Lebanon: In 1949 Shatila refugee opened in the south of the capital Beirut. Initially, the plan was to provide living space to refugees for only a limited time, but since their flight from Palestine, refugees are now living there for four generations. Although the living conditions are disastrous, especially children carry the hope of a better life in them.
As a result of the massacre in 1982, during which thousands of people were killed, Shatila has probably become the most famous camp for Palestinian refugees in Lebanon. Originally only a few hundred refugees were taken in, but since 1949 this number has grown to more than 12,000 registered Palestinian refugees. Since the crisis in Syria and the influx of additional refugees, unofficial sources estimate that about 30,000 people are now living in the crowded "temporary accommodations" of Shatila.
In the camp, unemployment, violence and poverty are prevalent. There is a lack of hygiene, privacy, daylight and space for children to simply be themselves and play games. One visible consequence of the circumstances is the violence that is part of daily life in the camp, in families and in schools. Moreover, drug abuse and serious mental problems are consequences of the burdensome life in Shatila.
Given the great hardship that children are facing and to increase the number of much needed kindergarten places in the refugee camp, the idea of a Waldorf kindergarten as a protective place emerged. One year of intensive preparation and the overcoming of many challenges was needed before the organization "just.childhood", which was founded in Beirut in 2014, was finally able to start working in the kindergarten in October of the following year. For this purpose, the upper floor of a building had been renovated and a roof terrace had been specially built to allow the children to play outdoors as well.
The initiative started with 36 children. They can experience reliability, security and stability in kindergarten. They can unfold and simply be children. Now there are already two groups which are supervised by two teachers each. The teachers, in turn, are trained in intensive courses by experienced Waldorf teachers.
Bait al-Shams Kindergarten (House of the Sun) operates with the belief that education is one of the main pillars of development work. The aim of the kindergarten is to support children on the basis of Waldorf education, in spite of their past and the difficult conditions they have to face and strengthen them in their development so they can become mature self-confident individuals that face the world with confidence and courage.