by Adriana Ermter
with Janine Chehade
"By reading, we’re exchanging our Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian cultures openly with one another—the building blocks towards acceptance."
Israa has never known life outside a refugee camp. She was born in the
Baddawa Camp in Lebanon and has lived there her whole life. Growing up in the
camp wasn’t easy for Israa, she knows how hard it is for young people to find
their voice, accept and believe in themselves and to unlock their potential
when living in cramped quarters that lack a safe place to explore, learn and
why she founded the Book Club for Youth program in the camp. To infuse
young people with the skills they need to build their futures—acceptance,
confidence, tolerance and understanding and to build critical life skills through
literacy. She sees her club as a refuge for the 16 year olds who come and
participate each week.
learning has a powerful impact on youth,” says Israa. “The club shows them that
they are appreciated and supported, regardless of their differences or
difficulties.” Skills Israa learned six years ago as a Right To Play volunteer,
but wished she’d gained as a child.
began to change when Israa enrolled in a vocational study program outside the camp.
There, she met new young people and gained confidence by excelling at her
studies. “I became more self-dependent because the classroom environment between
the teachers and students was more comfortable,” explains Israa. “It was the
first time in my life that I felt like I existed.”
Israa (backrow, second from left) with other members of Right To Play
when Israa was 19, she began volunteering with the Right To Play group working
in the camp. Learning the play-based training through ongoing Peace-building,
Early Childhood Play, Positive Child and Youth Development and Enhancing
Quality Education workshops fueled Israa with an increased sense of belonging,
confidence, happiness and peace. It also empowered her with the ability to connect
with children and youth and transform their negative feelings and behaviours
into positive actions. “The children listened to me and responded and they
started to improve,” says Israa. “I felt happy because I knew I could be a
positive influence.” And it inspired her to couple her training with her love
of learning and reading and launch the book club.
through her book club Israa empowers more than 20 youth to find a book to read
and talk about each week. The group gathers for group discussions where they connect
each book’s story to their personal experiences, nationalities and/or culture. Talking
about what they’re reading motivates them to express their thoughts and
feelings, it improves their communications and self-expression and it empowers
them to better understand themselves and accept one another.
club reminds us of the importance of reading,” says Israa. “And by reading, we’re
exchanging our Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian cultures openly with one
another—the building blocks towards acceptance. Right To Play reminds us that we
In 2015, Right To Play launched the Play for the Advancement of Quality Education (PAQE) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in eight countries including Lebanon, PAQE uses Right To Play's experiential learning methodology to build teacher capacity and remove barriers to education to improve learning outcomes.