29 ACS 9th graders and one 12th grader traveled north to Akkar, Lebanon, on Saturday, April 22, to volunteer at an academic center for Syrian students living in the area’s refugee camps. The center is operated by an NGO called Malaak, which means “angel” in Arabic. Malaak was founded by ACS parent Asma Abou Ezzeddine Rasamny who lived in Syria for many years before moving to Lebanon. ACS faculty Dyane Stillman, Hilda Hanania, Alexa Kumbier, Maura Sackett and Kevin Kuzel served as volunteer chaperones.
ACS students faced the day’s physical and emotional challenges with remarkable resilience. After waking up at 6 am on a Saturday and riding three hours on a bus, the students arrived to the center. The center did not have electricity, and hence, no light except for the windows—and no A/C.
In the morning, the ACS volunteers worked on grade appropriate art projects arranged by Malaak teachers such as drawing, playing games, and creating popsicle-stick sculptures and paper-plate masks.
ACS students then served lunch to the Syrian students, often the only daily meal for many of the kids. In the afternoon, ACSers joined the Syrian students in outdoor and indoor activities, such as football, watching the musical performances of the Syrian students, painting the center, working in the garden, leading a drama session of 1st graders, and helping with computer coding lessons. There were about twenty Syrian students in each classroom, all of whom only spoke Arabic. Those of our students who did not speak Arabic found it somewhat challenging that they could not communicate with words.
After bidding the students and teachers farewell, the group walked to what the founder called a “Five Star” camp to visit one of the first families to move into the center’s temporary housing. On the way home, the ACS bus stopped at the home of student Hilda Hanania’s grandmother, who was ready with ice cream for the students and Turkish coffee for the teachers.
Many thanks to Charbel, Dima and Nicole for making sure we had buses. Thanks to Hoda Shattah for her guidance in the organization of this project. Many of the ACS students asked if we could return next year, and others brainstormed new service project ideas that are closer to Beirut.
Submitted by HS Drama Teacher Dyane Stillman