In a letter of appreciation to TFL CEO Salyne El Samarany, Lucienne Nader, TFL fellowship alumna (cohort 8, 2016–2018), reflects upon her fellowship, her achievements and successes since, and the meaning of happiness.
“Happiness is not success… it is the road to it” – Nadine Labaki.
This is not just any quote; this is from the speech the famous Lebanese director and artist Nadine Labaki gave at my undergraduate graduation ceremony from the American University of Beirut, from which I earned a bachelor’s degree in medical science. These words have stayed with me and inspired me ever since. The road to success is happiness: indeed, it is the road of experiences learned, of trials and errors and of building who you are and who you will be. You build your happiness in life, and, since 2016, Teach For Lebanon has helped me build my happiness.
My fellowship experience with Cohort 8 at TFL was an exceptionally enriching phase in my life. I gained so much: first, from the extensive summer training institute, where TFL’s team along with specialized instructors passed along their skills and expertise in teaching, project planning, teamwork, soft skills, and much more; and, second, from my two years of teaching experience at Paradis d’Enfants, Jounieh, a school for underprivileged students with social, familial, and/or financial difficulties, where I was a biology teacher for grades 3 and 4, and teaching assistant in math for grades 1, 2 and 3.
As fellows, we were requested to do an extracurricular project with our students during these two years. Despite all the teaching responsibilities I had during and after working hours, I went beyond my limits and beyond a simple, one-and-done activity. My project ended up being complex and multifaceted, and remained ongoing even after my fellowship was over.
When I first tried to launch this project, no one from the school encouraged me. On the contrary, they said, “you can’t change anything at Paradis d’Enfants.” I didn’t stop at their words. I worked on my project proposal and asked for a meeting with the principal. In spite of what I’d been told, over the course of several discussions, the principal encouraged my ideas. It seems they had only needed someone to take the initiative.
I worked on a “four pillars” anti-bullying project. The first pillar was identifying and addressing students’ bullying thoughts and issues through group work and reflection; the second pillar was a book collection and library renovation effort meant to create a peaceful escape for bullied students during recess; the third pillar empowered parents through digital literacy workshops for cyberbullying; and the fourth pillar consisted of awareness sessions from the NGO No Label. Both the school and the parents loved the results of this project. When I left, I handed all my materials to the school so that any teacher or future fellow could use them and continue these sessions.
After my fellowship with TFL, I earned a scholarship from the University of Balamand to attend a Masters in Public Health. While completing this degree, I worked as a laboratory technician at the Central Military Laboratories of the Lebanese Army, and I chose my thesis project to be an “Assessment of Quality and Risk Management at the Central Military Laboratories.” Recommendations from this assessment would be taken into consideration to improve my workplace’s workflow and conditions.
From the experiences I accumulated over the course of my undergraduate studies, my Teach For Lebanon fellowship, my job as a laboratory technician, and my graduate studies, I can say: First, no matter what people tell you, believe in your goal, and in yourself, and you will reach that goal. Second, never seek after happiness in a job title or a degree; it is indeed the road to your achievements and successes that brings you happiness.