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Programme in pictures: inside Association Najdeh’s life changing work

Our Christmas Appeal looks at the complex issue of violence and conflict and the role of local peacemakers.  

Featured is our partner Association Najdeh who works in northern Lebanon, in the Nahr al-Bared camp for Palestinian refugees. The camp hosts around 30,000 Palestinians, both those born in Lebanon and those recently displaced from Syria. 

Palestinian refugees in Lebanon are marginalised and impoverished. They are denied access to many basic economic, social or political rights. They are excluded from attending state education, owning property or using free state healthcare. They are forbidden from working in 36 occupations – including many professional jobs in medicine, engineering and law – with only menial jobs available to them.   

As part of a wider psychosocial programme, Association Najdeh runs a children’s centre in the camp, which is solely funded by Christian Aid. Based in a brightly decorated four-storey building, the centre is staffed entirely by women: all Palestinian refugees.   

Through play therapy, educational activities and counselling, the centre works to protect children from the impacts – and threat – of war, violence, exploitation, abuse, trauma and neglect. The centre supports around 200 young Palestinian refugees each year, in a safe, peaceful environment.  

A group of young Palestinian girls perform a traditional dance at a community event hosted at Association Najdeh’s kindergarten building.

A group of young Palestinian girls perform a traditional dance at a community event hosted at Association Najdeh’s kindergarten building. Art therapy, including drama, dance, drawing and music therapy play a key role in confidence building.

 child refugees playing in Nahr al-Bared camp

Most Palestinian refugees in Nahr al-Bared camp were displaced immediately after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The camp now hosts families who sought refuge in Syria 70 years go, who have now fled the war. Resources are scarce and families rely on salty water for cooking and washing. An increase in population, with limited resources has seen tensions rise in the camp.

Fedaa Bader, 23, performs a puppet show for children at the centre to teach them about the importance of personal hygiene, such as brushing their teeth and washing their hands.

Fedaa Bader, 23, performs a puppet show for children at the centre to teach them about the importance of personal hygiene, such as brushing their teeth and washing their hands. Fedaa uses puppets named Lara, Monda and Ahmed to act out an interactive story. The class, named ‘The birds are coming’ in Arabic, join in a question and answer session afterwards. 

Fedaa lives in the camp and attended the Najdeh kindergarten as a child.

Fedaa lives in the camp and attended the Najdeh kindergarten as a child. She later went onto volunteer at the centre and now has been trained by Association Najedh in different therapies and approaches to support the children. Fedaa explains that the children feel safe and happy at the centre and that it is helping them find peace.

Joud Al Khairat, 10 and her sister Hala, 7, fled Syria with their family. Together they attend art classes at the centre.

Joud Al Khairat, 10, (left), and her sister Hala, 7, fled Syria with their family. Together they attend art classes at the centre. For many refugees life in Lebanon is in limbo. Unable to earn much of a living, and unable to return to Syria, their parents, Sanaa and Mahmaoud feel stuck in exile and afraid for their children’s future. That’s why Association Najdeh has been campaigning for Palestinian refugees to be given the right to work in Lebanon – so that young people might have a fighting chance of moving forward in life.

Children in the ‘Palestine Flower’ class take part in an activity about collaboration, communication and trust.

Children in the ‘Palestine Flower’ class take part in an activity about collaboration, communication and trust. Some children are unable to speak because of experiences they have lived through. The centre provides counselling, psychotherapy, access to social workers, literacy classes, arts therapy, and supports groups for parents and caregivers.

Malaki Khwailed (right) has recently learned to read and write after attending adult literacy classes at the centre.

Malaki Khwailed has recently learned to read and write after attending adult literacy classes at the centre. Her daughter, Naziha, 14, also uses the centre, attending counselling sessions. Malaki is grateful for the support from her literacy teacher Iman Hasan (left).

Nine-year-old Hassan Hamoudeh takes part in a trust-building game at the centre.

Nine-year-old Hassan Hamoudeh (right) takes part in a trust-building game at the centre. Pupils take it in turn to guide a blindfolded classmate along a path marked out on the ground with a rope. The game teaches concentration, self-confidence and how to trust others. Hassan enjoys attending the centre, ‘When I come here it makes me happy’, he says.

11-year-old Wessam Shredeh and his teacher Aziza Saleh take part in a life-skills session using puppets.

11-year-old Wessam Shredeh and his teacher Aziza Saleh take part in a life-skills session using puppets. Wessam, born in Syria, due to past traumas suffers from behavioural and mental health problems- but is improving at the centre. He receives psychotherapy, and takes part in recreational and educational activities, including literacy classes.

Children take part in a lively craft session at the centre.

Children take part in a lively craft session at the centre. They use inflatable gloves as a creative way of teaching about child protection. On the gloves are phrases in Arabic, including ‘Yes for protection’ and ‘Childhood without exploitation’.

Hanna Khail has overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of centre.

Hanna Khail has overall responsibility for the day-to-day running of centre. She explains, ‘I started working here because I love social work and I felt I should work for my people, the Palestinian people.

If children don’t come here, then they stay at home or go to other institutions – and the rest of them stay in the streets. There is child labour here. Because the economic situation is bad, if parents are sick then the boys leave school and go out to work. We are working on this: we bring young people who have left school here to the centre and teach them how to read and write, but we cannot reach all of them, as there are a lot.’

Find out more about our work in Lebanon and on from Violence to Peace.