What can a donation of $400 buy?

As part of our series reporting from Lebanon, we follow your donations from Dubai to the refugee camp doorstep 

Fund a three-month technical skills course for a young refugee

In Halba, the capital of Akkar District in northern Lebanon, a small community centre offers young adults the opportunity to learn new skills and therefore boost their chances of employment. Syrian refugees attend classes in hairdressing, computer skills, cooking and English, among other disciplines.

They are joined by a handful of Lebanese youth, part of a concerted effort to reassure the local population that they, too, will be offered much-needed opportunities.

The mother

Doua’a, 22, arrived in Lebanon three years ago, with her husband and two young children. She enrolled in a sewing class and today she works as a teaching assistant, helping new arrivals to fashion bedsheets, aprons, oven gloves and clothes for prayer.

“It has helped me a lot because I get a salary here and although it’s not so high it helps me to support my family,” she says. “I am paid $250 a month for working three days a week, three hours a day.”

With the help of the Italian government, the UNHCR has been able to provide Doua’a with her own sewing machine, which she uses at home to work as a seamstress, stitching and mending and giving second life to that which otherwise might be discarded.

“I live just up the road [from the community centre], so when I am not working here I am working at home,” she says. “I feel like this new skill that I have learnt has opened many new opportunities for me. And now we have a roof over our heads, which is not the case in Syria any more.”

The lawyer

Hamood, 27, crossed the border in March 2013. He had been studying at Damascus University, and was weeks away from graduating as a lawyer. Today he is taking a computing class in order to help support his mother, father, and eight siblings.

“It’s a huge struggle, as I was so close to graduating and I feel like I have had to start from nothing again,” he says. “You’re not even sure if you want to dream any more: it’s really difficult to sit and think about your future because what you thought that future would be, has been completely destroyed.”

Hamood’s hopes of becoming a lawyer likely ended when the conflict began: even if he is able to return to Syria one day, the disruption to his education will be lasting. There is no way he can continue his training in Lebanon, as wages are low and the family is struggling to pay for food, let alone a law degree.

“[The community centre] has helped us a lot psychologically,” he says. “We’ve met new people, good people, and made new friends. There is a sense of real community, among the refugees and the Lebanese too. I have also strengthened my skills, which will be very important.”

The teacher

Manar, 26, was a primary school teacher in Homs when the fighting broke out. Although a qualified educator, she did not carry her degree certificates with her to Lebanon, and so is unable to teach formally in her new country.

“I am doing some tutoring and applying for work, but it’s difficult to get anything without being able to prove my accreditation,” she says in excellent English. “It is very frustrating as I can’t even work as a teaching assistant without the correct documentation.”

Manar, like many others, left Syria with just the clothes on her back. She never thought to bring her degree certificates with her, and never expected to be in Lebanon for such a prolonged period of time.

“When you first register with the UNHCR you get your registration certificate, which is valid for one year,” she says. “Everyone said ‘we will not be here for a year’ and they never expected to see the registration centre again. In July last year they started to give certificates valid for two years. That really hit hard. We have been destroyed; we have lost our education and we cannot find jobs. It has broken us completely.”