The Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Lebanon, Ambassador Maciej Golubiewski, and Anwar Daou, advisor to the Lebanese Ministry of Agriculture, handed out certificates to 140 Lebanese and Syrian students last month. The students had completed the second course for agricultural workers in Lebanon as part of the European Union funded project “Peaceful and Comprehensive Education in Seven Districts of Lebanon” (PEACE). The graduation ceremony took place at the National School of Administration (ENA) in Beirut.
This project, which is funded by the European Union with a €700,000 grant and implemented by AVSI Foundation, aims to support the seven Ministry of Agriculture vocational schools to provide educational opportunities for aspiring agricultural technicians. It will assist the Ministry of Agriculture to develop its curricula and provide the schools’ teachers with an opportunity to further enhance their skills. The schools in question will benefit from rehabilitation support, and Lebanese as well as Syrian students will have access to vocational training specific to needed agricultural skills that will help increase their livelihood and job opportunities. Ultimately, Lebanese farmers should see an increase in the yield from their land.
A short documentary entitled “New Horizons”, directed by Philip Bajjaly, was shown during the ceremony. It reflects the positive impact that the initiative has had on the lives of the students, teachers, and directors, as well as on the Ministry of Agriculture officials in charge of the “Extension and Education Service Department”.
Marina Molino Lova, AVSI’s Project Manager, highlighted how important education is to foster mutual knowledge and peaceful respect between Lebanese and Syrian students. “They share the same challenges that all young people around the world face nowadays: to find a place in society and a decent job,” said Marina Molino Lova.
“This is a very important project, and we expect that these technical degrees will have a positive impact on the environment as well as on the creation of new employment opportunities,” agreed Ambassador Maciej Golubiewski.
On behalf of the Minister of Agriculture, advisor Anwar Daou said that he is very proud of the students. “We want to continue to give priority to agricultural schools because they represent an investment in the future of these young people. I would like to thank all partners and the European Union who continue to support our country through several projects,” added Daou.
The course ran from July 23 to October 2, 2015 at the seven Ministry of Agriculture vocational schools in Lebanon.
Director of Fondazione Minoprio's technical school, Dr. Anna Zottola, has followed the teachers since May 2014, through a twinning arrangement in Italy and via training sessions in Lebanon. She helped them to elaborate practical exams for the students for the first time, avoiding the traditional theoretical written exams, as well as exercises in grafting, transplantation and sowing.
Through this course, students also had the opportunity to participate in five cultural workshops elaborated by the Lebanese NGO BILADI. This workshops included discovering aspects of the shared rural heritage among Lebanese, Syrian, and Palestinian students, as well as culinary, music and dance activities.
The public and private sectors, the Catholic Church and an international development organization: at AVSI’s headquarters in Milan, an unprecedented meeting to reaffirm the scope of commitment. Among the guests were the Mayor of Milan, Giuliano Pisapia, the CEO of Eni, Claudio Descalzi, the Episcopal Vicar of Milan, Msgr. Luca Bressan, and the President of Doxa, Marina Salamon.
An unusual and diverse cast of characters was convened on Monday, January 11th by AVSI Foundation, a leading Italian NGO. The purpose of the meeting was to review the progress of the campaign "Refugees and Us: We are All on the Same Road". Launched before Christmas, the campaign is carried out in partnership with other local NGOs in Milan.
Giuliano Pisapia, Mayor of Milan, Claudio Descalzi, CEO of Eni, and Msgr. Luca Bressan, Episcopal Vicar of Milan, gathered at AVSI headquarters in Milan, along with an entrepreneur, Marina Salamon, President of Doxa. Leading the meeting was Giampaolo Silvestri, Secretary General of AVSI.
The meeting began with the voices of four workers on the front line of those countries at the origin of the recent impressive flow of refugees: Lebanon, Syria, South Sudan and Kenya. (AVSI is working in Dadaab, the largest refugee camp in the world).
Andrea Bianchessi’s testimonial from Dadaab, Kenya was extraordinary: he told about a commitment to ensure access to school for 60,000 young people living in the camps by building or renovating classrooms and training teachers. Take note that 90% of the camps’ refugees are Muslims of Somali origin.
Giuliano Pisapia talked about the welcoming process in Milan in 2015: thanks to the work of Caritas and Arca Foundation, 84,000 people have been received, including 11,400 children. "In the future," said Pisapia, "we will have to act more and more on several levels, of which welcoming is only one. The most important effort is to be able to give hope for the future by supporting young women and men not only to survive but to live with dignity by contributing to the development of their country. "
Claudio Descalzi discussed Eni’s industrial policy in Africa: "Our strategy is to create value. Because value is an investment in the future, and therefore it’s even more important than profit." The Eni CEO used the limited access to energy in African countries as an example: "In sub-Saharan countries over 650 million people do not have access to energy. This means that heat is created with any form of biomass, with severe effects on pollution. Every year there are 4 million deaths caused by this situation. Hence the policy of Eni is to expand electrification in the countries where we are engaged, just as an investment in favor of those countries; in Congo we reached 65%."
Luca Bressan also used the word "welcome" as a fundamental key to unlock a better future. "We are not only thinking about their lives, but also about our future," he said.
Giampaolo Silvestri closed the meeting by emphasizing the importance of partnership among NGOs, public and private sectors and the Catholic Church to deal with what has become the biggest humanitarian issue of our times: "In 2015, the number of refugees reached a record, 60 million. It’s important that we remember that most of the refugees, are not in Italy, but they are in neighboring countries, often poor countries themselves. That is precisely why AVSI is on the front line in such countries."
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