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Future Together Now! II

Trust and Visibility Projects

After seven years of war in Syria, Lebanon still hosts more refugees per capita than any other country in the world. forumZFD (Forum Civil Peace Service) in Lebanon has been working intensively with its local partners since 2014 to help the civil society and local communities manage the new and old tensions that have been increasing in the small Mediterranean country.

 

forumZFD believes in civil society being an agent of change that should be empowered to react, together with the different communities, to all kinds of social challenges. Therefore, in our project Future Together Now! II (FTN! II), we work closely together with five local NGOs and jointly face the problems that stand in the way of a peaceful future together. forumZFD is working to do so within the programme area Community Mobilising. Core elements of the Community Mobilising approach are establishing inclusive structures for conflict transformation as well as community development.

Our partners in FTN! II are located and work in Tripoli and Baalbeck, two historically important areas hosting a diversity of people. At the same time, these areas are highly affected by poverty, unemployment, as well as sectarian and political tensions and violence. All of these problems have intensified since the Syrian crisis due to a high influx of Syrian refugees that was accompanied by a lack of help for the affected communities. People in these areas face the consequences of social instability every day. Young people especially are exposed to helplessness and a lack of prospects.

In order to create visibility for their organisations and build up the trust inside their communities, our partners’ community activists (CAs) started to plan and implement initiatives. The trust-and-visibility-projects developed together with the communities by the CAs were closely supported by forumZFD’s FTN! II mentors. This kind of projects aims to raise awareness for our shared vision and goals and thus to find more enthusiastic people that want to help in building a more peaceful future together, for all people in the communities.

 

Our Partners' Initiatives

The CAs of Ruwwad al-Tanmeya, one of our four partners in Tripoli, believe that the neighborhood around Syria Street needs more joy. Therefore, they came up with a colorful idea in May and installed a lot of pink, blue and green umbrellas in the Haret el-Jdide street in the district of Jabal-al Mohsen. The close-by Syria street divides Jabal Mohsen and Beb-al Tebbeneh. Two areas in Tripoli with communities that, due to conflicts between different confessional groups, have been experiencing rivalry and violence between each other. The vision of Ruwwad was to create a long-lasting common space where everyone could sit and spend time together. In addition to the umbrellas, they thus installed colored tires to sit on and plants to make the street prettier. On the 15th of May, the community activists of Ruwwad invited everyone from the neighbourhood to gather for a little festival. An inspirational quote on the wall saying “You deserve to be happy. Don’t let anyone make you forget that”, was meant to encourage people to take action in order to shape their communities for a better and happier future. The community activists were happy to see young and old coming together and mingling. The umbrellas could be seen during the whole time of Ramadan because people from the community took it into their hands to take care of them.

 

 

After numerous talks within the community and a community profile analysis, our partner MARCH and their CAs decided that it was about time to light up a place that the community refers to as Al-Makbara (“the cemetery”). The small street with stairs located between Syria Street and Mouhajirin Street in Tripoli connects the two areas of Jabal Mohsen and Beb-el-Tebbeneh that have been conflicting in the past due to tensions between Alawite and Sunni groups. On the 14th of June, members of MARCH and some of their community activists put up chains of lights to brighten up the street. Until then, empty shops, missing street lights, and littering had shaped “the cemetery”.That evening, MARCH held a fest with music inviting people to continue their Iftar (the breaking of daily fast in Ramadan) with sweets and other people from the neighborhood. The evening was perfectly successful, with people from both areas coming together, neighbors watching curiously from their balconies and helping spontaneously in cleaning the street. “It was great seeing people happy, and the smiles on the kids’ faces”, said Diana, a community activist involved in the event.

 

 

The Lebanese Women Democratic Gathering (le rassemblement des femmes libanaises, RDFL) has one of their centers in the neighborhood of Al-Solh in Baalbek, a city in the  Bekaa valley. The area is mostly rural and highly affected by the Syrian crisis. Even before the influx of Syrian refugees, people in Al Solh were economically and politically marginalised. Therefore, before Mother’s day, RDFL brought together various people and mainly women from the diverse neighborhood. In an attempt to beautify the old streets and houses, the community activists of RDFL, together with the community and a little help of an artist, started painting the walls. At first, some of the neighbors were sceptical, but soon everyone agreed that the painted walls were much nicer than the old ones. Ghiwa, one of the community activists shared: “What I liked the most was the happiness and enthusiasm of the volunteers for what they achieved in the project. Especially the women, wh need these kinds of activities.” Various passers-by asked to join the painters. A school close to the neighborhood even asked the community to soon paint their walls as well.

 

 

In order to reach out to and gain the trust of their neighbours, the team of We Love Tripoli on the 17th of March organised a whole day of activities and put up stands in the small alleyway in front of their community center next to the Mina in Mar Elias, Tripoli. Next to supporting social initiatives and volunteers in Tripoli by offering them space to introduce their community work, the CAs and volunteers of We Love were presenting their ideas and approaches to jointly shape a better future for their neighbourhood. For example, they were portraying how the alleyway could look like when filled with planted trees, benches, street lights and garbage bins. The neighbours could then propose their ideas and together shape the model alleyway according to their imagination. All ideas were collected and documented for future implementation. The event, with its various activities and ideas, attracted way more people than the CAs and volunteers of We Love first expected. Also, most of the people stayed on the street until nine in the evening, which had rarely happened in this neighbourhood. In the future, the CAs together with the community want to realise as many of the gathered ideas as possible.

 

 

In connection with Mother’s Day and the International Women’s Day, the community activists of Shift in Tripoli realised the need to show mothers how appreciated they are in order to give them more self-esteem and empower them to make a change in their communities. Shift’s innovation hub is close to the conflicting areas of Jabal Mohsen, Beb-al Tebbeneh and Qobbeh that have a high unemployment rate and a low quality of life. They invited around 100 women to spend the day of the 31st March together on the rooftop of Shift’s innovation hub. It was a huge surprise that around 180 women showed up to celebrate with each other. The highlight of the day was an activity called “mirror”. The community activists had hidden a mirror behind a curtain in a room. After telling the women that someone very special that makes daily sacrifices and sometimes forgets to care about herself was waiting for them, they were sent to open the curtain. “You can not believe the expressions on their faces”, said the CA Bourak who helped plan and implement the event. He was also positively surprised that a lot of young boys and men from the neighborhoods had voluntarily helped the activists with the preparation of the event.

 

 

The trust-and-visibility-events were a full success and helped our partners and their CAs to fully understand the needs of the communities and to find more people that are willing to support them in working with communities for change. In the coming months, all of them will sit together in working groups and think about projects and initiatives that help jointly shape a better future for them and for everyone in their communities; people that have been exposed to poor living conditions and conflicts for a long time. The projects aim to target areas that are in high need of activities that bring together diverse people and give them hope and perspective in their lives. forumZFD is always on its partner’s side in order to help them build their capacities in non-violent and conflict transformation skills. They thus are empowered to mobilise their communities and follow their vision of a more joy- and peaceful communal life.

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