My Voice-My School: Bringing Children from Ein El Hilweh and Sweden Together

22 May 2017
Palestine refugee students meet with children from Sweden as part of the My Voice - My School classroom initiative. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Firas Abo Aloul

Today, Rama, a Palestine refugee from Syria, and her classmates from Marj Ben Amer School in Ein El Hilweh, Lebanon, met with children from Sweden’s Helsingborg International School as part of the UNRWA My Voice-My School classroom initiative. 

The My Voice-My School project is an innovative programme that combines teacher development, student-centred learning, and information communication technology in the classroom with communication and advocacy.

Over a period of 12 weeks, the participating students discussed and learned more about Sustainable Development Goal 4 – ‘Quality Education’ – and deepened their understanding of each other’s daily lives. 

The My Voice-My School programme is funded by contributors to the Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal, including the Swedish International Development Agency Cooperation, and developed in collaboration with Digital Explorer.

This live exchange follows the cessation of recent clashes in Ein El Hilweh, which had forced the postponement of their original call.

During this online video exchange, students presented their advocacy project on improving education in the context of their lives. They talked about how their living environment can affect their education and future prospects.

“At any minute, we hear bullets due to clashes, even when we are in school,” Rama said. Rama, like many other students in Ein El Hilweh, has witnessed the recent violence that broke out in the camp. However, education remains of utmost concern to them, as it paves the way towards a better future. 

The Director of UNRWA Affairs in Lebanon, Claudio Cordone, said, “This project is a chance for Palestine refugee children in Lebanon to meet children from around the world. Today’s call is a great way to build understanding and to help children recover from the recent clashes in Ein El Hilweh.” The Director also thanked Sweden for their generous support to UNRWA, in particular to the children of Ein El Hilweh. 

Taking place for the third year now, the online exchanges were also an opportunity for girls and boys from Sweden to understand the challenges faced by Palestine refugee children living in Lebanon.  

Sweden is one of the Agency’s top five donors. In 2016, Sweden contributed SEK 496.3 million (US$ 58.2 million) to the Agency’s core programmes and services. 

Palestine refugee students meet with children from Sweden as part of the My Voice - My School classroom initiative. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Firas Abo Aloul
Palestine refugee students meet with children from Sweden as part of the My Voice - My School classroom initiative. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Firas Abo Aloul

BACKGROUND

MY VOICE MY SCHOOL 

My Voice-My School is an UNRWA education project which empowers youth by giving them a voice and the opportunity to communicate across borders on issues that matter to them. It puts children at the heart of the conversation about what the Sustainable Development, Goal 4 ‘Quality Education’, should look like and appeals to the international community to continue to prioritize education funding particularly in the context of the Gaza and Syria crises. Through the use of online video exchanges, digital media and specialized curriculum materials, children will benefit from solidarity across borders while they develop the skills to advocate for their education and future.

The project was developed in collaboration with Digital Explorer. It has been made possible with the support of generous donors Syria Regional Crisis Emergency Appeal, including the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA). This innovative program combines teacher development, student-centered learning, and ICT use in the classroom with communication and advocacy. The live exchanges and discussions between the students are recorded and shared for wide media outreach with support from SIDA in Sweden. Sida has contributed SEK 30 million (approximately 
US$ 3.3 million) to UNRWA to support the Agency’s emergency response to the Syria regional crisis.

IN COLLABORATION WITH 

SWEDISH INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AGENCY

The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, SIDA, is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish parliament and government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. Through our work and in cooperation with others, we contribute to implementing Sweden’s Policy for Global Development. Sweden has long been a reliable and consistent supporter of UNRWA and is the 5th largest donor to UNRWA regular programmes.

DIGITAL EXPLORER

Digital Explorer is an award-winning education social enterprise based in London. A pioneer in the development of innovative real-world learning programmes, Digital Explorer supports teachers and pupils in schools internationally to engage with and take action on critical global issues from cultural conflict to climate change.

UNITED NATIONS GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), otherwise known as the Global Goals, are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. These 17 Goals build on the successes of the Millennium Development Goals, while including new areas such as climate change, economic inequality, innovation, sustainable consumption, peace and justice, among other priorities. The goals are interconnected – often the key to success on one will involve tackling issues more commonly associated with another. The SDGs work in the spirit of partnership and pragmatism to make the right choices now to improve life, in a sustainable way, for future generations. They provide clear guidelines and targets for all countries to adopt in accordance with their own priorities and the environmental challenges of the world at large. The SDGs are an inclusive agenda. They tackle the root causes of poverty and unite us together to make a positive change for both people and planet. For more information on the background of the SDGs, click here.

Background Information

UNRWA is confronted with an increased demand for services resulting from a growth in the number of registered Palestine refugees, the extent of their vulnerability and their deepening poverty. UNRWA is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions and financial support has been outpaced by the growth in needs. As a result, the UNRWA Programme Budget, which supports the delivery of core essential services, operates with a large shortfall. UNRWA encourages all Member States to work collectively to exert all possible efforts to fully fund the Agency’s Programme Budget. UNRWA emergency programmes and key projects, also operating with large shortfalls, are funded through separate funding portals.

UNRWA is a United Nations agency established by the General Assembly in 1949 and mandated to provide assistance and protection to some 5 million registered Palestine refugees. Its mission is to help Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, West Bank and the Gaza Strip achieve their full human development potential, pending a just and lasting solution to their plight. UNRWA services encompass education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, protection and microfinance.

For more information, please contact:

Christopher Gunness
Spokesperson, Director of Advocacy & Strategic Communications
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 240 2659
Office: 
+972 (0)2 589 0267
Sami Mshasha
Chief of Communications, Arabic Language Spokesperson
Mobile: 
+972 (0)54 216 8295
Office: 
+972 (0)258 90724
Two UNRWA students from Gaza enjoy recess in their first day of school. © 2017 UNRWA Photo by Rushdi Al-Saraj
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