Volunteer Fatima Al Obeid launched classes for refugee parents in response to their desire to help their children with their homework.
Fatima Al Obeid stands before a whiteboard and writes the Arabic letter “b”. She calls on a student to write the word “beit,” Arabic for “house.”
However, her pupils are not children but adult women. Twice a week, she teaches Syrian refugee mothers and grandmothers how to read and write their native language. For most, it is their first time in a classroom. In Syria, they did not have the opportunity to attend school.
Ghalia says she did not see the value of education for herself, until she became a refugee.
The literacy classes for women emerged from their desire to help their children better integrate into Lebanon, where they have lived since they left Syria at the start of the conflict. Many wanted to help their children with their homework and to read the Koran. Also, they wanted greater independence in their new country.
Fatima, 31, had been taking a degree course in Arabic literature in the Syrian city of Homs when fighting forced her family to seek safety in Lebanon five years ago. Since then, her three young children have started attending a Lebanese school.
After hearing many Syrian refugee parents express embarrassment at not being able to help their children with their homework, she took matters into her own hands. Earlier this year, she decided to start a basic adult literacy class in her community of Fnaydek, in northern Lebanon. She focuses on mothers, since they spend more time at home with their children after school.
“It’s such a nice feeling when you see your students improving before your eyes,” says Fatima, who has volunteered as a teacher since February. “When I started teaching them, they were uncomfortable and upset, since some of them could not even hold a pen properly.”
Classes are held partly in Arabic and partly in French. At least 15 women attend each session. They range in age from 17 to the mid-60s, and two have developmental disabilities. Enrolment is free, and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and the international charity Save the Children provide books and other classroom materials.
“But here, even if we speak the same language, this country is not ours … We are foreigners”
The women take great pride in being able to support their children with their homework. At least 194,000 Syrian children are enrolled in state primary schools in Lebanon, according to the Ministry of Education. Most attend the “second shift”, special afternoon classes for Syrian refugees.
“My five children are all in school from grades one to six,” says 44-year-old Ghalia Ahmed Ezzeiddine. “And I am in grade one, too.”
Like many of her fellow students, Ghalia says she did not see the value of education for herself until she became a refugee. In Syria, it was less necessary to be able to read and write, she says. People gave directions using local landmarks and important news was passed on by word of mouth.
“But here, even if we speak the same language, this country is not ours,” she says of Lebanon. “We are foreigners. If I get a text message from UNHCR or another organization, I want to be able to read it. If my child asks me about her lessons, I want to be able to answer her.”
The first few weeks of class were difficult and several of the women felt overwhelmed. To make matters worse, some faced criticism from their husbands and fellow villagers.
Help UNHCR continue to support Syrian families
You can help
Collection of Personal Information
Australia for UNHCR follows the Australian Privacy Principles in handling personal information; we collect personal information about individuals including supporters, employees, contractors, volunteers, special representatives/delegates and job applicants. This information is collected directly from you, in person, by phone or email, on hard copy donation forms or via our website. We may also collect your personal information from publically available sources or third parties.
Use of Personal Data
The information we collect and hold generally includes contact details (name, address, email), personal details including date of birth, and credit card or bank accounts details.
We use the personal information you provide us with for the purpose for which it was provided to us, other related purposes or as permitted or required by law. Generally we collect and use your personal information for:
We also use your information in our marketing and fundraising activities, keeping you informed of our latest news, campaigns and appeals or about campaigns and appeals which may be of interest to you, and offer you the opportunity to subscribe to them. We may also offer you the opportunity to participate in surveys carried out by Australia for UNHCR or its agents.
We use your personal details to assist in the cost-effective development of our marketing and fundraising activities by sending you information by post, email or telephone. As we have a large number of supporters, at times we use external providers to assist with our telemarketing and mailing. We will take reasonable steps to ensure that our contracts with third parties include requirements for third parties to comply with the Use and Disclosure requirements of the Privacy Act.
We will endeavour to provide you with an opportunity to opt out of receiving such communications. By signing our pledge documents, you consent to having your personal information stored. If you do not opt out by ticking the box, we will send you our direct marketing materials. We make every effort to ensure that our opt-out notices are clear and easy to follow.
If you do not wish to receive future communications from Australia for UNHCR or have any questions about privacy please contact our Donor Care Team; contact details are included at the bottom of this policy.
Disclosure and Sharing of Personal Data
We occasionally invite other like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia to contact you with information that may be of interest. This allows Australia for UNHCR to increase its base of supporters and reach more people with our vital message.
Any personal contact information you provide to us may be disclosed, if appropriate, to third parties who provide services on our behalf. We may also disclose your personal information to our volunteers who assist with many of our tasks.
Strict confidentiality agreements are in place with our service providers and external agencies, and with staff and volunteers who handle your personal information. We will only disclose your personal information for the purposes for which it was initially collected, other directly related purposes or purposes to which you otherwise consent.
Other than as stated above, we will we not share your personal information. However, it is possible, though unlikely, that we might be forced to disclose personal information in response to legal processes or when we believe in good faith that the law requires it, for example, in response to a court order, subpoena or a law enforcement agency's request.
If you do not wish Australia for UNHCR to share your personal information with like-minded and trusted organisations in Australia, you may opt out by ticking the appropriate box on the donation or pledge form or contact our Donor Care team, with contact details at the bottom of this policy. If you have any questions about privacy please contact our Donor Care Team (see contact details at the bottom of this policy).
Access and Correction of Personal Data
Australia for UNHCR will correct its records containing Personal Information as soon as practically possible at the request of the individual concerned in accordance with the Privacy Act. We take reasonable steps to ensure that the personal information that we collect and hold is accurate, complete and up-to-date. However, we rely on you to advise us of any changes to your personal information to help us maintain accurate, complete and up-to-date information.
We will, on request, provide you with access to the personal information we hold about you unless otherwise required or permitted by law. We will notify you of the basis for any denial of access to your personal information.
Individuals wishing to lodge a request to access and/or correct their Personal Information should do so by contacting our Donor Care Team; contact details are included at the bottom of this document.
Quality of Personal Information
Australia for UNHCR will review, on a regular and ongoing basis, its collection and storage practices to ascertain how improvements to accuracy can be achieved. We may utilise the services of third parties in order to maintain accurate personal information. Where such disclosure is made, we take reasonable steps to require these organisations comply with the National Privacy Principles.
Storage and Security of Information
We strive to protect your personal information, that it is protected from misuse, loss, interference and unauthorised access, modification or disclosure. For example, whenever we ask for your financial details online, we use security-encrypted response forms.
No data transmission over the internet can be guaranteed to be 100% secure. As a result, while we strive to protect your personal information, Australia for UNHCR cannot ensure or warrant the security of any information you transmit to us over the internet, and you do so at your own risk. Once we receive your transmission, we make our best effort to try and ensure its security both on our systems and while in transit between our systems and the companies who provide us with various services. Third party service providers may use data centres overseas or be located overseas. If you do not wish to make your financial contribution online, please contact us to receive a hard copy form; contact details are included at the bottom of this policy.
Making a Privacy Complaint
We will refer your complaint to our Privacy Officer who will investigate the issue and determine the steps that we will undertake to resolve your complaint. We will contact you if we require any additional information from you and will notify you in writing of the outcome of the investigation. If you are not satisfied with our determination, you can contact us to discuss your concerns. If your complaint is about the way we handle your personal information, you may also contact the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner by calling 1300 363 992, online at www.oaic.gov.au or writing to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner, GPO Box 5218 Sydney NSW 2001.
Online Activity and Privacy
Third party cookies
Australia for UNHCR sometimes embeds photos and video content from websites such as YouTube. Pages with this embedded content may present cookies from these websites. Similarly, when you use one of the share buttons on our website, a cookie may be set by the service you have chosen to share content through. We do not control the dissemination of these cookies; you should check the relevant third party website for more information about these.
In addition, if you linked to our websites from a third party website, we cannot be responsible for the privacy policies and practices of the owners or operators of that site. We recommend you check the policy of the third party site and contact its owner or operator if you have any concerns or questions.
Web browser cookies
If you wish to restrict or block web browser cookies which are set on your device you can do this through your browser settings; the Help function within your browser should tell you how. Alternatively, you may wish to visit www.aboutcookies.org which contains comprehensive information on how to do this on a wide variety of desktop browsers.
Our website and mobile site may contain links to online forums. Think carefully before you post or publish any Personal Information in these forums as it will be publicly available.
Secure Online transactions
If you make a donation via our website, we process your credit/debit card details securely using an accredited internet payment security system. With the combination of SSL encryption on our website and a secure browser at your end, we take all reasonable measures to ensure that your credit/debit card and personal information are protected when you donate online. We also recommend that you take appropriate security precautions when accessing the internet via public Wi-Fi networks or shared computers.
If you have any questions about your privacy, wish to access or change your details, how to lodge a complaint regarding the handling of your information and how that complaint will be handled by Australia for UNHCR, please contact our
Donor Care Team: