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Christian theologian Warren Wiersbe cautioned that “Nothing paralyzes our lives like the attitude that things can never change. We need to remind ourselves that God can change things. Outlook determines outcome. If we see only the problems, we will be defeated; but if we see the possibilities in the problems, we can have victory”.

We live in a broken world where injustice prevails at different layers of society leaving many marginalized and down-trodden for no reason at all – oftentimes due to misunderstanding and/or misinterpretations of differences that lead to prejudices that, in turn, end up denying a person the ability to attain their God-given potential.

Often times, we see the wrongs, we may sympathize with the wronged ones, but do not believe in our ability to bring about change! We give up even before we let our minds dwell on possibilities.  The late Bishop Desmond Tutu reminds us that “if you are neutral in situations of injustice you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”  Choosing to do nothing is more or less like taking a “neutral” position.

For change to happen, there needs to be a vision of a better reality. Faith that this better reality can be achieved.  And action that brings it to life.

Launching a Center for Smart Kids with Individual Learning Differences in 2011 was a step of faith.  LSESD’s CEO Dr. Nabil Costa saw the challenge, but also imagined the better reality, and so set out to put together a SKILD team that owned the vision and so worked together with him to achieve this better reality for individuals with special needs in Lebanon.

Originally, the plan was that SKILD Center will offer individualized support for students with learning difficulties. Yet, for change to take place, there needed to be a national level awareness campaign that involves other stakeholders – parents, educational institutions, the media… and which led to the launching in April 2013 of the National Day for Students with Learning Difficulties and this in partnership with the Lebanese Ministry of Education and Higher Education as well as the British Council.

And because we needed to change a culture it was important to invite others to join us on our journey towards a special needs inclusive community! One step of faith led to another, and God – in His faithfulness – honored these steps that led, amongst other achievements, to SKILD’s recent partnership with the Notre Dame University in Lebanon and Lipscomb University in USA, and which today offers students with learning difficulties an IDEAL program that builds their self-confidence and equips them to be productive interdependent citizens.

Clearly, the journey towards special needs inclusive communities is a long one yet.  However, it is so encouraging to see the fruits of this combination of vision + faith + action that are leaving an impact on society.  An aspect that recently led Creel, a Lebanese media and event planning company, to award Dr. Costa for “pioneering efforts in Lebanon for nearly a decade now, to make education inclusive for children namely for those with special needs” as noted by Christianity Today’s Jayson Casper in his article, Like the Cedars of Lebanon: Baptists Honored for Lifelong Service.  ( )
The award was presented to Dr. Costa by the Lebanese Minister of Social Affairs at the Creel Award event that was held in Maghdousheh, South Lebanon.

For change to happen, there needs to be a vision of a better reality. Faith that this better reality can be achieved.  And action that brings it to life.

Over the past twenty years since I’ve been with LSESD I’ve learnt many a lesson including looking for the opportunity in every challenge, and the fact that when there’s a will there’s a way!  I learnt that together we can make a difference.  Let’s not let the challenging circumstances that surround us in Lebanon today discourage us.  Let’s dream of this better world, have faith that we can bring about a change, and let’s put steps to make it happen.

Alia Abboud

Alia Abboud is the Chief Development Officer for the Lebanese Society for Educational and Social Development (LSESD), the founding organization of SKILD Center. Prior to joining LSESD, Alia served with World Vision Lebanon for 13 years as Communications Officer, and as Operations Manager. Alongside her experience, Alia carries a Doctorate in Business Administration, an MBA in NGO Leadership, and a Masters in Sociology.

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