Wendover man flies out to join fun run in Beirut raising awareness of children with disabilities excluded from Lebanon’s schools

Two Brits and colleagues, Jamie Eyre from Wendover and mum-of-two Sophia Peiris from Bourne End, Bucks, have flown out from the UK to take part in an important 5k fun run on the 22nd April in Lebanon. The run is part of a national awareness day to mark the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties, and this year’s event will be held in the Beriut “marina area”.

Now in its sixth year the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties is organised by local charity Special Kids with Individual Learning difficulties (SKILD) in conjunction with the British Council and the Ministry of Education. SKILD is also one of the charity partners supported by UK charity Embrace the Middle East who resource and equip the organisation to further their impact in Lebanon, a country with a long history of conflict currently struggling to cope with the Syrian refugee crisis. The broader significance and aim for SKILD in promoting the event is to ask more parents to advocate for their children by joining in with the run.

Both from Buckinghamshire, Jamie a keen runner, father of two and Programmes Director for Embrace the Middle East and Sophia who aims to complete the course despite the fact that she is 30 weeks pregnant, will join the current 180 parents and teachers taking part as they raise money and awareness, encouraging church and community leaders in the country to be active on special needs issues. This is an increasingly growing issue in Lebanon with many children unable to attend or excluded from school or gaining an education due to lack of resources, understanding or recognition.

Sophia, Programmes and PartnershipsManager for Embrace the Middle East says, “I decided to sign up for the SKILD 5k Fun Run because I want to show my solidarity with all of those children and youth – and their parents – who struggle because of a learning difference that simply hasn’t been recognised or understood.And although I do enjoy running, attempting a 5k run at 30 weeks pregnant will be a first for me. I’m hoping just to get round!”

She continues, “As a mother my hope for my own children in their education here in the UK is that they are supported in the right way to shine and succeed in reaching their individual potential. Too often, children who have a learning difficulty are not understood and so they struggle and fall behind. This is a problem of a national scale, both in Lebanon and here in the UK and this National Day is about ensuring that every single child is given the right tools, support and educational approaches to reach their full potential.”

SKILD have also organised training workshops across Lebanon as part of the wider aim to resource and equip Sunday school teachers who are often on the front line of hosting and caring for children especially those with disabilities and they take place in April, May and June. Sessions at these workshops will look at topics including ‘respecting diversity’, ‘understanding emotions’, and ‘initiatives in your church’.

The workshops were requested by church leaders following the publishing last year of SKILD’s Diversity: Scientific Knowledge and Spiritual Message by Dar Manhal Al Hayat on how the Church can support, embrace and include special needs children in the country.

SKILD Director Hiba Al Jamalsays, “Our mission at SKILD is to reach out to those marginalised kids wherever they are. After the school system, the Church is the second institution to host children, so reaching out to their leaders was our goal so that we continue the awareness to all our community stakeholders.”

Throughout the campaign a key social media campaign will also run on Facebook and Instagram with weekly videos being released that aim to spread positive awareness of the issue.Free consultations are also on offer for those who need help accessing the resources and solutions they need to support children with disabilities.

Also on the 22nd an evening reception will be held at Haigazian University where 100-150 people are expected to attend including a number of VIP’s.