UMCOR partnered with ANERA (American Near East Refugee Aid) in Lebanon to provide Palestinian Syrian refugee children with rehabilitated preschools. The revitalized space offered a safer and more secure environment for children, parents and teachers.
Once immediate needs are met after a disaster, parents turn attention to children’s education
Whenever disaster strikes anywhere in the world, local populations find themselves suddenly without many services that are essential for day-to-day living.
For UMCOR, the United Methodist Committee on Relief, an important route to achieving a new normal after such events is to ensure continuity of educational activities.
Francesco Paganini, executive for UMCOR International Disaster Response, is clear about UMCOR’s responsibilities in the sphere of education whenever an earthquake, typhoon, or other natural hazard or human-caused disaster turns people’s lives upside down.
“We’re not experts in education policy or schooling, but it’s evident that we must fulfill basic requirements such as shelter, water, even food, to ensure that education can go on, even in severely disrupted conditions,” he said. “Children’s education comes absolutely to the fore of parents’ minds as soon as families’ immediate needs for basic survival are met.”
Child-friendly spaces, preschools, and tents
Paganini points to UMCOR’s initial programming for Syrian refugee children as an example. Many northern Syrian families had fled to the refugee camps in Turkey to escape the war in their country. UMCOR partnered with a local organization to provide “child-friendly spaces” (CFS) in the camps.
The CFSs offered children some informal schooling, while caregivers also monitored the children’s physical and mental well-being. That program ended in 2014, but UMCOR continues to support Syrian refugee children with programming elsewhere.
In Lebanon, where long-established Palestinian refugee camps have been vastly swollen by families escaping the four-year-old Syrian conflict, UMCOR has funded the reconstruction of preschool facilities.
The rebuilding was arranged through the partner agency, American Near East Relief Aid (ANERA). ANERA’s director of programs, Jennifer Ibrahim, welcomed UMCOR’s support, saying it is providing “a place where teachers, parents and children alike will feel safer, more secure and fulfilled.”
In Nepal, where massive disruption followed an April 2015 high-altitude earthquake, UMCOR is providing aid in the form of classroom tents in which schooling can continue.
“Whether the upheaval is short-lived or long-term, we always want to ensure that education is supported,” Paganini said.
Rev. Jack Amick, assistant general secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response, underscored, “If we can help kids who have only known war and upheaval all their childhood to learn about something other than conflict and disaster, then perhaps we can reduce the risks of turmoil in the future.”
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450 will help children in disaster areas around the world to experience education that continues in spite of upheavals.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who contributes regularly to www.umcor.org.