17-year-olds Israa and Shyma met at the centre and have become best friends despite being from separate countries. They share a mutual dream. Photos: Sebastian Rich and Lena Odgaard.

Come inside the safe space in Machta Hammoud

A Danish Refugee Council's community center provides a safe space for children and their families in Northern Lebanon. Here you can meet some of the people - refugees and members of the host community, who have become part of life in the center in Machta Hammoud.

The village of Machta Hammoud in northern Lebanon is surrounded by green rolling hills and lush fields. There is a sense of peacefulness to the area, but only a few kilometers away, the war in Syria is raging on.

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Even before the war, northern Lebanon was among the poorest regions in the country and the large influx of Syrian refugees has naturally added to the challenges faced by its residents of trying to make ends meet.

Though Lebanon is less than half the size of Denmark, it is home to more than one million Syrian refugees - more than 250,000 have sought refuge in northern Lebanon alone. Both refugees and the host population are therefore struggling to meet essential needs such as health care, shelter and food.

 

The pressure on the host community is increasingly creating tensions. To mitigate the risk of conflict by by promoting social cohesion and support the most vulnerable families among both refugees and local host population, the Danish Refugee Council established a Community Center in the spring of 2017 with the support of the Ole Kirk's Foundation.

Once again able to envision a future 

For Syrians such as 12-year-old Fatima, the center is a true safe haven. She spends time there along with her brothers and sisters and her cousins.   

The community centre provides a long list of activities for children, both in terms of educational classes and safe spaces where they can play and once again just be kids. 

Get to know Fatima in the video here: 

Shared dreams across borders

The centre helps refugees and members of the host community come together. Israa and Shyma are the perfect example. The two 17-year-olds met at a health training. Both girls dream of becoming nurses. They instantly bonded, when they met, because they also share tragedy in their families. 

Meet Israa and Shyma in the video here: 

 

A garden to improve life 

The centre offers a variety of activities and life skills trainings. This enables people like Israa and Shyma to begin their careers in the health sector. Among other trainings improving everyday life is gardening. 

Ibrahimtilweb

"Come to see my garden," 20-year-old Ibrahim Ghanami shouts excitedly. His eyes light up as he points to cucumbers and tomatoes and explains how eggplant is a vital ingredient in the Arab dish 'maqloube'. He is especially proud of his grapes, though, because they require special care, he says.

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The garden is not only Ibrahim's passion - it is also the foundation of his family's livelihood. The crops Ibrahim grow in the garden feed the whole family and enable them to make a bit of money from whatever extra they have.

Read more about Ibrahim and his garden here.

In the garden Ibrahim is pictured with his father Ali and in the bottom picture he is with his family in their temporary home in Lebanon. 

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The center in Machta Hammoud is one among 30 DRC centers across the MENA region where refugees and members of the local communities can receive help and assistance. They are an important component in DRC's work where we seek to provide sustainable solutions enabling those we assist to lead dignified lives.