Sharif Madi looked around at the Al Khayriyah elementary school and didn’t like what he saw. The floors were cracked, paint was peeling off the walls, windows allowed the cold and rain to come in, and the playground was not large enough for the school’s 157 students to run and play.
Years of violence and economic suffering had taken their toll on his community in Chebaa - a village situated in the mountainous Al Arqoub region of southern Lebanon, near the border with Israel. Nowhere was this felt more than at the school where children wanted to learn but did not have an environment conducive to learning.
As the head of the charity association that runs the school for poor and at-risk children and as a father of five children himself, Mr. Madi knew that something needed to be done. That is when he decided to contact Mercy Corps, an organization he had heard was involved in infrastructure improvement projects in Lebanon.
With the assistance of Mercy Corps, Mr. Madi secured a $92,000 Grassroots Grant from the government of Japan to build a new school on a donated plot of land on the outskirts of Chebaa. The new school, a one-story building that will include nine classrooms, a principal’s office, a meeting room, a kitchen, rest rooms and a large playground, will enable more children in Chebaa to have access to education.
“The currently enrolled students will be able to attend a safe, structurally sound and proper school where all the classrooms are consolidated in one building,” Mr. Madi proudly explained. “Upon its completion it will be able to accommodate an additional 78 students and could be expanded in the future as the demand increases over time.”
Mr. Madi also said that he was pleased that Mercy Corps is trying to help support the local economy by obtaining bids from local contractors and vendors in the village instead of bringing outsiders to the project, thus presenting good work opportunities to the local community.
“Chebaa village will definitely have improved educational services with the construction of the new school and the impact of the project will be a lasting one affecting the lives of the residents of our remote and troubled village,” Mr. Madi said.
Since 1995, Mercy Corps has worked with village communities in Lebanon to create a healthy and sustainable rural environment. People of different ethnicities and religions play an active role in both planning and implementing program activities such as agricultural improvement, school and road construction, providing training to increase economic opportunities, and massive environmental awareness campaigns.