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The Tech Program - a holistic creative arts, education and well-being intervention for girls in Syrian refugee camps in the Beka'a Valley

SAWA aims to implement an evolved version of its Harmony Programme to promote education and health among girls in refugee camps in Lebanon

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What problem does your innovation solve?

SAWA organises non formal education for Syrian refugee children in schools in accommodation near to refugee camps. The SAWA Harmony Programme uses tech creative arts and sports as a "soft landing" in education and as therapeutic support for children. The problem is that at the onset of adolescence, girls are normally taken out of school and returned to the camps. This innovation extends the Harmony Programme into "hubs" in camps to address the educational, social and health needs of these girls.

Explain your innovation.

The Harmonic Program is in itself an innovation in education and therapeutic support and has worked very successfully in camps in the Beka'a Valley for the last two years . This proposal is for a second phase of innovation. This will involve expanding the Harmony Program to include activities useful and attractive to the girls and their families, including cookery and crafts as well as music, creative arts and sports. The activities will take place in dedicated "hubs" in the camps. These will form part of social centres SAWA is already preparing to build in the camps. The Harmony "hubs" will benefit from inter-agency support for the girls, including health and social care, and provide a focus for family participation in creative, educational and therapeutic activities. Over the last two years, SAWA has trained a team of "animators" drawn from among the refugees themselves, who are now ready to lead these activities. We will be using a new evaluation/assessment technology based on formative assessment and performances of understanding. SAWA's advisor is Nigel Osborne, considered to be a pioneer and leading figure in the use of creative arts in conflict and post-conflict situations. • Osborne,N. 2009. Music for children in zones of conflict and post-conflict: a psychobiological approach. In Communicative Musicality. S. Malloch & C. Trevarthen, Eds.: 331–356. OUP.

Who benefits?

The beneficiaries are Syrian Refugees who have been displaced since 2011 from Syria and who are currently living in the Beka'a Valley in informal settlements. They live in very difficult circumstances ( no jobs, no resources, no governmental support, limited UN support...), in extreme poverty and bearing painful emotional burdens. The innovation we are suggesting will benefit around 18 camps (around 5,000 individuals) amongst which 3,000 are below the age of 18 ( from which 1,650 are girls) and 2,000 are adults ( from which 1,200 are women).

How is your innovation unique?

SAWA for Development and Aid was the first NGO to work with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It is also the first to implement a creative arts-led education and health program in a systematic way. Happily similar initiatives are emerging. For example UNHCR have commissioned Dr Brian Harris and other distinguished music therapists from the US to develop a music therapeutic program for Syrian refugees in Jordan. Many organisations have offered general creative arts activities to victims of war, for example Musicians Without Borders (Kosovo), or Art for Community Development (Uganda). There have also been a a very small number of clinical music therapy interventions, for example War Child (the Pavarotti Music Centre, Mostar). But we are aware of no other examples of creative arts combined with a holistic educational, health and social intervention addressing the needs of girls within the refugee camp environment.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

The main challenge and unanswered question is family, wider-community engagement. SAWA has made some progress in involving parents in informal school education and in creating all-embracing community events ( see video and pictures) . There is no doubt that the girls will commit themselves enthusiastically to the Programme, as they did when they were in school, but bringing family and community fully into the process is a challenge. If anything keeps us awake at night, it is this.

Tell us more about you.

Sawa for development and aid, a Lebanese NGO supporting thousands of Syrian Refugees every month since 2011, works in: Relief (tents and camps’ rehabilitation and reconstruction, food & hygiene baskets distribution, wash...), Education (ECE, Primary Schools , bridging and vocational training for the youth and the Harmonic Education program), Development & Livelihood (creation of jobs, literacy programs , women empowerment businesses...) and Protection & Health ( Primary health care and MHPSS).

What is the primary type of emergency setting where your innovation would operate?

  • Prolonged displacement

Emergency Setting - Elaborate

The primary implementation setting is the refugee camps of the Beka'a Valley. In Lebanon there are no UNHCR-run camps. refugees are scattered ad hoc around the countryside in fragile dwellings made of tarpaulin, cardboard, plastic bags and light wood. Top-down interventions have on the whole failed. Bottom-up activity has been more successful. The proposed Programme is a holistic, bottom-up intervention which would be directly transferable to other refugee settings.

Where will your innovation be implemented?

Central & west Beka'a ( where resides at the moment 500,000 Syrian refugees living in informal settlements in very difficult circumstances)

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

In-country Networks

SAWA was the first NGO to engage with Syrian refugees in Lebanon. During the course of the last 6 years it has partnered with many organisations including, UNHCR, Oxfam, Frederich Ebert, the Japanese Embassy, Parcic, Trocaire and a large number of local Lebanese NGOs. It has many partnerships with international universities, in both research and provision of internships; these include the Universities of Copenhagen (DK), Richmond (USA) and Edinburgh (UK).

Sector Expertise

  • I've worked in a sector related to my innovation for more than a year.

Sector Expertise - Elaborate

SAWA has six years' experience in the field and two years' experience of running the Harmony Program. A radically new, "evolved" Harmony Program would be implemented by a team of "animateurs" who have been in training and practicing their skills for the last two years. This team will be managed by an experienced field team, directed from SAWA's offices in Beirut. Their advisor is Nigel Osborne who has pioneered related work in the Balkans, Caucasus, E Africa, the Middle East and SE Asia.

Innovation Maturity

  • Roll-out/Ready to Scale: I have completed a pilot and am ready or in the process of expanding.

Organization Status

  • We are a registered non-profit, charity, NGO, or community-based organization.

Organization Location

Sawa for Development and Aid is based in Lebanon ( Operations are carried out in the Beka'a Valley)


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