Women at the Heart of Change in the Middle East

April 12, 2017

Mission delegates recount stories of inspiring women

While Bishop Raymond Poisson, of Joliette and Hélène Tremblay-Boyko, Vice-President Development and Peace National Council were on mission in Lebanon and Syria in February, they met several inspiring women who are at the heart of change in their communities. We asked them to tell us about two of them; here are their stories.

We also invite you to read the stories of other inspiring women submitted by Development and Peace members and supporters here.


Nancy Chehade, Director of a Caritas Lebanon center for women

By Bishop Raymond Poisson

I spent just over two weeks in the Middle East at the beginning of February and the memory of the women who operated a shelter has stayed with me. The shelter offers safe lodging for migrants and other people in need of help. Lebanon, a small country of 4 million people, harbours more than 1.5 million refugees.

Director Nancy Chehade has been running the centre since it opened in 2007, supported by a dynamic and enthusiastic team and a whole lot of love. The children there are happy!

In this way, the woman has answered her true calling: night and day, seven days a week, she and her team respond to all kinds of needs: medical care, child care, pregnant women, and food supply, all in an environment where the neighbours are not always so friendly. The shelter has even been shot at! She told us that one night, the police called her to go pick up and lodge about thirty young women (minors) who had been sexually abused and exploited. And that is not unlike many other nights in that shelter. Thank God for this woman!


Aida Hussein, Manager, Naba'a Center, Beirut Lebanon

By Hélène Tremblay-Boyko

While on our recent solidarity visit to the Middle East we were blessed to meet many strong, even courageous women working to improve the living conditions in refugee communities.

I was particularly impressed with Aida Hussein, manager at Naba'a Center in Beirut, Lebanon. Aida has risen to a huge personal challenge and become a teacher and advocate for children in the refugee community.

Aida herself is a third generation Palestinian living in Lebanon with none of the rights and privileges of Lebanese citizenship and many limitations in seeking legitimate employment. A teacher specialized in working with children with special needs, she is not able to be part of the teachers’ union and continues to be deprived of many of her rights as a teacher.

Despite this, she has continued to improve her skills in such areas as child protection policies, coaching, project management, teamwork dynamics, following up on curriculum and playback theater. Since she volunteered with the Peace Education Project, she has created a code of conduct and interactive learning tools for classrooms and schools.

After one year with the Peace Education Project, she became manager at the Naba'a Center, responding to the psychosocial needs of refugee children suffering the trauma of war, displacement and social and educational exclusion.

Using the skills developed over the last few years, Aida oversees the theater, expressive art and non-formal education activities for refugee children as well as conflict sensitivity/analysis and social peacebuilding initiatives for teenagers and youth.

Considering her personal journey, Aida is no doubt a formidable role model for all.