On Sunday 4th of November Amel Association International was delighted to welcome Madame Alda Greoli, Vice-President of the Wallonian Government and Minister of Culture, Childhood and Education, Belgium, to Amel’s centres in Khiam and Ebel El Saki. Belgian Ambassador Hubert Cooreman and a delegation from the embassy accompanied her to the visit, as well as long-time Amel partner Professor Georges Corm. The aim of the visit was to showcase Amel’s important work with Syrian refugees in the region.

The cohort were given a tour of the main social-medical centre in Khiam by Amel’s founder Dr. Kamel Mohanna, who explained Amel’s services in depth, the history of the organisation, and the 3P approach underlining Amel’s 40-year vision, ‘Principles defining a position that we put into practice’. He furthermore outlined the organisation’s vision towards solidarity with all peoples in Lebanon, regardless of their political affiliation, religion, background or nationality. He noted: “We refuse the concept of charity, and instead focus on solidarity. We must work together and become more united to change current individualistic narratives in favour of collective engagement.”

Dr. Kamel Mohanna discussing with Madame Alda Greoli and Ambassador Hubert Cooreman / Photograph: Alexia Faus

The delegation were impressed with Khiam’s medical centre, which offers primary healthcare services. This includes specialist medical consultations, vaccinations, awareness campaigns on breast cancer and family planning, medication transcriptions, laboratory tests and referrals to secondary healthcare if hospitalisation is required. The centre also manages professional and educational training for young Syrians and Lebanese to hone their linguistic and computer skills. It also has an active children protection unit, which offers psycho-social support and community awareness to local residents in Khiam and refugees in the informal tented settlements dotted around the area.

Dr. Kamel Mohanna also introduced the centre’s garden, grown and cared for by elderly people in the area under Amel’s Khiam Elderly Project. Madame Greoli was particularly taken by this initiative and said: “It is very important to implement innovative projects for elderly people, to make them feel empowered and further their integration.”

The delegation visited Amel’s mobile health clinic in Sarada camp no.4 / Photograph: Alexia Faus

Next, the delegation went to Sarada camp, an informal tented settlement that houses close to 2000 Syrian refugees. There they saw Amel’s mobile healthcare unit and Amel’s famous educational bus, which brings non-formal education to hundreds of children at ITSs in the Khiam Area. The delegation witnessed a mathematics, reading and English class in action, in spite of the rain, and proceeded to discuss the needs of Syrian refugee children living there. Dr. Kamel Mohanna noted that providing education to vulnerable populations is a critical component to development: “Amel’s approach is development for democracy. We cannot have democracy without laying the foundations for it first.”

Madame Alda Greoli sees children receiving their non-formal education / Photograph: Alexia Faus

The delegation then visited Amel’s well-known Ebel El Saki olive soap factory, where they received detailed explanations of the soap-making process and how this is empowering 350 beneficiaries who sell their products at Amel’s Menna shop, in headquarters. Through its soap programme Amel is promoting a culture centered around growing olives, one of Lebanon’s most coveted foods. This centre also offers support to 100 farmers to improve their techniques and agricultural skills.

Following the visits Madam Greoli said:  “Refugees are human beings, and it is not usually the case that they leave their country out of choice. From Europe we need to make a serious commitment to help countries like Lebanon”, which is currently hosting around 1.5 million Syrian refugees. Madame Greoli added: “Politicians by themselves do not make a country. Civil society is very important in advancing solidarity between people and implementing change. Amel’s model is to be imitated around the world, including in Belgium.”