Life is About Sharing the Happiness and Kindness; 10 Minutes with Sam J. Calhoub
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“Whenever you face a conflict, there’s always someone that can
hold your back and that can be here to help you.”
These words above did extremely touch my heart. They give
strength and a deep meaning for the youth. It also describes that
living in this world is about sharing the kindness and happiness.
These words were told by Sam J. Calhoub, a Lebanese social
worker, activist, writer, artist and songwriter. He has been
described as the LGBT rescuer by Al-Balad newspaper and he’s the
current ambassador of the Lebanese Student Union of Social Action
(ULEAS) at the Saint Joseph University of Beirut and a member of
"War Child Holland" and UNICEF, working as a psychosocial
animator at the UNHCR, in response to the Syrian crisis.
After visiting the website http://www.samjchalhoub.com/#!about-sam/c1zbp and watching his activity on Twitter https://twitter.com/samchalhoub, I was very interested in knowing about his job as a social worker the reasons for choosing such a career. I was really glad to have the opportunity to interview him. Here's our conversation about his work and his feelings on running the job with War Child Holland and UNICEF.
Based on your website, there are so many things that you do and you’ve achieved. But, what exactly your dream when you were a child?
I've always dreamed of achieving any form of success, especially 'cause I've never had good grades at school.
Is being a social worker and activist your passion? Or actually, there's something else behind your desire to do your job? Like (sorry, let me say) a bad experience in your life or anything?
Well actually I’ve always wished to become humanitarian person, and especially psychosocial animator. There’s a difference between being a social worker and psychosocial animator. Social worker works more with parents of the children and their entourage and a psychosocial animator works with large groups with specific needs. And the reasons for me to become a humanitarian person are maybe because I used to have some problems at school, with my family and my entourage.
Something that makes me really interested in your work is your tweets about the Children of Syria. And I’m going focus on them. So, you’re working in Syria right now?
No, I’m working in Lebanon, the border and neighbor country of Syria. When Syrians choose to leave Syria, they can either come to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey or Iraq. It depends on their localization in the country, if it’s from the North, South or East. I’m working in the Lebanese fields, and currently located in the UNHCR building where there are lots of families who come to register themselves as refugees on daily basis. During the registration time, they have to wait around two to three hours to have their interviews. So War Child Holland and the UNICEF took advantage of the waiting time. We now have safe space, located in the waiting area and the children have all access to come inside and benefit from the psychosocial support, provided by War Child Holland and UNICEF, including vaccination programs.
Do you do all kinds of social work? Or is there any specific division; such as a teacher, mentor, health worker and so on?
Not really, I’ve always been interested in theater, everything around animation. In my job, I have to be the tutor and I have to spread the experience I have in theater, drama, group discussions and everything that makes them express themselves. So that’s what I’ve been doing since three years, and recently with War Child Holland.
The impact of war on children is: insecurity, fear, and lacking trust, especially if the person is a "new person”. How do you do to approach them?
We have many children who are worried to meet the new people. But fortunately, our safe space in Beirut is very child friendly. It is all well decorated to become friendly with children and to attract them. Our duty time begins at 8:00AM can see the children awaiting for us starting 7:00AM. So there’s a small time for children to wait outside the space, exited to come in, to find what’s happening in there. When the doors are open, they get in, we get to meet each other in a very friendly way, and when they start feeling more familiar with us, we introduce ourselves as animators or social workers, letting them learn about the psychosocial support we can provide them with, so they can benefit from a whole day with us.
I always want to help the children of Syria online, but in every website I visit, I notice that everything is about donating, “let’s donate” or something. Honestly, I think the children need more than money and “things”. So, in your opinion what’s actually the children need from their society or people around the world?
Donating is great way to help children. I’m going to tell you why. It’s because the donation doesn’t only go for material and organic such as food, shelter or clothes. Donating also leads to have more social workers, more psychosocial animators and more supporters on the field. It’s because we get paid and it’s not about voluntary work. There’s difference between volunteering and hiring a professional animator or social worker. Because if you’re working with vulnerable children in very difficult cases, you really have to watch every single word you say, every single action you make, every single activity and discussion that you have with the children, every single advice… and that’s really difficult because you really need a social and psychological background, including the experience as well. So a part of the donations go for the service provided on the fields, knowing that it’s really hard and risky to work in some conditions.
What’s the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is when I greet the children every day at the door, because I can see the excitement waiting outside. I enjoy my job, giving support, drawing smiles and feeling at home. I am also supported by all the staff that joins me on the field. So yes, looking at their excitement makes me want to cry. That’s the best part of my job.
What about the difficulty of your job?
I face many obstacles in my job. Including when we should let the children go with their parents to the interview in the middle of our activity. It makes me feel like “please don’t go, we still have many things to do that can help you”. But yeah, they have to leave so… all we can say is good bye and good luck. The others can stay for two, three or even five hours with us. That makes our work very beneficial for them and for us as well.
As we know, there are many kinds of work that will actually give you a lot of profit. You’ve made a song, perhaps you can be a singer and get lots of money from it. So, why did you choose to be a social worker?
I chose to become a social worker because I believe that Lebanon and the Middle-East need a large number of social workers. We’re living in conflicts since more than a decade. And I think that we really need people who can take care of the country. Everyone is involved into politics, everyone is involved into economy, into war and into conflicts. So when you hear someone fighting there, everyone becomes curious and gets involved in the conflict. So, this is not what we’re used but that’s what we’re scared of concerning the new coming generations. Social work is a way of showing people that this is not the right way to live. Conflicts are not always something that should attract you. You can do many good things in your life, because there are much more beautiful things to do in your life. You can work with your creativity. We’re here to tell them that life beautiful, life is about living and building new friendships, new connections, telling who you are, being creative and sharing the good things.
You have something that you want to say to the youth around this world?
I just want to say, whenever you face a conflict, there’s always someone that can hold your back and that can be here to help you. You just have to trust that, there are good people in life, not only bad people. They also need to believe that actually, they have many rights and they can fight for them, they can even benefit from every right they have, to build up their own personality and their own identity.
Life is a choice. We can choose to carry our own selves, or to share the happiness with the people around us. But for Sam J. Calhoub, being a social worker as a psychosocial animator is a precious choice, because life would really make sense if we are willing to figure out how to spread love to the world.
So, let’s do something that inspires people around us and spread the world with kindness and happiness!