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SB Overseas

About

SB Overseas is a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to providing essential humanitarian aid, as well as empowerment programmes and educational and psychological support for the victims of the current crisis in the Middle East.

A large number of refugee children do not have access to public education. In many cases, they will have already missed key years in their early education due to conflict during that time. Without urgent support, these children risk becoming part of so-called “lost generation”.

Our aim is to prevent this educational deficit. We have established three non-formal schools in Lebanon: in Beirut, Arsal, and Saida. For younger refugee children, we run a core program aimed at preparing them for entry tests into Lebanese public education. For older children, over the age of compulsory education, and refugee women we offer literacy and skills programs as a means of empowering them to navigate a new world.

Reviews

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Joudy
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Not Voluntourism!!

I have volunteered in a few different places. This has been the most fulfilling experience of them all. If your looking for a voluntourism experience, this isn't it. If you want to feel like your make a difference in someone's life, this is the place for you.

I was charged with teaching the youth and woman English. In reality, it's much more than just teaching English. Together, you will both grow into different people than when you set out in this journey.

The job in itself is not easy, but the experience and the overall atmosphere make me never want to leave. The staff are wonderful to work with. They are very accomodating and helpful and great to talk to.

I would recommend this experience if you:
- Like teaching and preferably have some experience with children.
- If you like children in general.
- If you want an intensive volunteering experience.
- If you want to improve or learn Arabic

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Come with an open mind, open hearts and prepare to be overwhelmed (for the first 2 weeks only). You will be working a full time job, but you will also have enough time to explore Lebanon and its surroundings.
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NUR FAHIMAH
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

4 month Volunteer

I was placed in the Saida centre, which was on the ground floor of the shelter the refugees lives in. This is great as it gave us a more immersive experience and we get work very closely with the community. Although we had to be very considerate of the community's culture and perception of us foreigners, it did not pose as a challenge to us. Even if you may just be teaching the children, you will also get a chance to interact and work with the adults. 4 months is a perfect duration to see the change you can make to the beneficiaries. Some of the staff members are refugees themselves, and some also live in the shelter. The people you are surrounded by are so welcoming, it feels almost like home to me. An experience I would highly recommend!

What was the most surprising thing you saw or did?
To experience the generosity of the community I worked with is very moving.
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Becca
10/10
Yes, I recommend this program

A Full, Impactful, Life-Changing Experience!

I was blown away with how full of an experience SB provides for volunteers. There is in-depth teacher training, development and support, and volunteers are empowered to take charge of the classes they teach and truly make a difference for Syrian refugee students. Furthermore, volunteers can organize extracurricular projects and activities like women's fitness classes, crafts for children, or photography projects to portray the community of SB. It is also possible to enroll in Arabic lessons taught by a native Arabic teacher-- these are very effective classes, especially when combined with immersion in the culture and community. To add to the experiences, Lebanon is a gorgeous country full of mountains, beaches, history and architecture, and there are many activities organized for the volunteers as well as travel buddies to go exploring with.

I signed up to volunteer for 4 months but extended my time to 8 months upon seeing what a great impact volunteers can make for the community we work with. Additionally, the cost of this program is much lower than other programs I've looked into and covers basic needs including accommodations and utilities as well as basic food staples.

What was the most unfamiliar thing you ate?
The home-cooked Syrian food that volunteers were frequently given was delicious!!! I got to try many authentic dishes!
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Amina
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

An intense time but worth it

I volunteered for 4 months and I was located in the Saida centre. I decided to stay four months because I think two month are not enough to build relationships with the children and the other people you're working with, which I think is an important part of teaching and working in a team in general.
It takes a lot of energy to work with children especially if they don't speak the same language as you but you can learn a lot from them.
If you like the challenge of teaching English as a second language and to work close with the beneficiaries and their families , SB in a good place for you.
I also enjoyed to work with Volunteers from all over the world and the local Staff because I think it's always interesting to hear how others experience the same or similar things.

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Rupa
9/10
Yes, I recommend this program

Intense but incredible experience

This was a very intense experience, but it was an incredibly fulfilling one. I also got to learn some Arabic in an environment where I got lots of exposure to it which was great too. One thing I will say is that I expected the experience to be one where I had to bring a lot of enthusiasm to the work we did, and while I did this, I also found there’s plenty of enthusiasm, positivity and sunshine to be found from those you work with. What I love most is that as a volunteer, you’re also able to apply what you’re good at to what you’re doing e.g. I love doing creative activities and I was able to incorporate that into almost everything I did on placement. Future volunteers should be aware it is quite a busy placement with lots of work to be done.

What was your funniest moment?
My KG students not knowing how to express themselves to me due to the language barrier, so they drew faces on my hand instead! Just shows where there’s a will, there’s a way

Programs

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Alumni Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with verified alumni.

Why did you choose this program?

I chose this program because I felt like it wasn't a voluntourism gimmick. I felt like at least here, I'd feel like I was helping someone. It felt like they had a real cause that they were fighting for.

There are a lot of problems in the world. It gets daunting to choose which one to help. But I believe that education is the solution to all our problems. To have a whole generation of uneducated children that will grow up to be the adults that run the country is unacceptable to me.

What did your program provider (or university) assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I organized everything on my own. But it wasn't that difficult. Besides contacting them and getting accepted into their program, all I had to do was book my flight to Lebanon.

You just have to apply through their website. Wait to be contacted. Someone will interview you. Once you get accepted someone from SB will assist with anything you need. You will get picked up at the airport and dropped off at the end of the program.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Bring a towel and an open mind. It's not easy work, but it's the kind of work where at the end of the program you can see the difference you made.

Sometimes you just have to go with the flow. Not everything will always be the way you expect it to be. But that could be said for anything.

Keeping an open mind is the most important thing you can do.

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

I was teaching the women and the youth at the center. My day looked like this:

I wake up at 7:45 am and head down to the center (it is in the same building if you're based in Beirut). My first class (youth) starts at 8:30 so I spend 30 minutes waking up and looking at my lesson plan for the day. I finish my class at 9:15 and take my 15-minute break for breakfast.

My next class isn't until the afternoon so I spend that time either lesson planning or preparing things for my classes or helping around (there's a lot to be done and a lot of people that could use an extra hand). Sometimes I stand outside the children's classes and just watch other volunteers teach.

After lunch, it's usually time for my second class. The classes are 45 mins each.

After the second youth class, I usually have about an hour to prepare for my Women's class, which is an hour-long.

My women's class ends at 5 which is when the shift ends. Time to go home :)

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

Honestly, the thing I was worried about the most was living with so many strangers and then working with them as well. What I didn't realize was that these strangers become akin to family.

As for working and living with the same people, with time, you learn to cope. Some people go for runs in the park. Others ask for quiet time in their rooms. Some people make friends outside of SB. Others buy a guitar. Everyone finds their own coping mechanism.

Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Niki Papadogiannakis

Job Title
Project Coordinator
With a Masters in international migration and a specialization in conflict and security, as well as years of experience working with migrant and refugee communities, as well as being the daughter of Greek immigrants, Niki has academic and first-hand experience with both the micro and macro implications of migration-related policy and practices.
Niki Papadogiannakis

What is your favorite travel memory?

My favorite travel memories are the moments that I reunite with my family in Greece or Cyprus and get to spend even just a couple days together enjoying the soul-warming beach and sun and their heart-warming company.

One time in particular, when we had dinner with my entire extended family on my mom's side (which is upwards of 30 people including cousins and second cousins!), my closest cousin and I escaped from the chattiness and went for a star-lit walk through the city. We ended up chatting all night about our parents, their hardships to raise us, and, despite how different our lives were, we were family. It's those moments that mean the most and despite being miles away, make me feel at home.

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

Beyond the concrete skills related to project management and development (among many others), SB OverSeas has taught me that even a small group of determined and passionate people can make a life-changing difference for thousands. Each time I speak to a person that I meet or hear stories about someone that has supported our programs, it's a story of someone who has seen a need - the passion for helping others and true empathy that drives them to do what is necessary to fill that need.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

Returning volunteers often talk about how impressed they are with the resilience and love in the hearts of the children in our classes. Most recently, a volunteer told me about a boy who he described as "an actor," meaning one of the most dynamic and captivating children he's ever met. This experience showed the volunteer that, despite the loss and hardship that the children and families in our centres experience, their love and passion for life is what drives them to move past this difficult time and work towards their future.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

While I spend most of my time in Brussels with the SB Espoir project, spending time in the Ouazi or Bukra Ahla centres with the children, women and youth in our communities allows me to try to begin to understand the power of human resilience - particularly from young people - and how this resilience needs support to grow to allow an individual to flourish.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

While we have a massive responsibility to our community and ambitions to grow them even further, SB OverSeas feels like a small family - people coming together no matter what their individual troubles, to help each other because that's just what we have to do. Not doing something that could help our mission is not an option that exists in our minds. When we come across a problem, we work together to creatively find a way out - it's these moments of problem-solving and collective brainstorming that make me the proudest.

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

For us, success comes from hearing stories of perseverance, resilience and growth from the people in our community. It's not a matter of how many children we teach a day, but rather how many of those children finally see a future because they passed the exam to go to public school. It's the woman who feels ownership of and appreciated for her abilities when she creates and sells a hand-made canvas bag or doll. They are not factors, but rather stories of hope that mean success to us.