Giorgie ALG20 Grant Proposal
Abstract: In this proposal, I lay out potenial ideas for learning and living in Lebanon. I have chosen to focus my grant on Lebanon in order to deepend my understanding further than if I were to travel between Lebanon and Jordan, although I recognize Jordan as another nation of interest. Below, I discuss strengthening my current relationships in Lebanon as well as creating new relationships as I develop how to respectfully learn from refugees, refugee aid providers, and citizens. I identify guiding questions as I hope to study topics of academic and personal interests, and potential ways I can come closer to answering them.
Throughout history, immigration and refugee accommodations have been a dividing and relevant force in societies and cultures, a truth visible presently, too. Earlier this month, the United States detained Iranian-Americans at the US-Canadian border; thousands of immigrants have been placed in detention centers at the US-Mexico border; the Khartoum process works to block Sudanese immigrants from seeking refuge in Europe; Australians currently flee devastating natural disaster. Of all the instances of clear migration, I am interested in further studying the refugee situations concentrated in Lebanon. Over 1.5 million Syrians and nearly half a million Palestinians are currently official refugees in Lebanese UN-funded refugee camps, with 74% of these 2 million counted refugees lacking legal status and unknown numbers living outside of the UN-funded camps. While it is difficult to collect a census on unofficial refugees in Lebanon, as of 2015, an estimated 84% of the 630,000 collective refugees in Jordan lived in unofficial settlements, half of which were children. This data might suggest that a great many more refugees are living throughout Lebanon unaccounted for and unsupported by UN aid, and a proportional percentage are children.
The aforementioned worldwide and localized situations lead me to consider certain questions concerning the plight of refugees, specifically refugees who currently dwell in Lebanon. What various and potentially invisible approaches are taken to provide aid and secure living standards? What is the quality of life of the of Syrian and Palestinian refugees, how do they vary, and what are their methods of coping with diaspora? What are the attitudes of Syrian refugees when contemplating returning to Syria? What are the unseen impacts of movement, a nomadic life, or a diasporic experience? And what do these things mean? How do children develop in diaspora, and what details of their experience differs between situations? These are some of the primary inquiries that would guide me as I travel throughout Lebanon.
It is difficult to grasp any semblance of an appropriate or representative picture in relation to some of these questions from the position I now hold. While I cannot expect to fully understand the experience of Palestinian or Syrian refugees, I believe that coming to a clearer understanding of environmental and emotional conditions they undergo can be done with experiential learning. The questions I have concerning what people are actually handling must be answered through respectful interaction and listening. During these travels, I also believe it is necessary to balance these interests with other learning opportunities implicit in the journey. For example, I began to take Arabic on main campus fall quarter and I continue currently. If I am awarded the Adventure Learning Grant (ALG), this study would benefit greatly. Additionally, it might be possible to dedicate a portion of the grant to an Arabic language immersion program, perhaps at American University of Beirut or some other institution, in order to effectively communicate with refugees and refugee aid providers in the region. I have also begun
to take courses on Middle Eastern history and supplement this interest with more current sources of information. As a traveller gaining experience in Arabic, I would like to do so with an element of reciprocity and balance.
If awarded this opportunity, I feel as if it is crucial to consider the ironic position of being given money to travel to a foreign place and learn from people who have been categorically excluded from the United States. Being from the US, one of the most privilege rich nations, another inquiry to guide me as I travel concerns the awkwardness of the position and the reasons that move me to visit and learn from the environment.
I feel that approaches to achieving a balance between both experiential learning from refugees/local refugee supporters and learning more Arabic and culture is best done with clear communication about my place in Lebanon and establishing or strengthening connections long before I arrive there. I have identified three solid organizations in Lebanon and two potential experiences with less structure. The Lebanese Association for Scientific Research (LASeR) provides information, financial assistance, and workshops for both graduate students and professors in the Tripoli area. Their main mission works to support community empowerment via higher education. I discussed an internship opportunity with one of the administrators of the Youth Empowerment Program where I could develop a strong connections and adjust to Lebanon while being supportive with general day-to-day assistance to admin, students, and professors. In Beirut, Hostel Beirut and Collateral Repair Project (CRP) work to provide support for immigrants and refugees in the city and in nearby camps. Hostel Beirut especially interests me because their work seems very community powered: a hostel serves to fundraise enrichment workshops for refugees and immigrants,
developing projects focusing on a variety of topics like breathing, arts, and English language. Opportunities discussed here include both volunteering at the hostel and potentially working on workshops. Hostel Beirut occasionally partners with CRP, an organization primarily focused on supporting the education and play-spaces of Syrian refugee children. My role in this capacity would center largely on tutoring in English as a language. An important element in the region also includes contact with the father of my friend from high school, Drew Hammoud. He lives in Beirut and in addition to guiding me and providing some familiarity in Lebanon, he does some work with both the hostel and CRP.
Two less structured projects I have identified would take me to Ashqot (a community of refugees in the foothills of Mount Lebanon that is not recognized by the UN) and Al-Marj (a refugee camp roughly 25 miles outside of Beirut in the Beqaa Valley). Ashqot interests me because very little information can be found on their status and they receive no aid from the UN. Camp Al-Marj is a cite that needs immediate infrastructural assistance, as winter floods caused destruction last year. With Al-Marj, by the time I visit, the situation may have changed, however, with diligent news upkeep I believe I could find other opportunities if they arise.
Incorporating what I learn back into Fairhaven seems a difficult task to fully grasp, as I know not what I will learn. That being said, a few general ideas include helping other ALG applicants, much like Sequoia helped me this year, or making myself available as a resource for others interested in the region. Creating a visual presentation of what I learned also seems like an educational and accessible way of
sharing the experience, and I hope that this experience develops my abilities to be a stronger advocate for immigrants in the United States.