Mar Elias camp
Mar Elias camp, located southwest of Beirut, is the smallest camp in Lebanon. It was established in 1952 by the Mar Elias Greek Orthodox convent to accommodate Palestine refugees from the Galilee, in northern Palestine.
Mar Elias camp accommodates today some 662 registered refugees.
Maha Youssef is the Supervisor of GKCF Early Childhood Center in Mar Elias camp for Palestinian refugees in Beirut. She started working with GKCF in 1981, when Mar Elias Center was founded. GKCF Center was the first kindergarten in the camp. At the beginning, being the kindergarten under construction, Maha and her colleagues used to welcome the families under the shade of a tree to register their children. People inside the camp were happy about the forthcoming opening of a kindergarten and their hospitability was overwhelming. At that time, the kindergarten was composed of one classroom accommodating 30 students, and the staff had 2 teachers and 1 caretaker.
Maha remembers that, in 1982, the kindergarten was forced to close its doors due the Israeli invasion: the camp was under bombing and several houses were damaged, including the kindergarten building. Teachers moved all equipment and furniture to another location to keep it safe. In 1983, the kindergarten reopened after some rehabilitation works.
In 1984, a second classroom was added to the kindergarten, accommodating up to 40 students. Throughout the years, other classrooms were built: in 2003 the kindergarten had 4 classrooms accommodating 60 to 65 students, being the staff composed of 1 supervisor, 3 teachers, 1 art teacher, 1 assistant and 1 caretaker.
Mar Elias GKCF kindergarten offers to children several activities, such as art workshops, storytelling and dialogue, dance and rhythmic, puppetry and drama, as well as science. It also supports children with disabilities, mainly coming from GKCF Habilitation center in Mar Elias.
GKCF kindergarten is the only preschool in Mar Elias camp and some of the children’s parents were once students in the same institute. It is lovely to see how the staff members work and strive together to provide the students the best education in a fun and safe environment. It is a real family, sharing love and happiness.” Maha Youssef, Supervisor
How we are supporting Mar Elias GKCF kindergarten:
We will build a second floor to host an equipped multifunctional room, a staff room and a terrace provided with toilets. We will offer refresher and training courses for GKCF teachers, as well as art workshop and summer camps for children.