Emil's story: 'The library and its activities have really changed his life.'

The words 'refugee camp' makes people think of makeshift tents and transience, but Dbayeh camp near Beirut, Lebanon, lies on an uneasy line between uprootedness and permanence.
 
Generations of Palestinians have lived here in limbo, unable to return to their homeland and yet limited to the social and economic margins of Lebanese society.
 
Our partner, the Joint Christian Committee for Social Service in Lebanon, works in Dbayeh Camp supporting Palestinians of all ages. One of their projects that we fund is a community library and study centre. As well as providing access to books, the library is a safe space for children who are having problems at home or need extra support with their schoolwork. 
 
When Emil was just a few months old, his father crossed over into Israel and, fearing political retaliation, did not return. As Emil grew older, he had difficulty making friends and became isolated. Outside school, he stayed indoors watching TV; in school, he was unmotivated and doing badly in his studies.
 
Some neighbouring children started going to activities held at the library. Emil went along, but was initially reluctant to take part in the events or engage with others. 
 
'Slowly,' our partners told us, 'his heart started to warm to the group and he started interacting with them. His library teachers saw a positive change as he became friendly with his peers.'
 
His mother attended an evaluation of his progress and shared her relief that he had joined the library. Now, say the library staff, Emil is one of the most enthusiastic participants. Alongside his new confidence, Emil's schoolwork improved and he is maintaining good grades.
 
'He is much happier than he used to be and is more outgoing and social,' report staff at the library. 'He regularly visits his new friends from the library and they visit him too.  Looking back at Emil's social interaction and behaviour and comparing it to the present, one can tell that he was depressed for being so lonely. His family say that the library and its activities have really changed his life.'