The highlight of this year's Akkar Summer School of Spiritual Solidarity was a great summer camp organised with local volunteers from different communities. We brought together Syrian and Lebanese children from Muslim and Christian villages to learn, play and sing together on top of the Akkar mountains.
From 28 August till 22 September 2017, participants from around the world came to the R&R Peace Centre for our first "Akkar Summer School of Spiritual Solidarity". International participants from various academic backgrounds joined forces with local volunteers from Syria and Lebanon to reflect upon this guiding principle of our work. Academic courses on political, religious, legal and humanitarian aspects of the Syrian refugee crisis were combined with outreach activities and the implementation of small solidarity projects in the different communities we serve.
The news from Syria is not getting better. 2016 was a terrible year for the Syrian people and also for our young organisation. Aleppo has been destroyed and thousands more have been killed or displaced. We have seen friends losing their loved ones under the bombs of the Syrian regime and its allies. We have seen people losing hope. We have seen people profiting from the suffering of others for personal gains.
But with your help, we could keep a little flame of hope alive. We are the only organisation combining peacebuilding with humanitarian aid in response to the Syrian crisis. At our Peace Centre in the North of Lebanon, we have brought together people of all faiths and backgrounds around a common cause: the future of the youth.
R&R Syria volunteers and friends from Lebanon and abroad joined in the second annual Solidarity Olive Harvest in Akkar, 11-13 November. The purpose of the yearly event is to help the Syrian families who have found shelter and work in the olive orchards and support our peacebuilding efforts while giving guests a chance to enjoy the hospitality of our volunteers and the natural beauty of the area.
The R&R Peace Center, now in its fourth year, is an open house for local Syrian and Lebanese children and families. It serves as a site for classes and recreation and as a home to our international volunteers. The center is in Bqarzla, a small Maronite Christian village in a religiously mixed area, surrounded by olive orchards where many of the refugees we serve work long and hard every day.
This holiday season, as you spend time with friends and family and shop for gifts for your loved ones, please take a minute to watch our Christmas message and to think of us and of those we serve.
Short film by R&R Syria's youth press club and USJ
Please watch and share this powerful film produced by the refugee youth at R&R Syria's youth press club in Akkar (Lebanon) with the help of students from the audio-visual department of Université Saint-Joseph in Beirut. "Take off the mask of prejudice and see the human face of the Syrian youth!" This is the message the youth in the refugee camps at the Syrian border want to convey to the world. The youngsters decided themselves what labels they see imposed on them. Many thanks to them and to the Lebanese students who came during two long weekends to Akkar for producing the footage and putting together this fantastic film!
Intensive catch-up classes for the 3rd year in a row
The Holy Month of Ramadan is over and the summer is here. In the heat of Northern Lebanon, our team of international and local summer volunteers has launched the third edition of our intensive catch-up classes for Syrian refugee children and Lebanese host communities during school vacations. During two months, our volunteers will be delivering daily intensive classes to more than 200 students in the surroundings of our first Peace Centre in the Akkar region (Lebanon):
This year will also be the start of the official Accelerated Learning Programme of Lebanese public schools, funded by UNICEF. The goal is to finally enroll Syrian refugee students into public Lebanese schools. The international community has granted more than $600 million for this purpose to the Lebanese government- but the results after one year of implementation are very meager. Only 20,000 of the estimated 500,000 Syrian school-aged children without education have been enrolled over the past school year. Now things shall get better.
Prayers in solidarity with Syria from 21 till 29 July
During the 9 days leading to the second anniversary of Father Paolo Dall Oglio's disappearance in Syria, on 29 July 2013, our international volunteers gathered every night on the rooftop of the R&R Peace Centre in Bkarzla for a moment of silence and meditation. Muslims, Christians and persons of other beliefs were united in their prayers and thoughts for Paolo and all other victims of dictatorship, war and hatred. In a form of novena, we were reading and discussing words from Paolo as well as other texts out of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim tradition.
Our hope will be stronger. Our love will prevail.
Every year since its establishment, R&R Syria has been holding a big Peace Iftar in the holy month of Ramadan. For millions of Muslims throughout the world, Ramadan is a most special time. It is not only a month of fasting, meditation and nearness to God, but also a month of hospitality, solidarity and tolerance. R&R Syria is inviting every year all communities present in Akkar, the region of our first Peace Centre, to unite for one special night over Iftar tables to break the fast together. Sunnis, Alawites and Christians, both Syrians and Lebanese, followed our invitation and shared a moment of hospitality and shared humanity.
Celebrations and celebrities at the camp school
An intensive year has come to an end. On 10 June 2015, we celebrated the end of the second school year in the informal camp school for Syrian refugees we helped to establish two years ago. This year has seen many changes: thanks to the support of the Malaak Initiative, here in Lebanon, we could help to expand the informal school from three to fourteen class-rooms. More than 400 children from 18 informal camps in the surrounding areas were registered. We had tried again to enroll them into public Lebanese schools but there was no space available. For this reason, our local and international teaching volunteers provided daily education according to the Lebanese curriculum to the kids throughout this school year.
Christians and Muslims united in solidarity with Syria
During the Easter holiday, on Tuesday 7 April, several dozen Lebanese and Syrians, Christians and Muslims united, were marching together for peace and justice in Syria. In a time where hatred and violence are dominating the international news, they wanted to set a symbol for solidarity between different religions and convictions.
Buses were leaving in the early morning from Beirut and from Akkar to meet in the breathtaking nature of Qadisha Valley, the Holy Valley of the Maronites where more than a dozen of old monasteries, carved in the steep rocks, are witnessing the long and rich history of faith since the Maronites themselves arrived as refugees, several hundred years ago, fleeing persecution to the safe mountain retreat.
German ambassador at our camp school
On Wednesday, 11 March, the German ambassador to Lebanon visited our informal camp school in Akkar and participated afterwards in a lunch with members of our regional Steering Committee in Bkarzla, the village of our first Peace Centre.
It was the first visit of ambassador Christian Clages to Akkar, at the Northern border of Lebanon. This region receives very few official visits because of security and difficult access from Beirut. It is the poorest region of Lebanon that is welcoming today the highest number of Syrian refugees per head: about 200,000 Lebanese are living side by side with 150,000 refugees. People here feel neglected and abandoned by the central government and the international community.
Collect of shoes and clothes for our school kids
This winter in Lebanon promises to be harsh. The first snow fell already in December and the strong winter storms blew away the self-made tents in the Syrian refugee camps or drowned them under the heavy rain. Just before Christmas, a group of students of Université Saint-Joseph and the American University of Beirut came to our informal camp school and distributed shoes and clothes they had collected before. It was also the opportunity for our school students to have a good time and to welcome Santa Claus with all due festivity. We could bring several tons of clothes also to those refugee families in bitter need at our outreach centre in Michmich, up in the mountains where temperatures are much lower. Many thanks to the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Beyrouth and its director for having made this possible!
More than 300 Syrian students need your support
On 12 October, our non-formal camp school in Akkar (Northern Lebanon) started its second school year. We have been running this non-formal school for Syrian refugee children throughout the school year 2013/14. And now we have big news to announce. During this summer, the Lebanese charity initiative Malaak provided the funding for building 14 new class rooms. During summer, we started to enroll 200 more kids from surrounding camps who had been out of school for more than 3 years. The extended camp school is now giving daily lessons to more than 300 students..
Volunteers in solidarity with Syria and Lebanon
This summer 2014 saw the second edition of our special Ramadan Volunteers Programme. From the beginning of July till the end of September, 21 international volunteers stayed at our Peace Centre in Bkarzla (North Lebanon) in solidarity with Syrian refugees and Lebanese in need. We united people from around the world and from all confessions around this common cause and we worked hard to bring more Syrians back into school. By now, we could increase the total reach of our educational activities to more than 700 students. A great thank-you to all our volunteers and staff members for this tremendous job! And a thank-you also to our donors from around the world who made it possible.
Kidnapped in Syria one year ago
One year ago, on 29 July 2013, our dear friend and mentor Father Paolo Dall'Oglio SJ disappeared in Raqqa, Syria. He went on his own and with his free will to the capital of the freshly proclaimed "Islamic State in Iraq and Syria" for negotiating the release of hostages taken by this extremist group and for building peace. We phoned right before his arrival and talked about the danger. He was perfectly aware of it, but he had to go. Having dedicated his life to Syria and to the love of Islam, he could not turn his back to this darkest hour in Syria's modern history. We have no news since he entered the base of the ISIS fighters. Many rumours are circulating, but there is no formal proof either for his survival nor for this death. We all hope he is still alive and we join the call of his family upon his kidnappers to give answers.
A month of spiritual solidarity
One year after the establishment of our first Peace Centre in the North of Lebanon, we are entering again the Holy Month of Ramadan: a special time for the about 1.6 billion Muslims in the world and a special time for the millions of Syrians who had to flee their homes. For us, it is also the time to bring together different religions and beliefs in a genuine expression of spiritual solidarity. We started the second edition of our special programme "Ramadan Volunteers", which is bringing short-term volunteers from around the world to our Peace Centre. Throughout the summer, they are helping us in our response to the educational emergency of Syrian refugees in Lebanon. They are giving international solidarity a human face.
Graduation ceremony at R&R's informal camp school
In June 2014, we concluded the first school-year of our educational activities in the premises and surroundings of our Peace Centre in the North of Lebanon. With the help of more than 800 individual donors, we could provide regular education to more than 400 Syrian and Lebanese students in need. Most of them had been out of school for more than 2 years. Some have never been to school.
Opening on 20 March at Rogue Space in Chelseay
If you live in New York or if you have friends there, please spread the word about the exhibition of artworks from the children of our Syrian refugee camp school in the North of Lebanon that is going to open on 20 March 2014 at 6 PM at Rogue Space Chelsea, midst in Manhattan. We reported already about the amazing work Kevin from New York and Jerar from Syria did for introducing our kids to new art techniques. Now you can admire the results and buy one of their art works. The benefits of this auction will go 100% back to the camp school. In the comping days, you will also be able to purchase one of the art works online.
Please follow this link for learning more about the exhibition and about the work of Rogue Foundation that sponsored it: http://www.chelseagalleryspace.com/
You can also read a press article about the project and the exhibition following this link: http://www.eyesin.com/art/2014/syria-childrens-footprints-capture-horror/
Sewing and accessoires courses for women
Besides our daily school classes for Syrian refugee and Lebanese host communities, we started to develop vocational training modules for giving also an economic perspective to those who need to earn their living. Refugees do not want to rely on charity alone, they want to take back control of their lives and work.
Since December 2013, a group of women from the refugee camp of Minyara, close to our Peace Centre, are gathering five times a week to attend sewing and jewelry workshops taught by experienced teachers we hired. The impact is already visible: the sewing group made first deliveries of school uniforms and the women of the jewelry class opened a small shop for accessories.
You can also purchase these items through our national chapters in Europe, empowering hence the women and supporting refugees to help themselves. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are interested in a delivery.
... and happy 2014, year of hope!
One year ago, on 2 January 2013, we established our new NGO “Relief & Reconciliation for Syria”. It has been a year of struggle, a year of grief and probation. But thanks to your support, it has also been a year of grace. Today, it is time to say thank you and to look ahead.
The situation in Syria is getting worse every day. According to the UN, more than two-thirds of Syria’s population has been displaced. Lebanon alone is hosting between 1 and 2 million refugees- about a third of its own population. The stories we have heard and seen in our work in the field remind me of the worst memories of our history in Germany and Europe. Our fears to see the Syrian Revolution being pushed into sectarian war are turning into reality. The Syrian regime and other actors have chosen this path in cold blood to maintain their grasp on power. But there is hope. We are amazed by the deep sense of humanity we encounter in every conversation with Syrian refugees.
In July 2013, we started our operations in the North of Lebanon with the opening of our first Peace Centre for the youth in need. We united all major communities of the region around this common cause. At the big Peace Iftar we organised in Ramadan, Christians and Muslims of the region were united in their solidarity with Syrian refugees. Sunnis and Alawites, who are on the opposite sides of the conflict, were praying together for the first time here. Until the end of the year, 20 international volunteers stayed at our Peace Centre and joined our local staff in the teaching of languages and the development of the arts. More than 300 young refugees are receiving regular education now. We are also providing them with psychosocial support and material aid where needed.
Artistic works and games after school
Besides our peacebuilding and our educational work, providing regular classes to more than 300 Syrians and Lebanese, we have started to complement school with some recreational activities for those of them living in harsh conditions in the informal camps at the Lebanese/Syrian border. In the end of November, just before the start of snow and rain, Kevin from New York joined us to offer a special art workshop to refugee kids, joined by an exiled Syrian artist. For more than a week, our school children were invited to draw and paint their dreams for the future. We also started to resume the cross-country games of this summer, giving the youth the chance to forget for a few hours the daily hardship of the camps.
One year R&R Syria - call for more and better aid!
In the end of October 2012, we met for the first time in Brussels for building our new NGO in response to the Syrian crisis. On 2 January 2013, we met the Belgian notary for the official foundation. One year later, the first Peace Centre is up and running. More than 300 refugee children are receiving regular education through our staff. Time to meet again!
R&R Syria has by now more than 120 members in 16 national chapters. Delegates came from across Europe and the Middle East on their own costs to meet in Brussels during the weekend of 7/8 December 2013 for an Extraordinary General Assembly. The first year of exercise has not been concluded yet, but we needed to discuss our future development. We are planning to open a second Peace Centre in Lebanon and perhaps a third in Turkey in 2014. Also, we were looking for ways to channel more aid inside Syria where it is very much needed.
New campaign for more educational support
With the help of more than 1,000 individual donors, we have achieved our initial fundraising objective for the establishment of a first Peace Centre at the Lebanese border to Syria. Thank you all for your trust and generosity! Your support also allowed us to realise our summer volunteer programme and to fill our Peace Centre with life. Profiting from the experience of the intensive foreign classes given over summer by our international volunteers, we have decided to extend our educational activities beyond our own Peace Centre and we are asking for your help for doing so. As from now, you can decide yourself where your money goes. Besides our Educational Programme Line, you can also fund our humanitarian aid activities.
World-wide solidarity with refugees in need
The past two months have seen 18 international volunteers arrive at our first Peace Centre in Bkarzla, Lebanon and fill it with life. They came to bring relief and reconciliation to the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees stranded in the North of Lebanon alone. They came from the most diverse origins all over the world: from Mexico to India, but also Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, the UK and the US… and of course from Lebanon. You can read at our special volunteers blog more about their personal experience.
Thanks to their outstanding commitment and passion, four weeks of intensive language classes took place, assisting 60 Syrian and Lebanese children, 47 of whom successfully completed their class. A day-care was established to give children under the age of 10 a chance to play, sing dance and draw in a safe and peaceful environment, together with other children from different communities. We held weekly cross-country games, where up to 80 children participated each week in swimming in the river, hiking in the mountains and various games. Our volunteers also participated in our outreach activities, meeting local refugees in the various camps that surround our Peace Centre and hearing their stories, building thus positive relationships with them that will set the foundation for our future work in the area.
We need your help
Our work is mainly relying on the help of our volunteers, supported by private donations. We are looking for 500 persons who are willing to make a pledge of €10/month. Please contact us if you want to become one of the 500 Patrons of the Peace Centre!
500x10 for the Peace Centre
Total donations in 2017:
Total donations in 2016:
Total donations in 2015:
Total donations in 2014:
Total donations in 2013:
We wish to maintain full transparency with regard to our expenditure. We were established in 2013 and 2014 was our first official year of exercise. You can download our Annual Reports under the section R&R Reports. Here some statistics on the financial records 2016:
We are also transparent with regard to our funding. We publish every single donation on our website. Please find below the latest entries in our donors' registry.
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Every help counts. If you cannot make a big donation, help us at least to spread the word. Visit our Facebook page for more updates. Give us a like and share our posts with your friends. Shukran!
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Welcome to R&R
You are on the homepage of Relief & Reconciliation International AISBL, a non-profit organisation under Belgian law that is combining peacebuilding with humanitarian aid in response to the Syrian crisis. We are uniting different communities around a common cause: the future of the youth. We opened our first Peace Centre and a refugee camp school in the North of Lebanon, only 12 km from the Syrian border. Read more on the following pages about who we are and what we do.