Amal Alliance: Rainbow of Education
We empower children with social-emotional learning, psychosocial support, and early childhood development to restore hope for their future.
Lebanese and refugee children practice their “tree pose” as part of the Rainbow of Education curriculum, building their self-confidence and stability.
What problem does the idea help to solve and how does your solution work? (2,000 characters maximum)
Education and early childhood development have fallen to the bottom of the humanitarian aid spectrum with only 2% of global funding. Of the 631,000 school-aged refugee children in Lebanon, less than half are enrolled in formal education. Sadly, the lack of access to education and psychosocial support renders displaced children vulnerable to various security risks, undermines their current health and well-being, and mitigates their future ability to be peaceful and productive adults. Our program aims to counter these challenges by addressing displaced children’s critical need for access to safe spaces, psychological well-being, and education.
Having implemented successful programming across Greece, Turkey, and Lebanon, we seek to increase our outreach in Lebanon, which has taken on more refugees than any nation in the world per capita (at present, ¼ of the population in Lebanon is refugees). Our solution speaks specifically to displaced children and disenfranchised Lebanese youth in Lebanon ages 3-6 and 7-12, with three tiered goals: 1) to provide psychosocial support and informal education for displaced and disenfranchised local children to promote peace and integration; 2) to provide children with tools and practices that promote self-confidence, resilience, and self-sufficiency; 3) and to foster hope, happiness, and well-being in children’s lives. Offering these children a space in which to learn about and cultivate kindness, respect, diversity, and communication skills ensures they develop the fundamental life skills and social-emotional competencies needed to become productive members of society.
Ultimately, our solution serves as a tool for fostering peace and harmony, as we open our classes to all children, no matter legal status, ethnicity, or religion, in an effort to promote tolerance and inclusion between the children of the host community and children of the displaced population.
Our Journey to Healing highlights the experience of a child as they progress through the Rainbow of Education curriculum. They will learn the essential skills of Harmony, Emotional Regulation, Compassion, Peacebuilding, Expression, and Capacity Building as they create resilience within themselves and their diverse neighbors.
Geography of focus (500 characters)
We conducted a 2018 pilot with 400 children in the Beqaa Valley, where our content was integrated in UNICEF’s Basic Literacy and Numeracy program in 3 community centers. Given our relations with global organizations and local NGOs, we see potential to scale programs throughout Lebanon, giving education to displaced children unable to attend school. We also see the possibility to run programs in public schools serving both communities, breaking down intolerance between refugees and locals.
Building Bridges: What bridge does your idea build between people on the move and neighbors towards a shared future of stability and promise? (500 characters)
We build bridges of tolerance, social cohesion, and sustainable peace. Our theme is cohesion between host and displaced communities. This is why we offer training to both refugee and local leaders, making space to find common ground. We recognize the necessity of social-emotional competencies for stability for people on the move and their Lebanese neighbors. By incorporating conflict resolution and peacebuilding, we minimize the cycle of violence and allow children to see beyond differences.
What human need is your idea solving for? (1,000 characters)
Our name, Amal, means Hope. This idea is the essence of our programs, which reintroduce displaced children to imagination and reclaim the joy of childhood. Our curriculum goes beyond basic early childhood education as it incorporates a holistic approach through play learning. Designed for ages 3-6 and 7-12, we meet children at their capability level to build their self-confidence and self-awareness. Yoga, mindfulness, games, art therapy, dance, and creative writing not only provide psychosocial support to mitigate toxic trauma, but give life to expression. Reclaiming agency is the first step in restoring dignity.
Our programs address the human need for peace in the midst of hardship. With limited to no access to education for refugee children in Lebanon, there is a need for non-formal education that focuses on regulating emotions and cultivating kindness. By giving children the tools needed to interact compassionately, trusting relationships form between the refugee and host children.
What will be different within the community of focus as a result of implementing your idea? (1,000 characters)
The Rainbow of Education will improve children’s emotional, psychological, and social well being and improve their capacity to be peaceful and employable adults. These programs provide the emotional intelligence for healing and teach life skills that would otherwise be learned in a home or classroom. Our objective is to establish a precedent of implementation of social-emotional learning programs that address the root causes of trauma in education in emergencies.
To discern the efficacy of our programs, we use an emoji-based impact and assessment tool to measure changes in emotions, behavior, mood, confidence levels, interaction with other children, and parent and community engagement.
These measurements are tangible changes that can be documented to understand how to better fill the gaps in education in emergencies. We can use data analysis to draw attention to the ROI that ECD poses, alongside an example of implementation of SEL programs that improve overall well being.
What is the inspiration behind your idea? (1,000 characters)
After fostering relations and providing capacity building for the US government, our founder was struck by the 50 million children displaced worldwide. Over 50% are unaccompanied, and most carry invisible trauma. Lack of access to education and psychosocial support makes children vulnerable to human trafficking, harvesting of organs, or recruitment into terrorist organizations. Without addressing trauma and mental health, statistics show that they will resort to violence in an intergenerational cycle of violence and poverty. Wanting to ensure children do not fall through the cracks of bureaucracy, we set out to fill a gap critical to peace. After speaking to numerous children across various camps, the Rainbow of Education was designed to meet the needs of the intended beneficiaries. Through implementation in various countries, we gathered the best practices and continuously improve content to adapt to the cultural expectations, traditions, and political and humanitarian landscape.
Describe the dynamics of the community in which the idea is to be implemented. (1,000 characters)
The community we serve exists in the context of 50 million displaced children in the world and half of them unaccompanied minors. In a few years we will face millions of adults who lack employable skills as a result of limited to no access to education and skills training services. Lebanon itself hosts 631,000 school-aged refugee children from the influx of 1.5 million Syrian refugees, 260,000 Palestinian refugees, and 18,000 refugees from various other states. In an overcrowded country, many children fall through the cracks and are not given the opportunity to process their trauma or develop social awareness or employable skills, with as many as 180,000 Syrian refugee children working to support their families instead of attending basic school. When hope is returned through reconnection with the innocence of imagination, these children restore their agency and develop relationships of peace with their neighbors in the host community.
Conducting a teacher training in Lebanon in 2018. These local women from the refugee and host community then implemented the Rainbow of Education with 400 children residing in the Beqaa Valley. An additional benefit of our programs is that they empower local women from different backgrounds to develop their own sense of agency, in community with other women, as they lead children through the process of healing.
How does your idea leverage and empower community strengths and assets to help create an environment for success? (1,000 characters)
Children are a powerful asset for change when given the opportunity to succeed. Often displaced children express the desire to be seen as legitimate agents for change in their communities. Our programs restore dignity while also benefiting society through an increase in people with aptitude, strength, and creativity. Cultivating soft skills results in a high return on investment for the community, economic development, and regional stability.
Through work with our partner, the Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (LOST), we have seen the incredible strength of community in Lebanon. LOST is powered by locals who work to create employment opportunities and teach skills training to reduce poverty, eliminate exclusion, and foster a culture of peace. As we scale, we look to collaborate with communities and organizations with lived experiences; leveraging the existing spirit of resilience to promote peace and harmony between the host and refugee populations.
Children work together to create a tree as part of the Rainbow of Education curriculum (Turkish Rainbow Program). We focus on our roots to remind the children of their unique and special heritage, which roots them in their own beliefs and values. We emphasize the importance of unity as each root becomes part of a larger tree of shared values and beliefs.
What other partners or stakeholders will work alongside you in implementing the idea, if any? (1,000 characters)
Current partners: UNHCR, Elpida Home (Thessaloniki, Greece); Give a Hand (Istanbul, Turkey); Lebanese Organization for Studies and Training (Bouday, Bedyanel, and Balbeek, Lebanon); Zendoway, Urban Yoga Foundation, Mindful Yoga Breaks, Because International, Kids Tales, Kota Alliance, FJK Dance, Mission Be, Active Plus, Cyric, Columbia University School of Social Work, NYU Silver School of Social Work, Boston University Pardee School of Global Affairs
Future partners: Teach for Lebanon, Ana Aqra, UNICEF Lebanon, Malak, Ministry of Education of Lebanon, Lebanese American University, BRAC
What part of the displacement journey is your solution addressing
Being on the move, crossing borders, and/or temporarily settled
Tell us how you'd describe the type of innovation you are proposing
Service: A new or enhanced service that creates value for end beneficiaries
Idea Proposal Stage
Early Adoption: We have completed a pilot and analyzed the impact of that pilot on the intended users of the idea. I have proof of user uptake (i.e. 16% to 49% of the target population or 1,000 to 50,000 users).
Group or Organization Name
Tell us more about your group or organization [or lived experience as a displaced person?] (1000 characters)
The Amal Alliance, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) dedicated to empowering displaced children through holistic education and integration programs within four areas of focus: Social-Emotional Learning, Psychosocial Support, Early Childhood Development, and Peacebuilding. Our trauma-informed programs enhance cognitive, interpersonal, and emotional skills through informal education and structured play. The curriculum focuses on kids yoga, mindfulness, art therapy, dance, reading, and creative writing, to create a safe space in which children cultivate their voice and self-worth. This holistic approach addresses trauma at its root cause, allowing children to find inner strength and resilience despite their challenging circumstances. By partnering with host community organizations, we train local leaders to teach the curriculum to refugee and host community children, building bridges of peace and tolerance.
Type of submitter
We are a registered Non-Profit Organization
Organization Headquarters: Country
Organization Headquarters: City / State
New York, NY
In preparation for expert feedback: What are three unanswered questions or challenges that you could use support on in these categories? These questions will be answered directly by experts matched specifically to your idea. (600 characters)
1) Thinking in terms of language barriers for communicating SEL and PSS concepts. How can we ensure the quality of the content is preserved as it is translated and passed from trainer to trainer, but also cultivates teachers’ dexterity with the material?
2) What measures can we take to create an effective pathway from non-formal to formal education, that includes a referral system for students that may need additional support?
3) How can we ensure we can scale the program to reach numerous children without compromising on quality; what provisions should be taken? What does that look like?
Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)
We were able to speak with our mentor, Kinda, and received constructive feedback from the expert, Maryan, helping us to create next steps for our program and its implementation in Lebanon. First, we plan to address the issues that arise from our Train-the-Trainer model, namely low retention rate of teachers and conceptual meaning lost in translation. Second, they suggested to solidify a pathway from non-formal to formal or vocational training that would ensure future employability, as well as a referral system to organizations that are better equipped to handle more vulnerable cases. Third, in regard to program evaluation that includes children, it is critical to record observations made by both the teachers and the community. Taking their feedback into account, allows for a more comprehensive overview of our program’s impact on their emotional and behavioral changes. Lastly, the experts were able to follow-up on this point and suggest that we create a toolkit with each community, as we can highlight their specific needs. The experts also suggested we hold an orientation for trainees, trainers and volunteers. By providing a space for trainers to come together to find common ground, we not only provide the necessary skill sets needed, but create a community of practice. With this expert advice, we will further emphasize the importance of community building in our trainings, and share the toolkit with local organizations on the ground. Through the process of working with various experts and mentors, we challenged ourselves to best meet the specific needs of each community we look to work with.
In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)
By working with mentors who understand the variables of education in protracted conflict or crisis, we can achieve insights and multi-year funding that aligns with human cycles to attain overall wellbeing. This grant will enable us to integrate mentor and expert feedback to scale and enhance our impact in Lebanon. With proper funds, we can increase our in-country partnerships, conduct large-scale trainings, and conduct evaluation while in the field. This maximizes our static program costs, providing the largest impact possible, and enables us to regularly gather community feedback. We could provide increased facilitator development by employing an in-country coordinator to liaise with the community and partner organizations; continued facilitator development could assist in teacher retention. Funds will enable us to mitigate the issue of our programs’ conceptual meanings being lost in translation, whether through language or information dissemination.
What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)
Our programs are running in Lebanon until December 2019. The funds would be used to continue and scale our efforts to reach more children in untapped areas. 25% of funds would go into training the local organizations, the teachers/facilitators, as well as the research and development to take into account community involvement and needs. 20% will go to teacher stipends and additional teacher support. 10% of the funds would go into quality translation and interpretation. Translating our materials into Arabic and French would ensure the curriculum’s integrity across languages. 25% of funds would go into high quality and reasonably priced supplies for the child friendly safe spaces. 20% of funds would be used to implement proper impact and assessment evaluations of programming, content, and methodology for reporting. Assuming reasonable shared costs of facilities and teacher stipends with partners, we would need roughly $185-190K.
What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)
In the next 1-3 years, we hope to work more closely with the individual communities throughout Lebanon with which we work to identify local leaders and potential mental health organization partners, translate materials into Arabic, and develop improved evaluation tools with experts. We would conduct trainings and then follow-up with a one week observation of teachers in practice. During the observation period, a potential local leader or teacher that could become the person in charge of training the trainers in-country would be identified. After consulting with our local partner, we would identify possible organizations to whom we can refer students with particular acute mental health needs; upon solidifying partnerships, we would train our in-country coordinator to liaise and coordinate with this mental health organization. We would also work with Translators Without Borders to ensure high quality translation of our materials.
What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)
IMPACT: By 2022, we aim to scale our Rainbow of Education programs in Lebanon to reach approximately 10,000 children, training 500 teachers/facilitators, and capacity building of at least 7 local organizations.
MEASUREMENT: We used our customized impact assessment plan, comprised of emoji-based pre and post surveys for students, parents, and facilitators. Along with teacher observations, this assessment will measure any improvement in cognitive, affective, and behavioral competencies. The indicators include self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills, self-management, responsible decision making, optimistic thinking, and goal directed behavior, the number of students reached and track key indicators.
QUESTION: As we would like to include individuals from the refugee population to be our teachers, how do we instil the importance of self-care so they can perform at optimal levels while delivering key concepts to the children they teach?
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)
To be a sustainable program we continually seek to establish local partners across the region that can provide support and share costs to cover facilities and teachers. Our current partners include multiple organizations that have contributed to our Rainbow Curricula such as Urban Yoga Foundation, Mission Be, FJK Dance, etc. Our local Lebanese partners are the Lebanese Organization for Studies & Training (LOST), but we aspire to collaborate with more organizations that include Malak, Teach for Lebanon, UNICEF Lebanon, Ana Aqra, and beyond. With this grant, we will be able to hire a local coordinator, serving as our in-country coordinator, overseeing the program and being the primary liaison with our local partner organizations and NY headquarters. This individual selected from the refugee population, will be identified for having excelled during their training. They will report to specific contacts as shown in the organizational chart attached.
Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)
While initial programs were created from community feedback and conversations with refugee children, we recognize our biases and thus find speaking with our local partners, the parents, and the host community key to understanding the regional dynamics that often go unacknowledged. Our local partners expressed the need for increased access to facilitator development and training videos which was something we would have never thought to do. They would like additional trainings and videos addressing curriculum content, resources and activities, and methods for dealing with issues of class management. This is a simple addition that we can include during the training framework, and provide through our YouTube Channel as suggested. Through their feedback on the curriculum we learned that yoga and mindfulness were much better received than dance, as such, we can alter the content to reflect more engaging lesson plans for the children and the community.