Stories of Impact

Reina in Lebanon

For one high school student in Lebanon; Reina, – the idea of peaceful coexistence and national unity didn’t exist. To grow up in the time following the civil war, the very knowledge of a country built on peace or pluralism was unimaginable. It was even more to unimaginable to try and put it into words.

When thinking of her country, all she had ever known was religious conflict, fear, war, and segregation. Reina was hopeless. While she could ask her parents and grandparents about the past of Lebanon, and about what it was like for them growing up, Reina believed there was only one future for Lebanon; and it was broken and torn.

It was challenging for her because as she learned in school and interacted in her everyday life- Reina could go online and read about the world, about places where diversity was appreciated, and people lived in safety, and where students were excited and hopeful for the future. She couldn’t understand why this didn’t exist for her country.

One day, her teacher, Mrs. Zeina, began teaching a new curriculum to her class. This was new coming from her teacher- especially because it was about freedom, diversity, and respect for others. Reina was fascinated that her teacher was talking about people’s rights, and working through conflict, and welcoming open dialog about students’ hope for their country; what they believed it should be like.

As the school year continued, Reina was learning so much from Mrs. Zeina, and so were her friends! They were excited to learn more about diversity and respect for others- especially because Mrs. Zeina taught in a way that made their class feel comfortable talking about such challenging topics. She even used funny analogies about fruit and being shipwrecked on an island called Fruitopia! Her teachers’ approach was unique because it made learning fun and interactive, all while teaching Reina how to articulate her hopes and dreams for Lebanon.

Mrs. Zeina told the students that they were going to help spread this message throughout their entire high school, and their communities by putting on a play about Frutopia! Reina was so excited because she had been trying to talk about it with her parents- but she was still struggling to articulate her ideas about freedom and pluralism at home. She knew if her family watched the play, they would get what she’d be talking about.

After working with Mrs. Zeina for months- preparing for the play, building costumes, writing their scripts, and creating their stage sets, Reina and her friends, Maryam, and Leyla were overjoyed to finally perform the play. This was so exciting for Reina because at the same time; politically in Lebanon, citizens were protesting for peace and national unity!

As she believed it would be, the production was a success! Her family, and Leyla and Maryam’s family all enjoyed the production very much! The message of freedom in Fruitopia was a great inspiration to her community, and to other students at her school!

This motivated Reina, her friends, and many other young people to become politically engaged during the protests and inspired them to hope for the future of Lebanon.

Reina stated, “it’s important because while we’ve previously been through a civil war that took 15 years… that was built upon hatred and put us against each other because of our beliefs, because of our politics…the message it gave us was that you don’t have to be that ignorant, as to hate another culture or religion or belief just because it opposes yours or just because it is different than yours…”

It’s because of teachers like Mrs. Zeina, who were courageous and partnered with Hardwired, that students like Reina, Maryam and Leyla have hope for their future, and for their country.

The impact of this ripple effect, inspiring hope for children, and students throughout Lebanon is because of your support! Thank you.