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ANERA: A Stairway to Progress in Ein El Hilweh Refugee Camp

In the Ein El Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon, there is a small community that lives upon a hill, known locally as Jabal Al Halib (Milk Mountain). For people living there, the path that Jabal Al-Halib’s community has to take within the camp is a rugged, unforgiving mountainous path. Unfortunately it is the only one available to the community. Every morning and every evening residents have to go up and down this dangerous path. It is especially dangerous during the winter or on rainy days. Several people get seriously injured each year, and some have even been killed.

“I once saw an old lady coming down the path when it was raining, and there were streams of mud and small rocks everywhere. It was so hard for her, she almost fell several times before I helped her down… Going through that is not fair to anyone. Let alone old people and little kids.” – Fawaz, 15 year-old graduate of Anera’s vocational course.

To solve this problem, a group of recent Anera construction and plastering course graduates, who live in Ein El Hilweh, decided to take it upon themselves to finally construct a staircase. They each started by assessing the factors, such as land inclination and ground type. Then they proceeded with designing a 86-meter staircase, made of concrete, wood and steel. The graduates took advantage of the summer’s sunny days to complete the project, under the supervision and support of Anera’s building experts.

“Something had to be done. The situation was not okay! People get hurt every year, and they have no other choice but to use this path!. I’m so glad that our teachers wanted to help us! It was a hard but great experience. The result will help so many people.” – Abdallah, 17 years old graduate of Anera’s vocational course.

On the staircase’s opening day, the residents of the area all gathered and joined the graduates and Anera in celebrating the achievement. The crowd was cheerful and people expressed their gratitude to the graduates who built the staircase; they congratulated them for a job well done, and stressed the importance of such efforts done by the community, for the community.

“These kids are learning from our mistakes and know that their strength is in their unity. Hand in hand, today they built a staircase. Tomorrow, they will build our future! Because of their determination to better their community, many children and old people will be a lot safer now.” – Abou-Samer, 58 year old Ein El Hilweh resident.

But their efforts did not stop at just building a safe staircase. The graduates also built an iron tent and seats at the top of the stairs for people to rest after going up as well as take cover during heavy rain. For the community, the graduates’ determination shows their sense of empathy and civic engagement. These values are underlying themes in Anera’s vocational education programs in Lebanon.

The graduates who built the staircase are among thousands of Anera vocational course graduates who are benefiting from a UNICEF program for vocational education which is funded by the Embassies of Netherlands and Germany in Beirut and UK AID.

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