Acsauvel – Forty Years – Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
1979: It was the International Year of the Child. Lebanon was in the middle of its civil war.
The founders of Acsauvel were socially conscious people working under very difficult conditions, confronting societal problems in health, education, displacement, disability, and living conditions.
Mrs. Yvonne Samaha Gemayel contacted Mrs. Nabila Jabbour Fares and then called on Mrs. Mona Adwan Cordahi, Sister Rose Madeleine Saikali, Mrs. Ester Mina Kamar, Mrs. Mona Kamar Mrad, Mrs.Arlette Jreissati, and Mrs. Denise Adwan Bitar to form the founding committee for Acsauvel. Many specialists in education, social science, law, psychology and public health later joined this board. This board worked to identify challenges to focus on and to define the framework for establishing an association, Acsauvel, to tackle these challenges. Meetings were held at Saint Coeur- Tabaris until 1980.
1981- 1985: Sister Rose Madeleine Saikali became the first president of Acsauvel that had moved to Dar El Amal- Alkarantina. During these first years Acsauvel:
– Established the SOS program, published awareness documents in foreign languages that were sent to international institutes and organizations, and held conferences featuring the impact of war, pain, and suffering on children.
– Established “CARIS”20/1/1983, A Center for The Rehabilitation and Social Integration of Mentally Challenged (Centre de Reeducation et Integration Sociale). The center gave civic, academic, vocational and independency to children with special needs.
– Having decided to specialize in children with special needs and following the advice and help of Archbishop Paul Nabil Sayah (PhD in Counceling Psychology), Acsauvel held several meetings with psychologists at Mrs. Nabila Fares’ house (Villa Fares) and took the decision to focus on children with slight and moderate mental challenges.
– Created in 1985 “CAT” Workshop Units, a second set of workshops for specialized re-education.
– Sister Rose Madeleine Saikali passed away and Mrs. Yvonne Gemayel became president.
1986- 1988: Meetings were held at a temporary location at Villa Fares. Land was offered in concession in the region of Deir Tamish – Deek El Mehdi by The Order of the Maronite Lebanese Monks. Buildings and facilities, including furniture, equipment, an industrial kitchen, workshops, a playground, and sports facilities were financed by Misereor, Catholic Relief Service, World Vision, Liban Amitie Nord, Child of Lebanon, British Embassy, Japanese Embassy, and American Embassy. Mrs. Nabila Fares was mandated to establish an association for the Institutions for the Mentally Challenged in Lebanon. Mrs. Fares was elected Secretary for this union for three years.
1989-2003: Acsauvel moved to its permanent headquarters in the “City of the Child”, Deir Tamish. In 1999 was the 20thanniversary of Acsauvel. Several new programs were introduced to help with the education of the children, including Speech Therapy, the “Computer, an Educational Tool”, and systematic training of staff.
Following the request of the Acsauvel Board of Trustees, the President of the Republic decorated Mrs. Yvonne Gemayel with the Legion of Merit with the rank of Knight; Mrs. Gemayel became Honorary President of Acsauvel. Vice President, Mrs. Nabila Fares, was elected president for Acsauvel. These years showed tremendous growth, with new initiatives that included:
– Organization of the Round Table “The relationship between children with special needs and their parents, the society, the association, and the state”.
– Introduction of theatre under the direction of Dr. Rabih Fraiha. Yearly performances featuring the students of Acsauvel in big theater houses began: “Le Petit Prince[MOU1] ” was the first play to be presented.
– Yearly summer camps were established.
– A yearly Christmas Exhibition that features Acsauvel workshop productions was instituted.
– The Acsauvel website was launched: www.acsauvel.org
2015-2018: Acsauvel is in the middle of a period of exciting growth, all focused on the education of its children, becoming “One House for all Generations”. Among the ongoing projects are:
– A new period of cooperation with Misereor.
– The ongoing renovation of Acsauvel buildings.
– The opening of the new service of Early Care (3-6 years old).
– The opening of a new service for refugees with learning challenges with the support of “Orienthelfer”, Germany.
– The construction of a new floor to expand services.
– The opening of a new protected workshop section through the generous support of the Aida and Raymond Najjar Foundartion.
– The installation of an Interactive Technology Center through the generous support of Alwalid bin Talal Foundation.
2018-2019: We are launching many projects, in spite of the challenging economic times. These include:
– Completion of another floor.
– Establishing a new branch for Autistic children.
– Inauguration of a Special Learning Difficulty Center that has been licensed by the Ministry of Education.
– Installation of elevators to provide easy accessibility to all floors.
– Establishing a dormitory of ten master rooms for adults with intellectual challenges; these are homes for those who no longer have familial or societal support to survive.
BEYOND 2019: To grow, innovate, and continue to provide the best compassionate support for our children.