The Aley district is one of the beautiful “green lungs” of Lebanon, a charming hilly area located 15 kilometers south of Beirut. The absence of the city’s never-ending traffic, together with an explosion of trees and flowers, as well as the delicate cream color of many of the buildings in Aley — all in a typical rural style — comes together to make this place a true oasis of peace.

Here (and more precisely, in the little village of Remhala), we, volunteers from Un Ponte Per…, spent four days (5-9 July) participating in a summer camp organized by the Permanent Peace Movement for Syrian, Palestinian, Lebanese and Iraqi boys and girls.

Together with a diverse group of youth, we took part in many different, often incredibly intense activities, starting from our morning trainings. These trainings were dedicated to the discovery and in-depth analysis of some of the camp’s fundamental themes: strengthening social cohesion, nonviolent techniques for conflict management, prevention and resolution, and the development of those qualities necessary for good leadership.

Every meeting of the camp worked to bring together a set of clear theoretical concepts with a practical approach to their implementation. Through games, teamwork, exercises and role-playing, all the participants had the opportunity to realize the profound impact — and common difficulties — which arise from putting these techniques to use in our everyday lives within our surrounding community and society.

Shared dialogue and active listening were the main pillars of these moments of mutual exchange, reflection and confrontation of both our common and divergent experiences. Even before the trainings began, for example, the rules for productive teamwork were discussed by everyone as a group; each person had the opportunity to discuss and contribute to the creation of a code of conduct which guided all participants in all activities, including the management and care of the common spaces.

The evenings were usually dedicated to workshops on video-making and photography, aimed not only at stimulating artistic skills, but also as a way to show how art and images can become powerful tools to convey and value one’s own cultural patrimony. These sessions opened our minds to new visions and perspectives for the future.

Some community services activities were done outdoors, emphasizing the values of working together for the environment.

We spent our nights getting to know each other in depth. Each one of the communities present – Palestinian, Lebanese, Syrian, Iraqi — cooked a typical meal, and entertained the others with traditional dancing, singing and acting. This was a powerful way to stimulate a common sense of belonging and proximity, while discovering the distinctive characteristics of each community and the cultural differences each had.

Thanks to the professionalism and ability of Fadi Abi Allam, the organizer and primary trainer of this initiative, this summer camp managed to cultivate a true spirit self-empowerment: every person, far from a sense of obligation, felt encouraged to show his/her abilities and talents, and to bring them into the group as a whole so as to contribute to a larger, common good.