“Life would be dull without the DARI Center,” says Fatma Saad smiling. She is an elderly, but spry woman. Fatma is one of the center’s daily guests. “The center has helped us psychologically,” she says lowering her gaze, as if embarrassed by a very troubled past. With her eyes laughing again, she adds “Each day, I can’t wait to go to the center, because there I enjoy myself and I meet people.”
The DARI (Recreation and Counseling Centre for Families) is an initiative of the IOM (International Organization for Migration) established in 2007. The project aims at providing psychological counseling services and socio-recreational activities for children, families and all communities in the Baalbeck region affected by the 2006 war and current conflict in Syria.
Fatma is one of the 3,500 users – from children to adolescents, adults and elderly – who have greatly benefited from the opening of this center in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon.
“The DARI Center was the first to address the psychological well-being of the local population,” recalls Hoda Saayed, Director of the Social Development Center with the Ministry of Social Affairs in Baalbeck. “The situation was tragic, especially in 2006, when all of our homes had been destroyed.”
DARI is a place where children, adolescents, adults and the elderly can take refuge. It is a center where people can receive psychological support and attend various types of communitarian, educational and training activities: a place where people can get distracted from the daily hardships of living in a war-torn area.
“It’s very difficult to explain our living conditions before the center opened,” explains Hiyam Wehbe, the activities coordinator for the elderly and women. “It’s difficult to describe just how horrible the situation was. Today, the center fosters capacity building, helps children, women and the elderly to set their resources in motion, develop their skills and follow their dreams. DARI aims at developing a psychological well-being that no one else has been able to give us.”
The DARI Center provides children, even young ones under 5, a space where they can play and relate with other children, thus allowing to temporarily forget about the world outside.
Adults, for their part, take comfort in group activities aimed at empowering them by helping them realize their potentials and develop their skills both on an individual and a community level. The women’s sport sessions and weekly film screenings and discussion groups have contributed enormously to the people’s self-awareness. Most initiatives taken by the DARI Center are designed to meet the specific needs of the local community. For example, local traditions like the Oya handcraft and calligraphy workshops, were created around local traditions and have provided engaging groups where people can express themselves in many ways.
Promoting the identification and development of the psychological, social and cultural resources of individuals and communities is essential to their well-being and dignity, regardless of their income and status.