The Shatila refugee camp was originally set up in 1949 by the International Committee of the Red Cross for Palestinian refugees fleeing Palestine in what is referred to by Palestinians as the nakba or catastrophe.
An estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Palestinian refugees live in Shatila – less than one square kilometer in landmass. It is located in Ghobeiry municipality about 4.8 km from the Beirut–Rafic Hariri International Airport and is accessible by local taxi or “servees” and bus. Some Syrian Palestinians have returned to the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria. There are twelve (12) Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and an estimated 450,000 Palestinian refugees registered with UNRWA in Lebanon.
UNRWA is responsible for the education of Palestinian children. Palestinians are not permitted to attend Lebanese schools. The Shatila Children and Youth Center (CYC) provides before and after school classes to supplement the UNRWA education.
Children and Youth Center (CYC)
70-year-old Abu Moujahed founder of the Children and Youth Center and the CYC Guesthouse has lived in Shatila for most of his adult life. He was born in Palestine and educated in Cuba. This may account for his avid interest in education and the collection of over 7000 books in Arabic, English, and French in the Children and Youth Center Library.
The CYC Guesthouse is located inside Shatila and is run by the Children and Youth Center (CYC). A one-night stay costs $15. Internet is available. Power is intermittent with public power limited to 4-6 hours a day. CYC is one of the few buildings in Shatila that has solar power as a backup source of energy.
The flags are hung by families celebrating the return of a relative from a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. What is written is “Great God”, “Mohammad is the God prophet”, “No God except the God” etc. The photo on the flag is the holy spot in Mecca which is called Al Kaaba and is considered one of the two most holy places with Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Palestine.
I received an email from Abu once I arrived home:
“I consider your staying at the guest house in spite of the difficult
circumstances of the camp is a kind of support and solidarity… ” Abu Moujahed
Often when a situation feels hopeless and you can’t see a solution on the horizon solidarity is a beginning.
Susan M Hall is an American long-distance runner with a goal to run a half marathon in all 193 UN-recognized countries plus the two permanent non-member observer states of Palestine & the Holy See.
On her radar are the Outer Banks Half Marathon, Nags Head, North Carolina, USA; Beirut Half Marathon, Beirut, Lebanon; Radisson Blu Larnaka Half Marathon, Larnaka, Cyprus, and the Pyramids Half Marathon, Giza, Egypt.
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