Mom to the Rescue, A school in need
I was anticipatory as to what customs would be like. I kept my answers simple, my demeanor boring. I checked the "tourism" box for customs. I needed to make sure at all costs that my visit to Lebanon was nothing serious but to just visit some family members.
I couldn't even believe how lucky Lina and I got when we passed through customs. Her with her bag of medicine and me with my bag of art supplies. We stacked our 4 luggages total atop one another and walked up to the inspections counter. The man looked and me and said "From Where?"
"USA" I said. I then offered to start stacking my bags on the conveyor belt to go through the xray. The man said "just put 2 bags through"
Lina threw her handbag and I threw my small backpack and he said it was all good. The medicine and art supplies stayed on the cart and I walked through scotch free.
Before boarding my flight to Lebanon, I discovered an email from my mom who said she bought her ticket to Lebanon and is arriving this Sunday with my luggage that never made it. Mom to the rescue. I don't have to improvise any more, and with all the trouble here, its a good thing I don't have to deal with improvising right now. We've got bigger problems.
The school was supposed to open 2 weeks ago. Its not open yet. The reason being is because the organization that was supporting the school is now demanding money from the students. The principal went from the role of being a principal to a man in charge of securing funds. He refuses to ask the refugee families for the rent money to open the school. Him and a generous Syrian man living in Lebanon picked me up from the airport. Lina went to visit her family for a while and will meet up with me again here on Monday. The man and the principal told me of all the troubles the Lebanese government are giving them. They want money for the school. The school is empty. THe other Lebanese school they were planning on using this year at night time is too far from most of the families and they started demanding rent also. Im sitting here and the principal is running around like crazy trying to make last minute preparations to open the school tomorrow. He doesn't have the key yet and is just securing the bus drivers right now. (In fact, Im sitting here in the lThe generous syrian man is paying for the busses and is covering the cost of renting the school. The Syrian people here are stepping in to volunteer to be teachers. They do not have any funding to hire the teachers. THe principal is worried that after 2 months, he will lose his teachers. The good news though is that since I announced I was coming, there was 400 kids and 400 on the waiting list. He opened a new school this year to serve the kids on the waiting list and is gaining support from his old staff to volunteers to do it. I apologize for not knowing this but things change quickly here and I was not informed of this change.
We have a lot of work to do. The principal wants more than anything for the art program to happen. We are working on getting basic school supplies like backpacks, notebooks, and pens. I feel like I brought dessert to a school where there is no main course. The principal is the real deal, with a good heart and good intentions. He volunteers his time to do this, and lives a simple humble life. Im honored to be here and to be part of this struggle. To witness it first hand. All of the Syrian schools in this area are 2 months late opening due to last minute money requirements from the Lebanese government. How on earth are Syrian Refugees supposed to come up with the money to send their kids to school? School should be a right that every child in the entire planet should be entitled to. Art is as important as any and all of the subjects.
I have a lot more to write but need to go to sleep. Im exhausted. We just went to the school to clean it since we just got the keys today. We finished cleaning at 10 pm. It was pretty fun. The school is oldschool.. I feel like I stepped into a school that was built in 1900. The desks are so old, the walls are old. Everything about it feels old. Except the cobblestone entrance.
If I get time here, we have many kids to search for and find that need schooling. We are looking for sponsors to pay for their bus tuition for a whole year. (8 months schooling). It costs $14/kid per month. Let me know if you can help with that since this principal needs to hire a bus driver to bring the kids to the school in the morning and the bus driver charges per kid.
There are kids as we speak in houses, missing out on years of education. If I have the time later, I will go on foot searching for them, knocking on doors from house to house. Wish me luck.
lots to write.. Don't even know where to begin. But at least I began. Now I just need to wrap this up and get to bed. Before I do though, I wish I had a camera for the moment when the principal told his nieces that school is opening tomorrow. They jumped up and down and squealed as if they had won tickets to Disneyland. That moment I will never forget. Their true and authentic appreciation for school.
When we were cleaning the school tonight.. It was me, the principal, and 5 of his nieces and nephews. The kids walked through the school and excitedly pointed at posters on the walls and songs that were taped up. The little one didn't see me watching but he was pointing at one of the posters and singing the song fondly. You could see it was taking him back to last year.
Kids here appreciate school. Tomorrow I meet the kids for the first time. Im excited!