Creating a dialogue of peace

The Unite Lebanon Youth Project creates educational opportunities in marginalised communities, raising awareness of mutual respect and tolerance

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Close to one fifth of Lebanon's population a refugee Syria or Palestine. The vast majority live in poverty, and the next generation’s chances of climbing out of it are bleak, as more than half of refugee children (aged three to 18) are out of school.

Girls and young women face additional challenges, as there are wide gender gaps in access to health care, labor markets, and education throughout the country.

Led by the guiding principle that the least fortunate have an equal right to fulfill their potential, philanthropist Melek El Nimer established Unite Lebanon Youth Project (ULYP) in 2010.

ULYP works to empower the country’s marginalized populations by offering education and skills training to children as young as five years of age, youth, and women, so they can build pathways out of poverty.

The organization offers over 10 diverse programs that combat these communities’ varied challenges. One of ULYP’s programs, Bridge, focuses on older youth who are attempting to successfully transition from secondary school to university.

Bridge offers scholarships, a university preparatory course, and counseling to ensure that secondary students in marginalised communities can not only access higher education, but also study and succeed in premier universities around the world.

To date, it has reached more than 1,000 students; over 600 have graduated from top universities in Lebanon (including 250 from the American University of Beirut) and abroad.

ULYP recently created a two-year preparatory program, Change, which exclusively supports secondary school students who are refugees from Syria.

Through an intensive English-language course, as well as courses on analytical thinking and soft skills, Change increases the odds that Syria’s young refugees can thrive in Lebanon’s schools and universities, which primarily teach in English. The programme, whose slogan is “Change starts with education,” serves around 300 youth.

ULYP designs these and other programmes based on need, and draws on distinct global funding streams to finance them. Supporters include a range of prominent Arab institutional funders, universities, international foundations, governments and individual donors.

Since the organisation’s inception, its various programmes have supported over 20,000 marginalised people in Lebanon. At a time when surging refugee populations are overwhelming educational systems in the Arab region, ULYP continues to explore different pathways for providing lifechanging educational support to the most marginalised.

This content was first published in 2020 by Project Inspired, a collection of video interviews and case studies drawn from conversations with some of the Arab region’s leading philanthropists and foundations. Project Inspired is supported by the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and produced by knowledge partners The Bridgespan Group and Philanthropy Age.