When you were a child, did your parents forbid you from watching certain films or TV programmes because they were too scary or too violent? As a parent, do you censor your children’s viewing for exactly the same reasons?
For thousands of children and young people living today in Lebanon, their protection from the scary and violent went a long time ago. Their nightmares are not from the TV, but from everyday living. Some of these kids have been in war zones and seen things no child should see and experienced horrific things no child should have to endure.
We at Baptist Children and Youth Ministry (BCYM) have a heart for these vulnerable, damaged children. We want to be their friends, to see them smile again and to bring fun back into their lives. We want them to comprehend the enduring love of the One who wants the very best for them. We want them to have hope once more.
During the last year (2013/14) we have doubled the number of camps and follow-up events we organise for these kids. At these camps and meetings, we have shared positive messages that the participating girls and boys have started to take on board. We have had counsellors on hand to help them deal with painful issues. And we have had fun doing activities like hiking, sports and games these girls and boys would not normally be able to do.
We have a small staff team of myself, Pastor Joseph and a group of loyal volunteers who do a fantastic job befriending, entertaining and teaching these wonderful children and young people. It is great when friends from overseas join us. In April, we had a group from Germany helping us and in June, a team from America organised outdoor games for the kids. If any overseas groups would like to join us in the coming year, we would love to see you.
All our BCYM leaders go on retreat once a year. At this year’s retreat, there was training on child safety and trauma, which provided useful advice on how to help many of the kids we meet who are struggling with such issues.
Sana*, a 14 year old street kid, is one of the hurting young people we are working with. “I am throttled from life” is written in Arabic (Ana Makhno’a men el hayet) on her arm. When we asked her about it, she would reply with a sigh and a chuckle. We have been working with Sana since she was 10 years old and the transformation has been enormous. When we first saw her, the shelter where she lives had shaved her head. She was always shy and had a hat on her head to cover her baldness. She would stand alone and didn’t want to talk to anyone. Since then, we have worked with Sana a lot, encouraging her to accept and love herself. Today, she stands in front of everyone and will talk to all of us. Sana says the leaders at BCYM have affected her life greatly.
We had a project in March where we wanted to show former street kids like Sana how special they are and to build up their very low self-esteem. Over four weeks we taught the girls aged 14 to 17 hairdressing skills. Three sisters came to the project, two of which had been abused by their parent which led to their placement in a shelter. They confided in us a lot during the project and told us their stories. Our counsellor had many sessions with them on trust and self-esteem. At the end of the project we could see an increase of trust between the sisters and us and noticed they were far more open. They still have a long way to go but we have seen a change in the way these girls talk to us and how they deal with their friends.
Our 2014/15 programme of activities is due to begin in October. We are looking forward to working with more children and young people, providing them with hope and getting them on the road to a brighter future. Appreciate your prayers and support.
Gladys Haddad Sebali | BCYM Manager | October 2014
* Name has been changed