Mayassa has been working for our partners in Lebanon, Triumphant Mercy, from the very beginning. After fleeing war in Syria, she began teaching in tented classrooms in the camps of Bekaa Valley in 2013, and moved with the children in 2017 to a purpose built school building in Zahle.
Mayassa is responsible for the foundational classes and also helps to train new teachers. She has developed into a powerful leader who advocates for her colleagues and loves her students like they are her own children. The other teachers love and respect her greatly.
The school and tented classrooms have supported thousands of Syrian refugee children over the years, who were otherwise cut off from education. These children have been able to learn and play in safe classrooms with trusted teachers, like Mayassa.
But now, after over a decade of amazing work, she is waiting for her official papers to join her husband and start a new life in the Netherlands. It’s an exciting new chapter for her, but also a bittersweet one. Mayassa feels like she’s leaving her family behind.
CREATING A SENSE OF FAMILY FOR REFUGEES
Many Syrian refugees here in Bekaa Valley have experienced loss and separation, so building a sense of belonging is a vital part of what the school provides, both for the teachers and the students.
Mayassa told us, “I love the school the way I love my own family”, and explained how the school became a place of joy and safety for her and the children she taught.
“When I started at the school, it was like a gift to both the students and the teachers. We had all escaped the war in Syria, where there were no homes or schools and arrived in Lebanon with nowhere to live, nowhere to learn and nowhere to work. So many of us were traumatised from the war, living in a very chaotic environment in a strange land. The school became a place of joy and safety and cared for the students so well. It was the first time in their life that someone was caring for them”.
She described how Triumphant Mercy had great faith in her, and encouraged her to foster a culture of kindness as a school ‘family’.
“Parents often thank me when they see me. They see the difference I've made in their kids' lives and tell me their children love school and are relaxed and comfortable here. We’ve worked really hard to change the culture and encourage the children to help each other more, be kind and loving. They learn to be a family in class”.
FLOURISHING WITH FAMILY
Over the years, Mayassa has grown and flourished alongside the school, putting her blood, sweat and tears into her job and making the school such a success. The team around her have helped her develop her teaching methods and encourage the children to think more critically.
“I have changed so much since I’ve been at the school. In the beginning, I had no confidence in myself. But I worked hard to improve and grew in responsibility and then ended up training others. The school taught me how to think and make decisions. It gave me experience”.
“I have lots of energy and love working with the younger children. I have always worked to make the lessons interesting and try different things to help the children learn better. We trained a lot on how to teach in an interactive way. I loved the different methods”.
“In Syria we never knew if the students were happy or learning. It was all about fear. Here in Lebanon, we learned to listen and interact with the students. It was wonderful. We learned to encourage their thinking and participation in class".
“I also love to connect stories with letters and watch as the students engage with the lesson. We don’t do memorisation. Students learn in the way that suits them, it’s beautiful to see. I love to use songs and movements etc to teach and love doing it this way. I became very good at it because I loved it so much”.
"All the classes I’ve taught have felt special".
"I’ve become such a strong person since being at the school. I’ve grown in confidence. The school changed me. I became a different person- a new version of myself".
As I look to the future and my upcoming move to the Netherlands, I’m sad. I’m leaving my family, my team, my heart. It’s been 10 years and I can’t imagine moving forward in life without them. The teachers and students are my family, I feel like I’m leaving a part of me behind. I love this school and I will miss it so much.
We want to thank Mayassa for her incredible years of teaching at the school in Zahle and wish her all the best for her new start in the Netherlands. She will be missed!