Community Center Approach
We decided to base all our operations in community centers, which would provide a single focal point for our programs and our relations with the community. Through community centers, we aim to serve the entire family, providing basic relief as well as long-term assistance like vocational training. For example, mothers are more likely to attend a workshop at a community center where their peers are providing child care in a safe space. We believed more people would take advantage of our programs if we created a single unified center that houses a school, a clinic, a women’s vocational training center, a playroom, and an arts and crafts program for teenagers. As our programs expanded, we would be able to train and employ workers from the refugee community.
After exploring the rapidly changing refugee landscape, we decided to set up our first community center in Shatila, a crowded Palestinian refugee camp in south Beirut. Our first community center in Shatila was established in the spring of 2013, and has served as a template for our expansion to other communities. In Shatila we developed our core operating principles: build bridges with the host community, employ refugees and neighbors in our programs, adapt to meet new needs, and remain grounded in the population of which we are part and which we strive to serve. We replicated this approach in all our 6 centers in Lebanon.