Lebanon’s unprecedented crisis seems to have been lingering for years. With the absence of governmental programs to safeguard various factions of the population, it is the NGOs of the country that have been making a difference across all segments of society. One such organization is the Alphabetical Order of Lebanon. Since it was founded, over 200 students from underprivileged socioeconomic backgrounds, have gained access to education, that they were otherwise denied.
Driven by the mission to end poverty, advance education and redefine charitable efforts in Lebanon, Alphabetical Order has, since its founding, worked to bring about social change in marginalized communities.
“Our main focus, which is supported by generous donors from all over the world, is to bring about social change in Lebanon, through education,” shares Michael Chidiac, chair of the board of trustees of Alphabetical Order. “Education is integral as it transforms the fabrics of society and promotes free will, independent thinking and brings about improved social and economic wellbeing,” he adds.
Through its growing network of volunteers both in Lebanon and abroad, Alphabetical Order has identified various schools and communities, most in need of support, and is creating sustainable projects to enhance them. The role of the charity and its volunteers also extends to manage the incoming funds in the most transparent manner, to ensure 100 percent of financial donations go towards education, poverty and disaster relief projects. To ensure complete transparency and good governance within a strong regulatory system, Alphabetical Order has chosen to get constituted under the the laws of England and Wales, and has sought registered charity status under the supervision of the Charity Commission.
The team of volunteers, all experts in their fields, also design education development projects and provide school tuition fee subsidies to children from lower-income families across Lebanon.
Why education in times of crisis is even more important
Lebanon is facing a multi-faceted crisis that has crumbled its very foundation. With poverty levels on the rise amongst a population that has been gravely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Beirut blast, which took place on August 4, 2020, robbed the citizens of the country of any hope to work towards economic and social recovery. And with crisis situations, the first integral sector to be impacted after basic needs not being met, is education.
The situation has been worsening, with the World Bank estimating that nearly 2.7 million people representing close to 55% of the country’s population are now trapped in poverty. Given the grievances the country is still undergoing, political advancements, economic reforms and social development programs are still nowhere to be seen. Foreign direct investment and foreign aid, which would typically help restore the country to its pre-crisis levels have ben dissipating due to lack of trust in the system of governance.
Why is education integral for positive social change?
Given that relief efforts, in order to succeed, need to be both concentrated and sustainable, Alphabetical Order of Lebanon has committed to help struggling Lebanese families in numerous ways.
“The country has lacked a long-term strategy for decades,” explains Chidiac, “and so we have devised a longer-term strategy to support and cover educational expenses for Lebanese school children.”
Alphabetical Order’s allocation of grants and tuition subsidies, as well as its management of education projects both alleviate lower-income families from the financial burden of education, but also provide future generations of Lebanese citizens with the knowledge and tools to improve their personal, their families’ and their country’s prospects.
Education has historically been used by people to form their ‘social identity’. In a country where social identity has long been tied to religion or political ideologies, it is integral for students to be enabled to frame the understanding of themselves as individuals, as well as how they interact with others. The gift of education can contribute to increased health and wellbeing, enhanced social bonds and heightened interest in political and social reforms.