Staff from both MCC Foundation and MCC recently undertook a trip to Lebanon, to revisit one of MCCF's thriving cricket projects supporting young Syrian refugees - part of a special programme launched in collaboration with its delivery partner, Alsama Project, in 2021.
The Shatila camp in Beirut, which has a population of 40,000 refugees, is home to the Alsama Insitute, a school for Syrian refugees. Alsama has a sister school in another camp, Bourj-El Barajneh, also in Beirut. These schools combine a cricket programme with their exceptional curriculum, which has expanded rapidly since its inception.
Visiting the Alsama cricket programme, which also encompasses the Bekaa Valley camp around an hour from Beirut, was MCCF Director, Sarah Fane, and Head of Operations, Angus Berry, plus two coaches from the MCC Community Department – Harry Thompson and John Donegan. They were supported by a third coach, Lee Booth, from another of the Foundation's delivery partners, Cricket Without Boundaries.
There are currently 400 children playing cricket across nine hubs in Lebanon, four of which are funded by MCCF. Some of these youngsters have been playing for three years now, receiving up to six hours of cricket coaching and match play each week.
Some have also gone on to become coaches thanks to the MCCF’s funding and training support. There are now 32 ICC accredited coaches across the country.
The children involved in the cricket programmes are generally enjoying more success in the classroom than those who don’t play. Many have learned to speak good English over the past three years and can even score and umpire. They are familiar with the international star players – the school cat is even named Jos Buttler - and they recently managed to watch the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup via a satellite dish installed at the institute.
Young players Maram, a young female fast bowler and outstanding junior cricket coach, and her friend Louay, a remarkable young male leader and cricketer, were made Young Ambassadors of MCCF on the trip.
To celebrate the appointment, MCCF Trustee and former MCC President Clare Connor, and current England stars Heather Knight and Sophia Dunkley, who are both Playing Ambassadors for MCCF, joined a Zoom call to congratulate the youngsters and inspire them further on their journeys.
Director of MCCF, Sarah Fane, said: “For these children, cricket gets them out of the camp, away from the cramped, dark rooms which they share with countless family members, into the fresh air and back to childhood. It helps them to forget the trauma of the past and the struggles of the present, to strengthen friendships and develop confidence and skills.
“They love having coaches from the UK visit and take in all the encouragement and advice and are determined to be the cricketers of the future. They feel valued that coaches have come to support them.
“It was a truly inspiring visit, which demonstrated the power of cricket to transform the lives of our beneficiaries, whilst also changing our own lives in ways we could not have foreseen.”
It is the second trip that MCCF has made to Lebanon in 2022, when earlier this year they were joined by then MCC President, Clare Connor, and MCC Chief Executive & Secretary, Guy Lavender, who were able to experience the impact of the cricketing programme at Alsama.
FULL DIRECTOR'S REPORT