Last year, the Zeta Chapter of Epsilon Alpha Sigma Sorority, Inc. held its first Remembering the Refugees (RTR) banquet at the University of Michigan (UofM). That night we raised $9,510 dollars for Friends of Kayany, the United States branch of The Kayany Foundation. The Kayany Foundation and Friends of Kayany support schools in Lebanon that provide free education to Syrian Refugees living in Informal Tented Settlements (ITSs). At the end of RTR, I felt a sense of accomplishment because I knew that every dollar raised would be put to good use. When Jessica Doumit, Epsilon Alpha Sigma’s National Director of Philanthropy at the time, reached out to all of us about visiting the Kayany schools this past summer, I jumped at the opportunity. She connected me with Lory, who works for The Kayany Foundation in Lebanon. Lory was super helpful in answering any questions I had and making my visit run as smoothly as possible. On July 24th, we departed to Beqaa Valley, Lebanon to visit three of the Kayany schools.
The first school we visited was the United Nations Women for Peace Association School for Girls. It was summer time, so not all classes were in session, but there was a cosmetology class happening at the time of our arrival. Foundation L’oréal built a “Beauty For a Better Life” cosmetic classroom in this school. I walked into the classroom not expecting to see it looking like a standard salon we would see in the U.S. To my surprise, there were many hair dyes, wigs and styling tools for the students to practice with. I had the chance to talk to the professor of the class during their break and the passion in her voice left no doubt in
my mind that she truly cared for her students and their education. After taking the course, these young women would graduate with a cosmetology certification and would be able to go find work. She spoke highly of her students, mentioning that a lot of the times they knew how to do things the most experienced, uneducated stylists did not. Speaking to the students themselves, who ranged in age from late teens to mid-twenties, was a highlight of my experience. I had the chance to talk to them not just about their class, but about their lives in general. They raved about their professor and were thankful for having the opportunity to take a class and graduate with a certification. They were eager to take pictures with us and I had such a nice time just talking to them like I would with friends back home. After saying a sad goodbye, we headed to our next
The second and third schools we visited were similar in that both had classes in session for middle and early high school aged children. Lory toured us around the facility where we saw science labs that looked like my chemistry lab back at UofM, libraries filled with books and computer labs where students were designing websites. We observed as professors gave students lessons and I was truly in awe of how lovely the classroom atmosphere was. I saw a professor that tied in songs when teaching a math
lesson and another who had her students so eager to engage with each other they were almost jumping out of their seats. Every time we walked into a classroom, the professors were nothing but friendly and the students all had shy smiles on their faces as they waved hello. These two schools were both located across the street from the ITSs was definitely an eye opening experience, as I had never seen them before. Leaving the schools was harder than I thought it would be because I wish I had more time to spend with the students. Driving past the ITSs on my way back to Beirut put everything into place for me. The work we do back in the states fundraising for Friends of Kayany through RTR felt more real to me in that I saw exactly where the money was going. Of course it helped with the facilities, but more importantly, I saw its fruit in the smiles on the students’ faces, their determination to solve a math problem and their collaboration to form a sentence in English. My life is truly changed forever and visiting the Kayany schools this summer has kickstarted my motivation for this upcoming year.