Adel: Rebuilding lives in Nahr el-Bared

15 November 2009

Meet Adel Bahloul.

Adel is a social worker with UNRWA in Nahr el Bared camp (NBC), in Lebanon. The unit Adel works for was established in response to the conflict in the camp in the summer of 2007.

During that crisis, the Lebanese Army fought a four-month war with an extremist group inside the camp, which left 95 per cent of the camp’s structures totally destroyed or damaged beyond repair, leaving over 27,000 refugees homeless. UNRWA estimates that Nahr el-Bared’s reconstruction costs will total US$323 million.

Adel is herself originally from the camp, and has been working with displaced residents for just under two years. This is a day in her life.

8:00: Review refugee family files. As a social worker, it is Adel‘s duty to follow the NBC family files closely and make sure that refugees’ concerns and queries are answered. She conducts interviews to collect essential data, which serve as the basis of the preliminary designs of each of the eight areas which compose the whole of the Nahr el-Bared camp. Her role as a liaison to individual community members is pivotal in UNRWA’s plan to rebuild the camp in its original location and to reflect the pre-conflict camp structures as accurately as possible. As a coordinator, Adel makes sure that all the relevant actors are called in to participate in arbitration process.

10:00: Prepare for a community workshop with refugees to discuss the camp reconstruction plan. Today, Adel will meet with refugees who formerly lived in Area 4 of the camp to hear their comments on the proposed reconstruction of their former home. The reconstruction plan is a result of the community-based effort that UNRWA launched even before the battle’s end. Led by architects and engineers originally from the camp, the Nahr el-Bared Reconstruction Commission for Civil Action and Studies (NBRC) recorded memories and began registering the assets of camp residents who watched their life earnings turn to rubble. Such a goal can only be achieved through the active participation of the community, and it is in this participatory approach that Adel‘s role comes into play.

13:45: Meet with residents to dicuss the reconstruction plan. Since the reconstruction design process is participatory, residents are able to appeal to UNRWA to make changes to the design structures. Adel works with the head of the Arbitration Committee, Abu Khaled Freijh, to discuss some of the objections which residents have raised. With the heads of the Sectors Committees and the Arbitration Committee, she reviews the refugees’ comments, comparing them with notes saved in the family files collected since July 2007. Cross-referencing data, stories and memories is a critical step before the final design of Area 4 can be drafted. She also helps refugees draft their appeals and follows up with individual residents.

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