The programme focused on training Syrian refugees and local Lebanese in the craft of conservation stonemasonry, equipping them with skills to improve their livelihoods and to restore their heritage. A cohort of 40 trainees were selected, 20% of the trainees were female which was an important outcome of the project. The age range of the trainees was 18 to 40 years old and there was a range of educational levels; 32.5% had very limited education, most of them left formal education at around the age of 14, 32.5% had a median level of education (Business, Arabic Literature, Vocational Training) and 35% had a high level of education (Architect, Civil Engineer, Fine Arts graduate, Archaeologist and Interior Designer). They were required to attend the training centre five days per week for the duration of the teaching day and were taught both theoretical and practical modules. Although some trainees had existing theoretical knowledge, in relation to the practical elements of the course, all trainees had no previous experience and were guided along by the project’s Technical Director.
Mainly I am a person who prefers to work on his own. But when I came here, my attitude changed. We are 40 people and spent a lot of time together, we became more like family. We started asking each other for help, advice and sharing knowledge acquired from Simon, Thomas and Mahmoud. – Trainee Interview
The course was assessed and accredited by the National Heritage Training Group, which is a respected UK-based NGO working in the field of traditional conservation skills training. The assessor was Henry Rumbold MBE, a highly experienced stonemason, with experience of setting up and evaluating training courses in the UK and overseas. Ten trainees graduated with ‘Distinction’ and thirty graduated with ‘Credits’. In his report Henry commented on the quality of the teaching. He also noted, “the standard of work the students have achieved in their stonemasonry course is remarkable.” The trainees attended a graduation ceremony held at the Citadel in Tripoli, where they also exhibited their work. The aim is to secure funding for Phase II, which involves more advanced stonemasonry training, and the opportunity for trainees participate in the restoration of a historic building in Tripoli.
We can’t wait for the next day to come to work and learn more. We would like to have a Phase II training to gain more experience. – Trainee Interview
Youth Engagement Programme
The project also included a Youth Engagement Programme (YEP) aimed at both university students and local youth. The university exchange involved students from the Lebanese University, Department of Arts and Archaeology and the Centre of Restoration & Conservation of Monuments and Historic Sites. This strand of the YEP was divided into two activities; firstly 20 students visited the training centre and took part in theoretical and practical activities paired with the trainees. Secondly, Simon Warrack, Technical Director and Thomas Bernecker, Technical Director (Holiday Cover) delivered a webinar to 42 students. The feedback from the students was really positive, at university they do not have the opportunity to carry out practical conservation activities as their course is purely theoretical. Indeed the trainees on the stonemasonry programme also benefitted, they were proud to show their work and share their knowledge.
The second strand of the YEP programme was aimed at local Lebanese and Syrian school children. Two Youth Days were held at the training centre, 45 children attended the first day and 55 attended the second. The numbers permitted to attend each YEP day were limited by social-distancing requirements of the official permission granted to hold the event. Attendees participated in a variety of educational activities, including a workshop which introduced children to the craft of shaping clay with an artisanal potter. Afterwards, they had the opportunity to make their version of a jar, lamp or decanter. They were also taught about the historical traditions of creating clay objects for use in their daily lives. Other activities included the history of traditional headdresses – tarbouche (men) or tantour (women) – before they made their own version to take home, a guided tour of the Lion Tower and the opportunity to learn about historical Lebanese monuments. An important part of the ethos of the YEP was to use active skills – in this case pottery making – as a means to learn about heritage. Such an approach reflected the practical learning of the stonemasonry students.