By John Saliba

Just before the Christmas break, Beirut Baptist School (BBS) hosted an exhibition for handmade crafts. It was prepared by the students of the SMART Program that is dedicated to preparing students with learning differences and special needs for the opportunities and challenges of everyday life.

As part of the SMART Program curriculum, our students receive vocational training in candle making, cooking, baking, cross-stitching etamine, ornaments making, art drawing and coloring, and clay sculpting. The students showed exceptional skill and passion for crafts which led to the exhibition to display the students’ work as well as their talents. The students all expressed how the experience of making something with their own hands greatly influenced their mental and emotional health. They shared about how much more confidence and self-esteem they gained because of the vocational training.

One could not miss the joy and pride in the faces of the educators, staff, parents and friends for the exhibition and the handmade products. It was a time of celebration! Everyone was excited to pitch in, from setting up the exhibition to selling popcorn and cotton candy. The students prepared chocolate balls with a Christmas style and joyfully served the parents and visitors. Other students came to show their love and support for the SMART students by buying items for sale or encouraging them on their work which was fostered in a bright and warm atmosphere, despite it being a rainy day.

At the exhibition, there was a 15-year-old BBS student who stood out at the exhibition with his intricate art in fashion design.

“My teachers are very open-minded and encourage me to continue with fashion design. The positive and accepting atmosphere give me self-confidence and help me to not feel embarrassed about my love for fashion design which I’ve had since I was three years old.”   – a 15-year-old BBS student

Another student, who is remarkable at cross- stitching, displayed her work at the exhibition through embroidered pencil cases with the school logo and Christmas ornaments. Her Special Educator noted, “she now works much faster and finishes before her own teacher”.

BBS and the SMART Program: Handmade Crafts Exhibition - BBS

One student with autism, displayed his work at a booth filled with very detailed sculpted letters and numbers in English and Arabic made from soft clay. The sculptures were no larger than 2 cm each, but he was able to precisely and delicately sculpt objects using only his hands. He demonstrated the process during the exhibition by sculpting his name in Arabic in a matter of minutes once he calmed down because of the crowd.

Art and creativity bring positive changes in children, especially in students with learning differences and special needs. Grade-10 students, who participated in the process of candle making and designing, were enthusiastic about the idea of one day selling their own candles online and having a small private business like their teacher who taught them.

The majority in our society still shun and reject people with special needs but here and now there is love and acceptance. Above all, God’s hand has been with us since the very start of our journey towards inclusive educational communities and enabling individuals with special needs to attain their God given potential. Perhaps these words of a mother shed light on the impact of the journey thus far: “I am very grateful for this school and the opportunity to express my gratitude beyond my small circle… My son would not have achieved what he has now learned if it weren’t for the cooperation of Mrs. Siham and the SMART Program. Thank you very much because if it weren’t for your love for my son, he would not have come this far. Thank you, BBS. Thank you, SMART Program and every single member of the program. The teachers love him very much just as they love all of their students as well. He has amazing teachers and whatever I say is not enough about them, so thank you very much.”

“I am proud of myself because I finished making the candles completely when I have a problem finishing my studies.”  – BBS student in the SMART Program

Without the support and prayers of our partners, we would not have been able to provide quality education to the old and new students that enrolled this academic year. Despite the increasing challenges in Lebanon with no signs of improving soon, we have witnessed God’s hand at work in the lives of the students, the community and in the lives of the teachers and staff.

Please continue to pray for LSESD and its family of ministries that we may remain as a beacon of hope and a lighthouse to the community. BBS has received more registrations for the 2022-2023 academic year with 1,470 students which is higher than any other year. We are grateful for such an opportunity to be able to welcome all the students which would not have been possible without your continuous and relentless support.

Thank you for your faith in BBS which allows us to continue being a source of hope and a Christian witness to our community.

Help a Child Reach His God-given Potential

SMART is a learning support program that provides quality education and support services to learners with learning differences. The aim of BBS is to intervene academically, socially, and emotionally in an environment that endows learners with a warm, loving, and safe setting.

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