Active founding member of the Learning Refuge, Rehab is a role model for the local refugee community in Paphos
Rehab Al Habrat is a dedicated mother of four children. Originally from Syria, she is a recognized refugee who has been living in Paphos for the last sixteen years. While raising her three daughters and her son, she has also become a prominent personality among the refugee population in the wider Paphos area, where she volunteers as a Coordinator at the Learning Refuge, a community-led school and community meeting place supported by Caritas Paphos.
The Learning Refuge started in Rehab’s own home, where she would welcome children and parents from other refugee and asylum-seeking families who needed help with language learning, and who could not afford to pay for lessons. Since then, and with the support of Caritas Paphos, the Learning Refuge has been created, with a dedicated space of its own. Now families from many different backgrounds come there not only to benefit from language classes and help with homework for the children attending the local schools, but also for a social network and a sense of community and belonging. Rehab coordinates activities offered by six volunteer teachers, to reach some 40 children and their families. Activities include art, dance, Greek, English and homework assistance. Adult language classes are also offered, to support the integration of refugees into the local community, and increase their chances of finding work. All art supplies and teaching materials are received by donation, or provided by the volunteers themselves.
Rehab explains that the Learning Refuge is far more than an afternoon school where people come along to get help with language lessons and homework. It is a place that offers much-needed support and advice to people who are struggling both with the painful past they have left behind, as well as the daily challenges of rebuilding their lives in a new and unfamiliar place. “It is also about moral support – the change in the spirit of those visiting the Refuge is visible within weeks,” says Rehab. People from different backgrounds and faiths are meeting regularly at the Learning Refuge to prepare and share meals, stories and even celebrate birthdays together, enabling bonding within and between families. The house enables children to play in the garden and even offers space for football and volleyball practice for all ages, while a sibling support system of older children looking after the younger children is also supports bonding and emotional development.
Given her own experiences, and the resilience she has cultivated due to her own circumstances, Rehab naturally empathises with others. Besides the coordination role she has at the Refuge, Rehab also does outreach community work with families in the wider Paphos area. On a weekly basis, Rehab is responsible for distributing food baskets on behalf of Caritas Paphos to some 40 needy families. In addition, being a dedicated mother with three children in primary school, and one in secondary school, she is actively engaged in their education, supporting their integration in the public school environment in Paphos. Like every loving parent anywhere in the world, she strives to set strong foundations for her children, so that they may go on to have a bright future.
The Learning Refuge is planning to organize an exhibition later this year to showcase their work from painting and mosaic classes, and having fundraising activities to support the school. The dream would be to keep growing, says Rehab, and one day getting a bigger space that can offer even more to more people in need.