There are two reasons we delayed our return home from Greece and instead visited Lebanon for a a few days. The first: to visit our friends Suha and Nagi in Beirut; Suha is the Academic Director of Refugee Education for Jusoor Syria, the NGO with which we volunteered last summer. The second, closely connected: to visit the school for Syrian refugee children in Jeb Jannine, Bekaa valleyr. This is the cause for which many of you donated money, to convert a large room at the top of the building – previously a store for all sorts of redundant material – creating a multi-purpose hall; our thanks to you for your generosity. This was our opportunity to see the result.
At 9.20 am we were standing outside the double entrance doors, under strict instructions not to enter until all was ready. The moment arrived, the doors were opened, and we stepped in, to be greeted by a huge cheer from what appeared to be the entire school. Even more impressive was a miraculous transformation. What had been a dirty, dusty pile of (mostly) junk – boxes of this and that, broken furniture, a peeling ceiling – was a huge (or at least far bigger than I had remembered) light and airy room that any school would be pleased to have and use. Of course, the two central pillars were still there, but they had their lower section covered with a padded foam material with a brick pattern – very elegant. At one end was a small stage, which can be dismantled when not required. It makes a strong, well-built focus for assemblies, concerts, presentations, meetings, and, of course, theatre.
I was presented with a pair of ceremonial scissors, and cut the ribbon strung between the pillars. There followed immediately a charming series of dances and songs, with which everyone – pupils, teachers, Val and I – joined in. It was a joyous and moving occasion.
The hall is, I think, perfect, with all of the elements I envisaged brought into being, only better than I imagined them. The cupboards, floor to ceiling and built in, are well-made, more stylish and elegant than the functional ones I had imagined, and already well-used. The floor is coated with an epoxy flooring; clean and functional. The stage is, as I said, strong and well-made – it easily coped with the large number of children dancing energetically on it. And the whole room is clean, light, airy.
The speed with which the whole process has been completed has been most impressive. A year ago, this was just an idea, but in twelve months the concept was agreed, the money raised, negotiations with local tradesmen completed, building work and decoration completed, and the new hall already in daily use throughout the summer school. Tomorrow, we will describe that use, and later hope to report on the hall’s use as part of the school curriculum. If you would like to receive notification by email when these posts occur, there is a handy box on the site (bottom right of the homepage) which allows you to do so.