It wasn’t odd for nine graders in Julia’s class to be speaking of engagements and weddings. Even two of her friends who aged only 14 years old were about to tie the knot. No matter how frequent these talks were among these young teenagers, Julia never stopped feeling like an outcast. She always thought that she was different, but she could never tell whether she was right or wrong – until she was introduced to World Vision (WV).
Julia is an active member in one of World Vision’s youth committees in Lebanon. With funds from Australia, many child-focused activities were being implemented by World Vision in several towns in the Akkar area - north Lebanon. Her uncle, who happens to be the town mayor, advised her to attend one of WV’s activities. “It was a session around violence against children,” she recalled. “I was absent-minded the entire way back home, after the event. I felt awful, because I sometimes hurt my younger brother, either by calling him names or hitting him.” Julia felt that she learned something valuable, and she felt the need to engage in more activities. Thus, she did and this is how Julia started her journey with World Vision, three years ago.
A series of questions passed through her mind: why are the instructors generous with the information they have? Why are they doing it for free? Mayada, a World Vision trainer, says that Julia stood out from the first time she attended a WV activity. “This girl is focused and a dreamer. She is exactly what we needed to start the change in this community,” stated Mayada. Julia understood the impact any good messenger could have on his surroundings. “I learned from World Vision that if I share the information I have with one person only, I can make a difference.” Julia’s first step in sharing knowledge with her friends was after World Vision held a session around handwashing awareness. The following day, Julia took to school leaflets which show the different stages of handwashing and passed them to her classmates.
Nevertheless, the turning point for Julia was the day she was informed that their committee will be organizing a play, writing scripts, and performing in front of many attendees. “I told them I was open for suggestions in regards to the themes they choose, as long as they stick to the big title “Child Rights,” recalls Mayada. “I was surprised by how mature and smart these children are.” When it was time for Julia to pick a topic that is dear to her heart and child-related, she didn’t hesitate for a second before choosing Early Marriage. “I needed to raise my voice against something very common in my surrounding. I needed to tell the people around me that girls my age should study and play – not more.” Julia played the role of a young girl whose parents plan to marry her off to an adult, and she was telling her secret to one of her friends. “I was overwhelmed with emotions. People were applauding before the scene ended,” she remembered. “My father still watches the play on video at least once a week; he is so proud of the messages I conveyed.”
Many activities left an impact in Julia’s heart after the play. One of them is her own suggestion– to paint on a big water tank, in the middle of the town, drawings about child rights. “I never felt as powerful as I do now because of World Vision. If I was able to spread awareness about several issues within these three years, imagine what all of us can do in one lifetime,” Julia stated.
The thought of World Vision ending its projects in Julia’s hometown saddens her; however, she is not worried. “World Vision gave me a treasure in these years. Teaching us about our rights is a life-long weapon,” said Julia who vowed to maintain this continuous work; even when she grows up and studies medicine. Her ultimate goal is to build a new hospital for her town, where all the people can receive treatment for free. “I dream of this because World Vision taught me to give a hand to the poor -especially the children,” said Julia who knows now that the speech of a 14-year-old should be full of powerful dreams and hopes for a better future.