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Two years and a half of the Fratelli Project



Inter-congregational project members share their experience

20/04/2018: Lebanon

The Fratelli project, an inter-congregational project between Marist Brothers and De La Salle Brothers, recently celebrated two and a half years since its foundation.

It looks after Syrian and Iraqi refugee children, as well as Lebanese and Palestinian children in need in two socio-educational centres – one in Bourj Hammoud in greater Beirut and one in Rmeileh, 40km south of the city.

With only a team of seven, the centre at Bourj Hammoud offers school support for around 100 Iraqi children and run a pre-school for children aged 3 – 5. They offer school support for Syrian and Lebanese children in a separate programme and help women and youth with vocational formation to help them find work.

The 20 people who run the centre at Rmeileh help around 600 people – children and families, predominantly Muslim. They offer them school support, a preschool and programmes for youth and adults. They also have cooking, sewing, IT, English and agriculture lessons, as well as sports training for youth.

There are currently seven members in Rmeileh: Marist Brothers Michel Cubeles and Isaac Alonso (Spain); De La Salle Brothers Andrés Porras (Mexico) and Gilbert Ouilabégué (Chad); lay Marists Laura Gonzalvo Calle (Spain) and Bruno Socher (Brazil); lay Lasallian Sara Amarillas (Mexico).

We spoke with three of them, Br Miquel, Br Andrés and Bruno.

Brother Andrés, how did this project begin?

Seven years ago, on March 15, 2011, war broke out in Syria. Since then, thousands of people have died, and millions have had to flee their homes. Four and a half years later, in September 2015, the De La Salle Brothers and the Marist Brothers started the Fratelli Project in Lebanon to attend Syrian and Iraqi refugee children and Lebanese children in need.

Brother Miquel, how does the Fratelli Project respond to the Calls of the General Chapter?

The question we must ask ourselves is whether the Fratelli Project responds to what God wants from us at this time and which kind of people we should serve. I am convinced that with this intention the brothers of the previous General Council, together with the brothers of the General Council of the De La Salle, promoted the Fratelli project, an inter-congregational initiative to respond to the great humanitarian crisis that is lived on the borders, in the peripheries of different parts of the world being faithful to the calls of God. God wants us here in Lebanon, trying to be prophets of mercy and brotherhood with Syrian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Palestinian children and young people... the most vulnerable. The Chapter’s calls are the result of discernment, calls of the Spirit and our daily commitment. We also try to live from God, opening the eyes of our hearts, building bridges with the poorest. The indicators tell us that we are on the right path, that we are close to the calls of the General Chapter, but there are some essential indicators that are not so visible and that nourish the heart; They sustain our person on a day-to-day basis and give meaning to what we do. What are they? We try to grow in our interiority and cultivate spirituality. Through them, we can be wherever He wants and with those who want to live our vocation as brothers and sisters and face the challenges with audacity and joy.

Bruno, how do you see the laity’s participation in the Marist mission and, especially, in this project?

It’s about sharing the mission in a simple way. Lay and brothers living the mission and working together. We can improve so much when, around the same table, we share our dreams, our skills, our cultures and our vocations. It's not about teaching, it's about learning: learning together, always. I’ve accepted to live in a community just because I believe in the present, in a shared mission! This is even more so in the Fratelli Project because it is an intercultural and inter-congregational community. There, we discover our similarities and grow when we learn from our differences. It is our mission’s present and future.

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