Posts Tagged ‘wavel’

Images displayed in this gallery are by Nancy Kendle, an emerging documentary photographer. Nancy began photographing eight years ago, and she is now a graduate (2006) of the Professional Photography Program at Dawson College in Montreal.

Nancy is committed to using visual language to tell the stories of the people she photographs. She traveled to Lebanon during CEPAL’s 2006 Summer Program to photograph CEPAL volunteers working with CEPAL partner organizations in Bourj el Barajneh, Shatila and Wavel refugee camps. She is currently working on a photo documentary in Quebec and hopes to further the work she began in the summer of 2006 in Lebanon.

Please visit www.nancykendle.com for more information about her work.
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By: Gus Constantinou

You knew something out of the ordinary was occurring by the quartet of young boys posing as musicians milling about the street below. Three of the boys were holding durbakehs (Arabic drums) and one was cradling what looked to me to be bagpipes. The musicians’ hair was carefully slicked back, their jeans carefully ironed, their shirts impeccably pressed. A small group of women and children had begun to gather round the band, seemingly confirming our suspicions that something exciting was underway. Quite suddenly a cue was given and the boys began to drum in a frantic, yet unified rhythm.

No sooner had the high-pitched bagpipe played its first note than the women began to ululate in unison with the drums, throwing their hands into the air, and beginning to dance. From a room just below our balcony a woman in a white hijab emerged with one hand in the air, the other holding the hand of the man in a dark suit that followed her. Yet another woman emerged to going the group, this one in a green hijab. The trio danced in a circle to the cheers of the gathering that was growing by the second. As the music swelled, the trio went around the circle a few more times and then led the procession to awaiting automobiles. We ran to the back of the small apartment whose rear balcony provided us a perfect view of the ongoing ceremony. It was in this rear area where we had waited on several occasions for taxis to pick us up. It was also from this aerial perspective that I tried to compare this wedding scene with those back in Canada.

In Canada there isn’t water and sewage running through the streets. In Canada, there aren’t a myriad of electrical wires hanging from the roofs of crumbling and crowded buildings, pock-marked with shells from a not-too-distant war. In Canada, the bride and groom do not await their automobile by the camp garage dump. And in Canada, there isn’t a highway being constructed directly, almost as to appear inside, my family’s home and neighbourhood.

And yet in Canada, we do not celebrate this heartily.

Our neighbours do not take the time out of their busy lives to throw rice down on dancing brides and grooms and proclaim ‘Mabrouk!’ Our whole community and neighbourhood do not get excited and involved when a wedding procession noisily appears. Of all the places in the world that I have been, it has only been here, in this camp where people have allowed me to live and teach, that people resist by refusing to let their surroundings get the best of them. Just like in my Canadian home, despite its differences with the camp, a wedding is going on. And just like back home, perhaps even more so, there is much celebrating to be had!

By: Mina Chung
Wavel

I’m in Wavel camp which is in the Bekaa valley, just outside of the city of Baalbek. Mountains surround us, and there is an easiness and breathing space here that is nonexistent in the congested camps in Beirut. Wavel was a former army base for French soldiers during the French colonial regime so the camp here is less labyrinthine than in Bourj El Barajneh camp where the streets were barely wide enough to pull our suitcases through when we first arrived in Lebanon. The people here call Wavel camp Al-Jaleel, for the home in Galilee they fled from in 1948. When the refugees first arrived, people ran with their belongings to camp buildings to claim living space for their families. I share rented rooms with two other volunteers in what was previously one of the barrack buildings. Teaching is hard work! I don’t have it in me to say anything remotely flip about this. Last week my UNRWA class was setting off firecrackers in class. I love 13-15 year old boys. These days I wake up with pens and gluesticks and holepunchers in my bed, wondering about the present progressive. It seems like between trying to understand life in the camps, preparing for school, and sleeping, time runs short. As for what it means to be a Palestinian refugee in Lebanon… who am I to say? I’ve been here a month, and my Arabic now consists of “Hi!” and “Yes, Lebanon is beautiful”, and “Be quiet! Please sit down! NO FIRECRACKERS!!!!” Through my window of smiles and thank yous I only catch glimpses–the affection the children show each other, the constant invitations for lunch, tea, coffee, a snack, the unbrokenness in the women as they hold hands and dance the dabke. Hamoudi, the brother in the home where I stayed before coming to Wavel, said to us, “The camp is not like houses, the camp is like living together in one home.”

The strength of the relationships between the people in the camps is real, as real as the lack of electricity, the stale air and the dirtyness of water. I’m so moved by the resilience in their daily lives that I’m surprised when I’m reminded of the context of their lives–the hardships they face, the war they lived through, the lack of rights they are accorded, and the homes they lost in Palestine.

There are layers and layers and layers here that emerge in pieces and passing comments: when Radha laughs at jumping at a cockroach saying, “Can you believe I carried a machine gun during the war?”, when the boys point to the police station from the classroom window and tell me about how two men were killed when Lebanese soldiers entered the camp in the middle of the night to “clear the camp of weapons”, when Houda tells us how during the war she hid under the bed clutching her children to her chest–Khalid was 6, Fikri, 4, and Samar a baby. To leave to not leave, to change to not change. Without a choice, where do you put your hope after 57 years of exile?

Hamoudi who has foreign friends jokes about starting a REAL exchange program, he says, “You can have the camp, we’ll just take Oslo, no problem.” Then with so much loyalty and irony it hurts, “ah, but we wouldn’t know what to do with it, we’d just end up building camps in the city.” Still, there is dancing and celebrating, and everyone from the 3 year olds to the 70 year olds knows how to shake it like Shakira. And when my students aren’t setting off firecrackers, I see the beauty in the men and the women they will grow up to be and my heart breaks because they deserve so much more than this.

One of my students wrote, “Independence, freedom and all of these words are shown as little words, but in fact they have big meanings. The world should understand these words in order to help us obtain them.” They are still waiting.

01 August, 2005 16:04 Age: 4

By: Kathy Ramsey
Wavel

For me, being here has been an overwhelming experience. I have been astounded by the generosity of the people I’ve met, the sad stories they have about all the problems they face here in Lebanon and the dreams they all have to go back to Palestine. As volunteers teaching a few hours (or many more!!) of English a day and playing games with the kids, it initially felt like we were doing so little for these wonderful people considering all the obstacles stacked against them. My second week here I remember thinking how can I do anything to ‘help’ the youth pass their all important exams next year when I am only here for 2 months and there is so much work to be done? I began to doubt if I could really make any difference, even small, in their lives. And then I asked the kids to write about themselves and their hopes and dreams so that I could take their writings back to Canada for people there to learn about them and their lives. I can’t describe the looks on their faces any other way than to use the cliche of ‘absolute joy’. They really were so happy that people in Canada would be interested to learn about them AND that they were being given the opportunity to share their stories with the outside world. The students worked so hard on their writings that you could have heard a pin drop in the class it was so quiet – that is really something unusual! I really had to force myself not to cry as I watched them hard at work. The results of their work are really amazing. These are all very special and unique children and youth – there is no way to stop yourself from loving all of them. Their lives will not change because of me or CEPAL but for 2 months this summmer these kids had an opportunity to have fun and learn that they otherwise would not have had. I know it means alot to them and also to me, for having had the chance to meet and get to know them.

By: Renée Pinchero
Wavel

It’s August 26th and my second last day in Wavel Camp. I write this as I lay in bed sick. Again. A cold this time. But as I lay here, it’s not the frustration of being sick that brings tears to my eyes, but this week’s process of saying my “good-byes.” As I write this, the taste of mulokehye (the best transliteration I can manage) still lingers on my tongue – the mulokheye that my neighbour promptly brought over on a tray as soon as she found out I couldn’t make it for lunch today because I was sick.

Just as I was overwhelmed by the amount, I have been continually overwhelmed by the generosity of the people I’ve met – people who have so little materially, but whose love of life and concern for others is so abundant. People who have shown me that despite living in what my neighbour described as “a virtual prison” (her description of camp life) still offer not only a wealth of hospitality, but something more. Despite the fact that my government is complicit in this imprisonment, the people in Wavel can and domake a distinction between my government and me.

They have reminded me of the single most important thing in the world: the importance of recognizing the humanity of another. I need to be careful, though, for I do not want to fall into the trap of sentimentalizing the suffering. I don’t want to sentimentalize the ‘Suffering of the Palestinian People.’ I don’t claim that it’s their suffering which makes them stronger. Suffering is neither noble nor beneficial. It’s unjust.

So, I need to remain focused: The situation of the Palestinians here in Wavel, in Lebanon, everywhere, is not only unjust: it’s a crime against humanity itself. It’s a crime against our own humanity. And for my part, I need to do more than just acknowledge this. I need to act on it. I need to make sure that my daily actions do not betray the people who have opened up their homes, their hearts, and their lives to me. For they have recognized my humanity, and by doing so I need to act to make sure that theirs is equally respected. But how can I do this? I have been reminded repeatedly of how I can act. I’ve been reminded in all my “good-bye” visits, in all of my “good-bye” heart shaped notes from my grade eight girls, in every exchange of email addresses and telephone numbers… “Please don’t forget us when you back to Canada. Please tell people about us.” And I know that when I return, my life will return to its regular breakneck speed: there will be too much work, too much to get done. But as I lay here, in front of the remains of the rice that I managed to get away with not eating under the watchful eye of Najwa and her mother, I know that this time I must make good on my promises. I must do more than “not forget.” I must act. This summer must be more than just a “great experience.” It needs to be more than a few stories that I can share with friends and family. I have a responsibility to provide space for voices which are all too often muted by those who have the power to write our official history. I have a responsibility to be an advocate when I can and to educate at home. I have a responsibility to make sure that my actions acknowledge the humanity that lies in every one of us.

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