Tahaddi Staff Participate in International Festival

Tahaddi Lebanon and the French NGO Apprentis D’Auteuil (AA) have enjoyed a fruitful partnership and constructive communication over the past eight years. AA is not just any partner: they support Tahaddi in its institutional development, send qualified personnel to train Tahaddi staff, and invite the Tahaddi team to reflect on its practices and evaluate the impact of its work on the hundreds of beneficiaries.

This past May, one of the social workers and the assistant director of the Tahaddi Educational Center had the privilege of spending four days in France, invited to the Festival Penser et Agir Ensemble (Think and Act Together) which took place in Le Mans on May 12-13.

The goal of this festival was to bring together AA partner institutions to share their partnership experiences. Two years ago, AA decided to involve parents, youth and staff members in the process of education and parenting. Instead of leaving parents to struggle on the outside, AA decided to involve them directly and even to use their talents to serve youth facing difficult circumstances. For example, one parent in a high-risk situation was able to share his passion for photography with a group of young people in the same center that hosted his son. Another center runs a weekly “café-contact” in which the parents of youth or children involved in an AA program meet to share problems freely with each other or simply drink a coffee.

It was in this context that AA’s international leadership invited its Peruvian, British and Lebanese partners to share their experiences on the same theme.

A dozen workshops were presented on the themes of solidarity and citizenship. Tahaddi’s workshop was entitled: “How can we experience citizen commitment together today, when we are so different?”

The two Tahaddi representatives worked very hard to present an interactive workshop based on the citizenship experiences that Tahaddi has led with its own beneficiaries. It is often the latter to whom one gives, the “poor” who need the solidarity of the wealthier. Tahaddi began with another hypothesis: What if the youth or the adults involved with Tahaddi also had something to give and to bring to their community? Are they capable of being change agents, of acting within and for their environment?

For the last two years, Tahaddi has been increasingly developing programs for youth and adults in which they can use the skills and knowledge they have gained from Tahaddi to benefit others in their community.

During the workshop presented by Tahaddi’s team for more than 30 youth, adults and AA personnel, the group discussed the meaning of the word citizen and defined the word through photos: Are we more or less citizens according to our social status? Is an elderly person or a person with special needs less of a citizen where acts of solidarity for his/her community are concerned?

The team then presented sets of photos illustrating acts of citizenship led and implemented by the youth of the Tahaddi Educational Center or by the adults of the community in partnership with Tahaddi. From removal of undesirable garbage, to the planting of trees, actions on behalf of mothers in honor of Mothers’ Day, or activities organized for children living in non-formal refugee camps in Lebanon, the list of citizen actions accomplished by those from whom one expects the least is very long!

The workshop was concluded with a role-play showing how citizenship action begins first with the reconciliation of the groups of the community. It is then that the elaboration of a common project is possible, bringing together a group despite their differences.

AA had prepared a booklet, which summarized the goals and benchmarks of the Festival. Below is a selection from the booklet that expresses the essence of this event:

“We wish to listen to the ideas and the proposals of each person … creativity is encouraged… we involve ourselves in a project with an attainable goal … as we better understand each other, we can better achieve our projects together … our ways of thinking are not always similar, but by putting our thoughts together, we can find new solutions … no one monopolizes the conversation, no one makes fun, each one respects the other … we discuss, we draw, we mime, we utilize body and mind … to think and act together brings joy, pleasure and trust … we ask ourselves how we can do better, what we have learned from this experience … We share our successes, our doubts, we welcome the unplanned …”

The two participants came back exhausted but happy. They appreciated the generous, professional and warm hospitality of AA and of the participants, as well as the excellent organization of the festival. They felt valued in their work with Tahaddi and took with them ideas and experiences that they were able to share with the entire Tahaddi team on their return.

Ghina, the assistant director said: “What I took back with me to Lebanon was giving voice to parents in the education and reeducation of the children and in social work – this is an area that we can improve at Tahaddi.”

14 July 2017

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