Our Neighbourhood
Letter to Friends around the World # 82

Little alleyways, electric wires in every direction, drawings on walls, children playing on the pavements, the noise of cars and bikes, children crying, tiny houses crowded together, endless tales of misery... This is the image of the “Nabaa” neighbourhood that we all come away with, the image that the media circulates.

But to its inhabitants, Nabaa is beautiful! “It is a neighbourhood where people of different origins and religions (Christians, Buddhists, Muslims...) live together in harmony and respect. Not everywhere in Lebanon can you find this kind of coexistence... At first it’s scary but it is an asset because it opens up the world to us. This is where we live and where our children grow up.”

The “Beitouna” centre was created in 1999, set up through the initiative of local people, to give support to families in the neighbourhood with serious problems. Confronted with this situation, with the help of the Sisters, they created a little committee to support those in need. The centre started out as a small space to welcome them.

It is able to survive thanks to funds from local residents. Sister Thérèse explains, “One day, just before the end-ofyear holidays, a girl came to see us and gave us 10 Lebanese pounds from her savings. A mother with several children in her care gives a little money from time to time. Some friends help us pay the rent. People love to help and we accept their support.”

“At first our intention was just to help isolated, marginalised people. Then we developed other activities to promote solidarity among people, such as the holiday camp with families, discussion groups on topics such as children’s education, dignity..., a library for children and a cooperative to buy food in bulk, which is cheaper. This cooperative guarantees the food for 35 families.” They also organise festivities to celebrate the 17th October. Leila said about this day, “for me the most important activity is the celebration of the 17th October, where we are able to make our voices heard, demanding respect for justice and our rights.”

The end-of-year festivities also bring joy to the families in the neighbourhood. Sister Thérèse is in charge of listening to people, and a committee of mothers, fathers and volunteers follow up the different activities. Today the centre counts on 40 families. In the future they want to create a website where mothers will contribute by commenting on photos, and in that way learn to use a computer.


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