects especially for families and women. Lobby local organizations to adopt micro-finance projects to benefit local communities.
Work with teachers and educators so they raise and teach their students ethical values including justice, solidarity, responsibility and empathy.
Work to find a strategy within the GNRC youth groups to monitor their work and keep sustainability [The youth were not sure how this could be done].
The participants were asked to do a small evaluation exercise to monitor their learning before heading to lunch.

The third session of the day discussed the second theme of the GNRC Fourth Forum: Violence and Wars. Children were asked to share, in small groups, how they see and experience violence in their own situations and contexts. They were divided into small groups to write and prepare a drama sketch expressing how they see poverty related to conflicts and wars.

In the fourth session the participants were given the time to present their sketches that were followed by discussion. The sketches touched on:

Conflicts and violence in the household and how it relates to poverty.
Religious and ethnic conflicts, with their implications on the country and the communities.
Conflicts due to lack of respect amongst people, use of violence and how it affects families and futures.

After discussing the participants’ ideas, they were, again, divided into groups and asked to choose one type of conflict or violent situation. They were asked to list the causes of this conflict and its results.

Due to lack of time, it was agreed that the presentation of the results of this task will be done the next day so the participants would have more time to discuss their ideas. The outcomes of the groups were as follows:

Group 1: Religious Conflict
Inadequate upbringing and education.
The wrong understanding of the concepts: minority and majority.
Lack of awareness of good citizenship.
Lack of understanding of others.
Putting personal interests before the common good.

Deterioration of personal relations and friendships.
Civil wars.
Forced migration.
Insecurity and chaos.
Division and separation of lands and communities.
Violence and problems even within the same community.

Group 2: Violence and conflicts within families (domestic violence)
Inflation and high expenses of goods.
A bad life-style.
Bad housing and accommodations with no health standards.
Interventions from in laws and friends of the family.
Lack of trust between members of the family.
Cheating, deception, and adultery.
Financial difficulties.
Lack of communication and mutual understanding.

Children get affected by conflicts and disagreements. They might become violent themselves.
Children will grow up with a bad picture of what a good family is.
Divorce and separation.
Violence against children in the household.
Stress and lack of peace.
Physiological problems and disorders for family members.
Children’s academic performance might suffer.
Children can turn to drugs or crime.
Respect and love will not be there in the family.
Deterioration of the family unit in general.

Group 3: Political Conflict (between leaders and their people)
Politicians divide people to conquer and reach to power.
Bad governance leads to conflicts especially of the space for freedoms is limited.
Ignorance on the part of the people, following politicians and parties regardless of their agendas.
Lack of respect for diversity and the beliefs and opinions of others.
Tyranny and oppression.

Lack of security in the country which will affect all divisions of life and economy.
People will start creating closed and radical groups that are not open to the others and maybe hostile of change.
People might be forced to migrate to another country to avoid insecurity and poverty.
The possibility of civil wars if the situation worsens.
Conflicts and disagreements between people that can result in violence.

Group 4: Ethnic/Religious Conflict
Use of religion as an excuse for separation of peoples and communities.
Lack of ethical education and awareness.
Religious extremism and lack of respect for other religions.
Upbringing and education that is based on superiority of own religion and hatred of others. Emphasis on what differentiates each religion or belief and not what is similar and mutual.

Each community or ethnicity regards itself as a state inside the state.
Lack of mutual cooperation between different groups and communities.
Ethnic and Religious discrimination on formal and non-formal levels.
Violence and conflicts between people and groups, which results in more violence, and it goes in an empty circle.

The day concluded with a quick oral evaluation and a moment of reflection and prayer by all present. After having dinner the participants returned to an evening of talents and artistic cultural expressions. They presented music, dances, stand-up comedy, singing, paintings and games. 

Sunday 26 February 2012

The second day started with a silent prayer and a moment of reflection. Four participants presented a recap of the previous day using an activity they prepared.
The first session of the day was dedicated to discuss the third theme of the GNRC Fourth Forum: Bad Governance. The session started with a discussion about what governance is and how it could be bad. Afterwards the participants joined in the LTLT activity: What I stand for.
In the second session, the participants were divided into two working groups and were given certain tasks. The first group was asked to share their experiences and observations of bad governance, and then suggest solutions for these problems. The Second group was asked to imagine a world with good governance and no corruption, then suggest how can we reach and accomplish this world.

The answers from the first group were as follows:

How do you see and experience bad governance?
Bad governance is not something that only related to leaders and politicians; it’s a personal phenomenon as well. Therefore, we regard corruption as something personal as well. We see it on the personal level as follows:
Lack of dialogue between people and lack of respect for others and their beliefs and interests.
Being tow-faces and dishonest. This manifests itself in deceit, pretence, greed and discrimination.
Lack of interest in education and awareness while following shallow interests and unethical life-styles.

On the level of communities and immediate context (within families, schools and friends…) we see bad governance as:
The inclination of one group (family, school, group of friends…) to dominate other groups with their opinions and behaviors.
Lack of respect for everyday systems and regulation like the rules in schools, laws on the road and driving priorities, rules and customs at houses and religious places.
Conflicts within families and friends.
Lack of needed care and education to raise new generations who are aware of their rights and duties.

On the level of the overall society:
Fanaticism and lack of openness and respect for other beliefs and opinions.
Corruption in the government. Lack of equal opportunities between citizens. 
Bribery and dishonesty. Lack of integrity.
Use of power to serve personal interests.
Lack of security and trust between the leaders and their peoples.
Overall socialization on the idea that power gives you rights.
We are aware that corruption in the leaderships is not solely the responsibility of leaders. Followers take part of the blame because they are either ignorant or afraid to claim their rights and stand up for their interests.

What are the solutions?
As corruption and bad governance start with the individual, solutions should start with the individual as well. Every person should be encouraged and taught to stop being corrupt himself. Stop being ignorant, selfish, and blind follower. There should be:
Awareness for families to raise children who are open, ethically sound and respectful.
Increase control in the workplace and make sure that the right person is in the right position.
Religious leaders have a role in uniting peoples from different religions and ethnicities around what unites them in face of common problems.
Encourage dialogue on all levels to reach a point where rights give you power and not power gives your rights.
To push the idea that respect of the law is the only way everyone can live in peace and with dignity.

The answers from the second group were as follows:

What would the world be like with no corruption or bad governance?
Family relations would be strong and we would have good upbringing and education for all.
There would be equality in everything for everyone.
There would be cooperation between individuals, groups and countries.
Cultural expressions would be respected and celebrated.
There would be respect for all and celebration of diversity.
Governments and systems would be just and really express the interests of their peoples.
There would be more care for the environment and nature. Resources would be efficiently used and not exploited.
There would be no violence even if there were disagreement.

How do you see we can reach that world you described?
Give people their rights.
Parents should be brought aware of how to ethically raise their children and live peacefully.
There should be a just system governing the relationship between employers and employees.
Bring awareness to people about shared values and mutual cooperation.
Openness and exchange of knowledge, beliefs and cultural expressions.
The monopoly of power should disappear. Power and recourses should be equally distributed.
In Lebanon, a real push towards a good institutional government.
Everyone works for the benefit of their countries and communities before thinking about their personal interests.
Violence stops being a solution for conflicts and disagreements.
Arms should only be in the hands of armies and for the purpose of protecting countries and peoples.  

The Participants took another session to discuss issues of poverty, in all its dimensions, in their respective regions in Lebanon. They were asked to identify how poverty, unequal distribution of recourses, violence and bad governance, manifests itself in their own regions. They were also asked to decide what they can do, as GNRC youth groups, to solve these problems. Their answers were taken as action plans in their own communities.

Group 1: North of Lebanon (Bterram and Al-Koura)

Lack of ethically sound entertainment venues and activities in the region.
Parents and local leaders don’t understand the needs and aspirations of new generations and youth.
Youth are filling their time with silly chatter and they have no purpose.

Suggested solutions and actions:
Hold seminars in Schools who are part of GNRC to raise awareness of parents and families. Emphasis on Ethics Education and Child Rights.
Hold Activities and Workshops for children and youth on various subjects. Use of the LTLT toolkit.
Organize outings, activities and sports days for children and youth n the communities, especially youth from different backgrounds.
Urge the municipality and our organization and movements to organize competitions, open days and sports events for youth.
Organize movie nights at different venues, chose movies that are useful and purposeful. Encourage dialogue and activism.
Find a structure for the core groups we have that allows sustainability and mentoring of these activities and plans.

Group 2: South of Lebanon, Al-Moukhtara and Der Al-Moukhales:

We see ethical, spiritual, and moral poverty more widespread in our communities than financial poverty.
A lot of discrimination between students in schools by teachers. Teachers also don’t push students to do their best and excel. Students reach a point where they don’t believe they can make a real difference. Same attitudes are seen in families.
Lack of awareness and purpose with children and youth. No good direction or up-bringing.
Religious leaders and institutions don’t care much about social issues or lives and problems of youth.

Suggested solutions:
Train teachers and educators on mow to encourage children and youth to reach their potential.
Educate children and youth on the importance of mutual cooperation and respect in order to make a difference.
Encourage an overall culture of excellence and high standards. Encourage honest, integrity and hard work. Start with ourselves.
As youth group, organize joined projects for youth from different communities and backgrounds which will help build trust and understanding.
Use technology and social media in raising awareness, advertising events, and coordinating our work. We suggest a Facebook page and a group online.

Group 3: Central Lebanon, Baalbek:

Moral, Ethical, and Spiritual Poverty:
Lack of good libraries and cultural centers
Lack of good schools for all. The majority go to public schools without high quality education.
Ignorance and illiteracy.
Youth are not interested in reading and informal education.
There are no community centers.
Social Poverty:
A lot of people in our community own guns with no license and they use it in irresponsible ways.
Youth have no venues to express themselves like theaters, sports fields, community centers… etc.
Financial Poverty:
Child labor.
Families that live on donations and alms from different groups (for example political parties).
Child beggars in streets.
Housing that is not adequate for healthy living (no clean water, no sewage systems…).
Inflation and raised cost of living and goods.
A lot of robberies and mugging.
Increase in diseases and lack of money for health services.
Children drop out of schools because parents can’t afford tuition fees.
Pollution and exploitation of environmental recourses due to the increase of population and lack of planning.

Solutions we can be part of:
Create groups that help children who drop out of schools to go on with basic education (reading and writing and math).
Organize awareness campaigns and campaigns to plant trees and clean places.
Open school libraries to the public in the afternoons and increase the collections of books in these libraries.
Encourage children and youth to read.
Present plays and performances for children that deal with vital issues.
Use the venues and theatres in our schools to screen films and documentaries. Funds can go to help poor families.

Group 4: Central Lebanon, Mashghara, Zahle, and El- Qaa:

Lack of activities that are directed to youth and children. No cinemas or good places to gather and spend time.
Financial poverty of families which causes children to drop out of schools.
Bad housing and no services.
In villages, children drop out of school for certain periods to help their families in agriculture and picking the fruits.

How can we help?
Use the hall in our church as a small cinema for youth, create a committee to bring movies and run the shows twice a month.
Fundraise money and donate to the poor. Use help from our contacts, families and teachers.
Talk to families in villages and convince them to send their children to schools in exchange of our whole group helping in picking up their fruits on weekends.

Group 4: South of Lebanon. Marje’oun:

No places for youth to spend time and learn.
No facilities for entertainment like sports courts and community centers.
Lack of care and services for children and youth.
Not enough social activities in schools.
Youth do not find job opportunities.
Our whole region does not have a university or a good collage.

Offer project proposals to local leadership to use some facilities and venues in our towns for entertainment.
Use the channels we have, like representatives of classes, to talk to schools leadership and organize more social events in schools.
Work with local NGO’s on giving small project funds for families and individuals.
Create pressure on politicians to care about youth and child issues.
Use Social media and local Radio Channels.

A group of participants took the responsibility to offer ideas for sustainability of GNRC work in Lebanon and to give general recommendations. Their recommendations were as follows:

To consider this group present as a core group for GNRC youth in Lebanon. To be responsible of coordinating our work and sharing our experiences.
We ask that we have a follow-up workshop in six months to evaluate our work and plan forward.
We recommend that this core group gathers every month in a shared activity.
We ask from each regional group to spread the vision and mission of GNRC and include more children and youth in their work.
Participants of this workshop will have the responsibility to prepare a report of activities to the core group, which, in turn, will report to the GNRC National Committee.

After agreeing on these recommendations and plans, the participants signed their names inside a figure of a palm drawn on a sheet, to symbolize their commitment and agreement.

The participants evaluated the workshop in terms of logistics and the content of the training before receiving certificates of participation from GNRC Arab States Secretariat. The Workshop ended with a silent moment of prayer by everyone present.

The GNRC AS Secretariat thanks the board of Our Lady of the Mount House for giving a discount of 50% on accommodation for all participants as a contribution for the GNRC and its work in Lebanon.

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