المستقبل – الاثنين 21 نيسان 2008 – العدد 2940 – بيئة – صفحة 8

حاصبيا ـ عمر يحيى

بمناسبة الأيام العالمية للخدمة الشبابية وتحت عنوان “شجرة محل شجرة ” نظمت الجمعية الأهلية لدعم التلميذ في منطقة حاصبيا حملة تشجير في بلدتي الكفير والخلوات بمشاركة 50 متطوعاً ومتطوعة في قسم الفرسان في الجمعية من مدارس حاصبيا والخلوات والكفير، وذلك برعاية قائمقام حاصبيا وليد الغفير وبالتعاون مع بلديتي الكفير والخلوات، لتشجير المناطق الحرجية التي تعرضت أواخر الصيف الماضي لحرائق أتت على مساحات شاسعة من أشجار الصنوبر والسنديان وغيرها من الأشجار المثمرة في هذه المنطقة.
تمت حملة التشجير بتمويل من التلامذة المتطوعين وتلامذة المدارس حيث دفع كل منهم مبلغ الف ليرة دعماً لهذا المشروع ، وقاموا بغرس 500 غرسة من أشجار الصنوبر والدفلة والشربين في البلدتين.
قبل إنطلاق الحملة أنشد المتطوعون ومعهم القائمقام الغفير النشيد الوطني اللبناني ثم توزعوا ضمن مجموعات على عدة اماكن في البلدتين، حيث قام الغفير ومعه رئيسا بلديتي الخلوات والكفير بزرع عدد من الغرسات في البلدتين.
واعتبر الغفير أن هذه الخطوة جاءت نتيجة حرائق الصيف الماضي وهكذا نشاطات مستمرة ودعم للعمل البيئي والزراعي والتعليمي، ولتزويد الجيل الجديد بثقافة زراعية تعتمد على التقنيات الحديثة لإستصلاح هذه الأراضي وحماية الثروة الحرجية.
من جهته رئيس بلدية الخلوات الدكتور جميل أبو إبراهيم شكر الجمعية على هذه المبادرة مؤكداً على دور البلدية في رعاية النصوب والإعتناء بها، وناشد وزارة الزراعة أن تقدم الأدوية الزراعية والمبيدات الحشرية حماية للثروة الحرجية.
وفي المناسبة طالب مختار البلدة من المعنيين العمل على تأمين الطرقات الزراعية لأراضي البلدة والبلدات المجاورة.
رئيس بلدية الكفير ميشال عبود شكر للقائمقام وللجمعية على إهتمامهما وإيلائهم الشأن البيئي والزراعي كل إهتمام خاصة في الكفير التي إحترق فيها الصيف الماضي آلاف الأشجار الحرجية والمثمرة.
من جهتها أشارت رئيسة فرسان الجمعية في منطقة حاصبيا باسمة أبو ترابي الى أن الجمعية تعمل ضمن مشروع تطوعي يشارك فيه تلامذة مدارس المنطقة. وفكرتنا هي تحويل التلميذ الى إنسان مسؤول تجاه أهله ووطنه عبر هكذا نشاطات، مشيرة الى ان هناك مشروعاً آخر تحت عنوان “زيارة وهدية” وهي عبارة عن زيارة يقوم بها حوالي 400 تلميذ الى معوق أو عاجز او يتيم من أبناء المنطقة ويقدم كل منهم هدية لأحدهم.

Go to Article on Al Mustaqbal

September 19, 2009

As Lebanon’s leaders struggle to reconcile the opposing demands of sectarian loyalties and building a nation, a small group of volunteers in southern town of Hasbaya have overcome age-old divides to work for the greater good of their community. The Community Association for Student Support (CASS) – 33 young people and a handful of adult volunteers – are striving to improve the world in which they live by helping whoever, and however, they can.

A majority Druze area, Hasbaya is also populated by Sunnis and Christians – all of whom be­nefit from the goodwill of the group; itself a truly inter-sect organization. Cut off from the tragic sectarian maelstrom of Lebanon’s Civil War years, Hasbaya’s Druze, Sunni and Christian population lived together under the yoke of Israeli occupation.

“For 20 years we didn’t follow a political party or vote and it kept people closer together. What we have here is unique,” said mother-of-three Wafaa Kheireddine Abu Ghaida, the founder and director CASS.

For the young volunteers who operate from the education center run by of CASS, (the “Knights,” aged 12-20, and the “Eagles,” aged 8-12) the notion of sectarian schism seems not even to register.

Lara Abou Ammar, 14, put it simply: “We like to help kids of our own age. They need to have an education and have fun; we offer them these things.”

Marwan Khoder, a fellow “Eagle” and also 14, added: “We should always help each other and think that people are there for each other.”

Suzan Saasouih, 20, acts as the Eagles leader. “When they entered the organization they wanted to have fun but now they have gained a sense of responsibility and like to work. The results of their work just motivates them to work more,” she said. Salem al-Khoumassi, 15, seemed aware of the importance of the group, both to the the community and its members. “The group give us a feeling of responsibility and we give hope for change,” he said.

During the 2006 invasion by Israel, the group concentrated efforts on families who had been displaced by fighting.
Bassem Abou Ghaida, 22, said one of the most rewarding projects of his eight years of volunteering with CASS had been the two weeks the group spent making daily visits to refugee children sheltering in Hasbaya schools. “All the children were scared so we helped them by playing with them, entertaining them and teaching them educational games,” he said. The group also travelled to the nearby border-town of Khyam to help displaced children.

On top of crossing sectarian barriers, the CASS volunteers have also opened their arms to those in their region who suffer from disabilities; a group often neglected by their families.

In Hasbaya the parents are so ashamed of their handicapped children that they keep them locked up. We had to hunt them out and convince the parents to let them come,” said Wafaa Kheireddine Abu Ghaida.

For one summer CASS volunteers would drive to the homes of the disabled people they found and ferry them to the CASS center where they taught them the basic skills required to make simple items, which they then helped them sell for a profit. “It was a very very beautiful feeling to be working with the handicapped,” said Bassem. The volunteers are still in frequent contact with their disabled charges and have formed solid friendships; possibly some of the first friendships this often-shunned group have known. Other projects the volunteers have run include re-planting areas devastated by forest fires, entertaining residents of the local homes for the elderly, and running awareness campaigns to introduce other students in the area to the benefits of volunteering.

Although CASS raises much of it’s funds through self-organized events such as gala dinners, bake sales and plays performed by the young Eagles, a good deal of its support comes from wealthy expats keen to see their remittance put to good use.
One donor, Mirna Feghali donated a total of $7,000 after asking guests at two successive birthday parties to contribute to the cause in lieu of presents after being put in contact with the organization by fellow NGO ThinkLebanon.

Donations such as this are used to fund the main arm of CASS’ operations: paying school tuition fees for the most underprivileged children in the area as well as running after-school classes for those with learning difficulties.

Abu Ghaida set up CASS in 2001 after hearing that some 300 students in Hasbaya faced expulsion from the part-private schools they attended as their parents were unable to pay the tuition fees of $300 per year.

“The pupils could have gone to public school, but at the part-private schools the teachers are better and the principals work harder to make all the students pass,” said Abu Ghaida. A good education, she claims, is vital for the youth of the south if they are ever to assume a future brighter than their parents, many of whom make their living farming olives on the steep hillsides of the Hasbaya district.

After collecting donations from 168 Hasbaya residents who pledged up to LL5,000 every month, Abu Ghaida managed to raise sufficient funds to keep 25 students enrolled in their part-private schools. Now CASS pays the fees of some 150 students, some of whom have been enjoying its support since 2001.

CASS takes strict measures to ensure that support for needy students is given out fairly, on a non-sectarian basis.
To ensure there is none of the favoritism so often endemic in such institutions in Lebanon, the group issue a number to each of the 40 or so applications they receive each year. “Lot’s of people come to us for help but we have to find out which of those really need it as our funds only stretch so far,” said Abu Ghaida. Using numbers rather than names to assess applications irons out the risk of the all-to-easy nepotism nudge in a town where no one is anonymous.

The importance CASS place on help without prejudice is a rare find in this part of the word, said Abu Ghaida.
“Our civil community is very powerful but we have this culture to help our own people when we should want to help anyone. People are very chariatable but usually they like to do it only in their own community and I think that should change,” she added.
These changes, Abu Ghaida believes, could well spark a revolution of understanding that could tie together the fractious sects of Lebanon. “If we think globally or in terms of the whole country we should give to everyone; they are all citizens, they are all Lebanese. I think if we can change this, it will end the war.”

Go to article on Daily Star

April 10, 2003
The office of the Association for Volunteer Services was packed with people last week. The rooms were full, and still people kept coming in. The phones were constantly ringing, last-minute details were finalized, and the director was hidden behind her computer screen. Finding a seat to interview the volunteers would have been all but impossible had the director not offered her own living room in an adjacent apartment. All this commotion was about the organizing of one event: The Global Youth Service Days, running from April 11-13.

As part of the international event, over 30 organizations in Lebanon will participate with AVS, an NGO that promotes and coordinates volunteering, in a major project to encourage youth volunteering throughout Lebanon.

Go to article on Daily Star

May 21, 2002
“I don’t volunteer because I have a lot of free time on my hands ­ actually I’m a very busy person. I do it because I like to know that I’m helping others who are in need,” says Wafaa Abu Ghaida, a mother of three grown children from Hasbaya.

Abu Ghaida wanted to “make a difference” in the lives of people in her home town ­ a town previously under Israeli occupation for 20 years ­ so she’s been dedicating her time to help underprivileged youth stay in private schools, in addition to making them interested in volunteering.

She became involved in volunteering when she heard last October that 300 students enrolled in private schools in Hasbaya were going to be expelled because their parents couldn’t afford to pay the tuition fees of $300 per year.

Go to article on Daily Star