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University of Balamand > News > Archive > Students in London: Tempus Civic Engagement

Dr Ofeish, second from the left, surrounded by students involved in a community fair at Balamand last May.

Students in London: Tempus Civic Engagement

A number of Balamand students will soon be on their way to London to participate in two weeks of training in community service, funded by the University’s European Union Tempus grant on Service Learning and Civic Engagement. The students will be hosted by the University of Roehampton in the British capital, where they will also engage with local NGOs in serving various communities.

This opportunity comes in the wake of a Tempus program at the University of Balamand that has involved a number of faculty members in service learning and civic engagement over a period of four years. The program was the result of a grant held jointly by Balamand and eight other universities worldwide, including AUB from Lebanon, three Jordanian and four European universities.

Despite its young age, says Dr. Sami Ofeish, “Balamand has been involved in community service for a long period, starting with the SEED program in 1997.” Dr. Ofeish is head of the Political Science and International Affairs Department and coordinator of the civic engagement Tempus grant at Balamand.

“In the last four years, our involvement in the Tempus grant has helped us to grow tremendously and to expand our engagement in community service in number, frequency, and scope of activities as well as the number of people involved on campus,” said Dr. Ofeish. “This has allowed the faculty members involved to ask President Elie Salem for institutional support, which he accommodated enthusiastically through initiating a Presidential Task Force to develop the involvement as well as to study and suggest ways to improve and expand community service on campus.”

Dr. Ofeish points out that Balamand students and faculty members have become increasingly more involved, and in large numbers, in various community service activities. These engagements include “participating in development projects and in helping municipalities, in reducing illiteracy, spreading correct hygiene practices, recycling, improving marine life, and in monitoring the electoral process. Around 700 Balamand students were involved in monitoring two parliamentary and two municipal elections in the recent past.

More recently, students have also been involved in addressing human rights issues of Iraqi and Syrian refugees, migrant workers, and women in prison, and in looking after their needs.

The Tempus grant, says Dr. Ofeish, has paid significant attention in the training and development of student abilities to engage successfully in community service. In September 2012, three undergraduate students from Balamand joined a small number of students from the other grant partners for a two-week training program in Galway, Ireland. Dr. Ofeish points out that Ireland “is a country where serving communities is considered a given and a must, and where students are in fact required to engage in community service.”

It was the success of the Ireland training that led to the current decision to invite students to stay at the University of Roehampton in London for a period of two weeks. All travel and lodging expenses will be paid by the Tempus grant. The students are expected to participate in the training between now and the second part of December, says Dr. Ofeish, and a large number of them have already applied. The competition is intense and the places are limited, said Dr. Ofeish.

“We are expecting a significant growth in our community service involvement, which is integral to the mission of our university,” said Dr. Ofeish. “The increasing interest by faculty members, staff, and students in community service is really encouraging and we are starting an activity soon to collect data on the degree and scope of civic involvement on campus so as to plan accordingly.”

Dr. Ofeish says that he has high hopes that Balamand will increasingly become a leading university in civic engagement and community service in Lebanon and the region. “Our communities deserve our utmost attention and we should partner in our mutual development.”

The forthcoming participation of our students in the London training will be one more step in that direction. ​​
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