History of AVS

Birth of a Dream
Dream to Commitment
Expanding the Circle
Forming a Committee
Establishing the AVS Office
Obtaining Legal Status

BIRTH OF A DREAM
The idea of establishing a volunteer center in Lebanon began in the mind of the founder of AVS, Dr. Patricia Mihaly Nabti, in the spring of 1993 while she was a professor of Cultural Anthropology at the American University of Beirut.  At the time, she had never heard of service learning (a method of teaching which incorporates social service into the curriculum) – but she did believe in experiential education (having students learn from real experiences).  In addition, she believed that one of the objectives of higher education is to develop responsible citizens.   Based on those two beliefs, she required students in her course, SBS 201: Introduction to Society, to do 10 hours of social service, and then to discuss that experience in terms of the concepts of the course.  She found that most of her students had never before engaged in social service beyond their narrow network of relatives, friends and neighbors.  She also found that it was difficult for students to locate opportunities for social service.  Having already been familiar with the Haas Center for Public Service at Stanford University, she decided at that time that she would do her best to help create such a center at AUB.

DREAM TO COMMITMENT
Over the next five years Professor Nabti collected information and published materials from the Haas Center, and from other public service and volunteer centers at universities she visited in the United States.  In the process of collecting this information, she became exposed to service-learning, adding this to her objectives for a university center.  In the spring of 1997 she drafted and submitted a proposal to establish a center at AUB primarily based on the Haas Center model.  The University did not adopt the proposal, so on June 12, 1998, Dr. Nabti made a personal commitment to pursue the dream on her own, broadening its scope to serve all of Lebanon, rather than one university. 

EXPANDING THE CIRCLE
Before leaving Lebanon that summer (1998), Dr. Nabti who will be more informally referred to here as Patricia, drafted a new proposal, tentatively naming the center  "Service Unlimited".  She shared the propoal with her students, and began to introduce it to others in Lebanon who  were already committed to social service.  Only one of them had ever heard of volunteer centers, but they were all intrigued by the idea.   One of those first people she introduced the idea to was Hayat Osseyran, her former MA student.  She was well aware that Hayat was one of the founders of the South Lebanese Society for the Blind, a society that provided community-based rehabilitation for the blind and vision-impaired in the area of Nabatiyyi. She had even taken one of her classes on a fieldtrip to the Society.  Hayat, who had visited the National Volunteer Centre in London, was very enthusiastic about the idea of Service Unlimited, and suggested others who might join in the project.  Patricia returned to California that summer and began to collect information from volunteer centers and other service institutions outside of universities.  The most important models for her were the Sonoma County Volunteer Center, the Foundation Center, and Service-Learning 2000.

FORMING A COMMITTEE
In the Fall of 1998, Patricia returned to Beirut, and formed a Founding Committee to establish the legal basis for her dream.  The other Committee members (Paul Abi Rached, Munir Abi Said, Rima Jeha, Joumana Kalot, Adele Khudr, Ghassan Melki, Hayat Osseyran, and Kamal Shayya) were not only people strongly committed to social service in Lebanon, but also people adventurous enough to share the dream.  Patricia also met with Mr. Zeid Khiami, the General Director of the Directorate of Youth and Sports, a division of the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports.  She had previously worked with him to encourage public school participation in the AUB Folk Dance Festival, a tradition she had revived in 1995. Mr. Khiami expressed his support for the idea of a volunteer center, and encouraged her to submit the incorporation papers through the Directorate of Youth and Sports (DYS).  The Committee drafted a Constitution and By-Laws and submitted them, along with other incorporation documents to the DYS in November, 1998, selecting the official name "Association for Volunteer Services" (AVS).  While waiting for the license, AVS began its program.  Hayat Osseyran became Vice President of AVS and emerged as the most committed member of the Founding Committee, serving as a full partner in the project.  Hayat and Patricia served as volunteers, working full-time for AVS without any remuneration for over a year.  The first salaried staff member of AVS was Sally Kaya who worked on developing a data base of non-governmental organizations in Lebanon.  The first project AVS decided to undertake was to hold a Volunteer Opportunities Fair.  Through the support of Mr. Khiami, AVS was able to reserve UNESCO Palace for the Fair, and later the patronage of the Minister of Education, Mr. Mohamed Yusuf Beydoun, for the event.  As the primary government-owned performance, conference, and exhibition hall in Lebanon, UNESCO Palace gave considerable credibility to AVS, as did the patronage of Minister Beydoun.

ESTABLISHING THE AVS OFFICE
The Founding Committee soon realized that it would need an office to further its objectives. Thus, in March, 1999, AVS moved its center of operations from Patricia’s living room, to its office in Ain al-Tini.  Sally Kaya returned to work on her MA thesis, and Mayada al-Khateeb replaced her as the single paid staff member of AVS.   Patricia and Hayat then began an AVS tradition of holding orientation meetings for non-governmental organizations in different areas of Lebanon: Beirut, Tripoli, Zahle, Saida and Nabatiyyi (a tradition expanded in later years to include Baalbek, Sur, and other population centers in Lebanon).  They introduced the concept of a volunteer center, its objectives, principles and programs, and invited the organizations to participate in the first Volunteer Opportunities Fair.  The first Fair was held in May, 1999 with more than 50 participating organizations.  With the first Fair, AVS also launched another of its programs, the AVS Volunteer Directory, which, in its first edition, was combined with the Fair Program.   The first Fair was a great success, introducing NGOs to a more systematic approach to volunteer recruitment and management, providing a positive forum for networking among NGOs, exposing the public to a broad range of social service organizations in Lebanon, and encouraging people of all ages to become volunteers.

OBTAINING LEGAL STATUS
Encouraged by these first successes, AVS broadened its programs in a number of directions.  It established a series of workshops for affiliated NGOs, developed a training program in service-learning for educational institutions, and initiated a campaign to make UNESCO Palace accessible to the physically disabled.  On October 18, 1999 AVS was finally granted a license (738/m/99) by the Lebanese government, thus establishing its legal status within Lebanon.  With legalization, Patricia and Hayat became paid staff members – though still volunteering the many hours they served AVS beyond full-time.  Since its conception, AVS has experienced various changes in its Board, staff and team of regular volunteers, has steadily expanded its circle of affiliated organizations, and has continued to diversify its programs.  Throughout these changes, the objectives of the Association have remained the same – to encourage, facilitate and improve volunteering and community service throughout Lebanon, to empower individuals with the realization that they can (and should) make a difference through volunteering, and to bridge social barriers through encouraging the different sectors of society to work together for the good of all.


 

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The Association for Volunteer Services
www.avs.org.lb

MISSION:
To promote, facilitate, and improve volunteering and community service throughout Lebanon.

Copyright 2006, Association for Volunteer Services. All rights reserved. 

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