Pharmacy students bring joy to SOS village children in North Lebanon
NAPHASS students spend a day entertaining children in the Kfarhay center.
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While most university students probably spent their Saturday morning catching up on sleep, a group of LAU pharmacy student activists boarded a bus and headed north to the SOS Children’s Village in Kfarhay, where they spent the day bringing a little bit of joy to the children who need it most.
Arriving around 10 a.m. on February 20, the students from the No Apathy Pharmacy and Health Awareness Student Society began unloading their bus packed with crayons and toys, before being greeted by dozens of energized children wearing bright smiles.
“There is a message in every event we hold,” says Dr. Aline Saad, clinical assistant professor of pharmacy and NAPHASS coordinator, who accompanied the students.
Despite the young ages of the children, NAPHASS still held a responsibility to offer them more than just a few hours of entertainment, Saad says, explaining that the group used the trip as an opportunity to caution the children against the unsupervised use of medicine.
“I believe in the continuity of the message. … You cannot just send a message once and believe the whole community received it,” she adds, explaining why NAPHASS frequently engages with local communities.
The children crowded around the students as they waited to have their faces painted with colorful designs like flowers, hearts and masks.
“Who wants to see magic?” a clown, who came along for the ride, asked children in the courtyard to an uproar of excited screams, as they dropped their toys and raced into the playroom to watch the performance.
Three NAPHASS students zipped up into costumes of some familiar characters — Spider-Man, an orange Tweety Bird, and Minnie Mouse — to entertain the children.
“Soura (photo)! Soura!” the children yelled as they pleaded to have their pictures taken with the characters.
The SOS village offers accommodations and care for orphans and children escaping dire conditions, and serves children from all religions and nationalities.
“If there is no one to take care of them, they come here,” said Amal El-Khoury, director of the Kfarhay village, as she welcomed the visitors from LAU.
Internationally, SOS Children’s Villages has set up over 2,000 villages in 132 countries. In Lebanon, aside from the Kfarhay center, there are SOS villages in Bhersaf (Mount Lebanon), Sferai (South Lebanon), and Ksarnaba (central Lebanon).
The facility in Kfarhay includes 10 houses with six to nine children residing in each one. By the time they reach the age of 15, the children are moved into dormitories outside the center.
The children had developed strong attachments to the NAPHASS group by the time the event began winding down around noon.
Some children were begging to know if it was the “real” Spider-Man under the mask, while others could not let go and began sobbing as the LAU team boarded the bus back home and waved goodbye.
NAPHASS organizes various community outreach events throughout the year, including awareness campaigns on different health issues and visits to nursing homes, hospitals, and other institutions.
“We want our pharmacy students to learn to deal with different populations — elderly, disabled, children,” Saad says. “The target is to be a smart medical expert and at the same time a leader in the community.”