Why Palestinians in Lebanon?

Over 60% of Palestinian families in Lebanon are living below the UN-established poverty line.  Classified as foreigners in Lebanon, they are prohibited from employment in more than 70 trades and professions, denied most social and civil rights and have limited access to health and educational services.  Having lived through nearly 70 years of tumultuous exile since the creation of the state of Israel, the Palestinian refugee population in Lebanon now has the greatest percentage of hardship cases (as defined by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency) of any Palestinian community, including Gaza. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war in 2011, the Palestinian refugee camps of Lebanon have seen their population numbers swell, as they received thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees fleeing Syria.

In 1996, several Canadians working in Lebanon recognized the dire situation facing the Palestinians in Lebanon and approached a number of local not-for-profit non-governmental organizations in discuss potential collaborations in support of their efforts.  The organizations expressed a particular need for educational programming for children, since a high percentage of their students were not able to complete secondary school.  These organizations noted that a significant challenge to the successful completion of Palestinian students’ education was the fact that they must follow the Lebanese curriculum, which requires them to pass a national grade 9 exam that places a heavy emphasis on English language proficiency.  In direct response to their request, CEPAL was founded and began offering English language instruction to children and youth in several camps in Lebanon.

Since then, CEPAL’s programs have grown to include English, French and computer classes, informal as well as formal instruction, and teacher training. From an initial partnership with three local organizations, our work has expanded to partnerships with ten NGOs and UNRWA – the UN agency responsible for providing basic health, social and educational services for Palestinian refugees throughout the Middle East. In addition to the two Beirut area camps – Bourj el-Barajneh and Shatila—where CEPAL first started working, we now also work in the Ba’albek area camp of Wavel and the unofficial settlement of Talabaya.

A Challenging and Changing Context in Lebanon

Unfortunately, since the 2006 war in Lebanon, CEPAL has increasingly had to contend with an unstable political climate in Lebanon. This worsened after the 2007 siege and partial destruction of Nahr el-Bared camp, as well as the heightened securitization of many of the areas where the camps are located, because of the Syrian civil war and the recent spate of bombings in Lebanon. The massive influx of refugees from Syria has further altered the context in which CEPAL traditionally conducted its work, placing a heavy burden on our local partners.

CEPAL’s programs have been significantly reduced because of these difficulties, with no volunteers sent to the camps since 2011. Feedback from our partners, however, continues to emphasize a need for educational support, particularly at the current time when the influx of Palestinian and Syrians refugees from Syria is adding strain to an already overstressed educational system.

Rebuilding CEPAL Programs in Canada and Lebanon
In the 2016-2017 year, CEPAL therefore aims to rebuild its programs in Canada and Lebanon. This is where you come in! We are looking for committed and motivated individuals to join our team!

We are looking for board members in Canada to fill a variety of positions, including Overseas Programming, External Relations, Social Media / Website Administration and many more. Now is your chance to make a difference! Board positions are held for one year (January-December 2017), and require just a few hours a week of your time.In addition to filling board positions, we are also recruiting for an overseas volunteer, who would undertake a needs and security assessment with CEPAL partners and Palestinian communities in Lebanon for one month between May-August 2017. This assessment would determine how our programs could be relaunched in ways that best respond to the changed needs in the camps. The volunteer would also provide support to the board in the lead up and in the months following the needs assessment. Professional teaching experience (especially in ESL), knowledge of Arabic, and/or familiarity with the Middle East are not necessary, but would be assets.

How to Apply

  • 1-page letter of intent that addresses why you are interested in joining our board or undertaking the needs assessment in Lebanon (12 pt font, single-spaced);
  • A copy of your CV
  • Contact information for 2 references (Name, Title, Organization, Email Address and Phone Number)
Interviews for board positions will be held between end of November and mid-December 2016. Interviews for the overseas position will be held in January 2017.
If you are interested in joining our team, please send the following documents to info@cepal.ca by 17 November 2016 at 5pm EST.

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