UNESCO Palace Accessibility Project
"All UNESCO Palace for Everyone"

Accessibility Project
Financing the Project
Donors to the Project

UNESCO Palace  was built in 1948 to host the Third International Congress of the United Nations Educational, Scientic and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  The Congress was described at the time as the first appearance of the young republic of Lebanon on the international arena after its establishment in 1943.  In 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, this government cultural center was the target of shelling, resulting in the destruction of the theater and its equipment.  The Palace was renovated and reopened in March 1998 on the 50th anniversary of the original UNESCO Congress.  Since then it has regained its earlier stature as the primary government building to host conferences, meetings, and exhibitions, both national and international.  

The renovations of UNESCO Palace were undertaken before the legal requirements were enacted requiring newly built or renovated public buildings to be accessible to the physically disabled, and thus no accommodations were made for the disabled.  The Association for Volunteer Services had arranged to hold  its first Volunteer Opportunities Fair in 1999 before realizing this problem. Since full social inclusion has been an important principle of AVS from its beginnings, it did its best to accommodate the disabled as much as possible at that first Fair by restricting all its programs to the ground floor.  The AVS Board, however, realized it was faced with three alternatives for the future – 1) Abandon the organization's principle of inclusion; 2) find a different venue for its programs that would likely be less respectable and more expensive; or 3) work to have UNESCO Palace become accessible.   Choosing the latter alternative, AVS requested permission from Mr. Muhamed Yusuf Beydoun, Minister of Education of Education, Youth and Sports, to head a campaign to make UNESCO Palace accessible to all.  In September 1999 that permission was granted, and AVS assumed the responsibility to coordinate the structural, financial, and public relations aspects of the project, in cooperation with the Director of UNESCO Palace, Mr. Antoine Harb, and four other NGOs: Arc en Ciel, Norwegian People’s Aid, the South Lebanese Society for the Blind, and the Voluntary Work Association.  Ms. Hayat Osseiran, who was then AVS Vice President and Assistant Director, served as the Coordinator of the project.  The campaign "All UNESCO Palace for Everyone" became an important example of the positive results that can be achieved when organizations, companies, government, and individuals collaborate for the public good. 

The renovations, which were completed in time for the opening of the Second Volunteer Opportunities Fair in March 2000, include:
       v One elevator to reach all four levels of UNESCO Palace
       v A specially designed chairlift for access to the stage of the auditorium
       v Ramps on the second floor
       v Bathroom renovations on the sub-ground floor west of the stage
       v Signs and maps in Arabic, English, and Braille throughout the building

It is estimated that the project would have cost the government at least $100,000.  The required cash outlay was reduced to approximately $40,000 due to volunteer efforts and discounts provided to the project.  About $32,000 was collected by March 2003 (the balance covered by a loan from AVS).  We still need to collect about $8,000 to allow AVS to return this money to its intended purpose - to promote, facilitate and improve volunteering and community service throughout Lebanon, and $2000 for needed improvements.  Those who contribute at least $1000 to the project are acknowledged on a plaque at UNESCO Palace in both Arabic and English, and all who contribute at least 10,000 liras are listed on our website (below). More information can be obtained from the AVS Office.  Donations to the UNESCO Project may be made in the same way as donations to AVS, but it is important to indicate that the donation is being made specifically for the UNESCO Project. We hope to complete the financial aspect of the project through two $5000 donations (or one $10,000 donations).  If you are interested, please contact AVS (01-800170, 01-797247, or 03-757098 or avs@avs.org.lb).

Donations over $1000 are acknowledged on two plaques in the lobby of UNESCO Palace (one in Arabic, one in English).  Gifts-in-kind are noted with an asterisk(*):

$5000 and over:
Arab Bank
       Mohamad Safadi Foundation
       Norwegian People's Aid
     *Mr. Abdulwahed Chehab

       Banque Audi
     *Byblos Bank
     *Schindler Lebanon

       Al-Jarha Foundation
       Ali Osseiran
     *Arc en Ciel
       Fouad Ltier Fund - Rotary Metn
       Imam al-Sadr Foundation
       Iman el Assad el Khalil
       Islamic Emdad Charitable Committee
       Jammal Trust Bank
       Lebanese American Association, San Francisco
       Lebanese Heritage Club, Detroit
       Makhzoumi Foundation
       Maya and Mana Salim Jabbour
Municipality of Bourj el Barajneh
       South for Reconstruction
Donations Under $1000 are acknowledged below:

American Life Insurance Co

       Municipality of Nabatiyyi
       Shabarat Gulf Company/Dubai, UAE 
       al-Kashaf al-Lubnani - Beirut One

       Friends of the Disabled
       Gandoline Sweets

       Anthony Maalouf
       Shereen Kalot
       Four Points Sheraton

       Islamic Women's League
       Lebanese University League for the Blind
       Patricia Nabti
       Salim Naoum Chemali
       Salma Baroody
       Blaundine Yazbeck
       Lara Deeb
       Sacred Hearts Association

Under $20 (minimum of 10,000 LL/$6.67)
       House of Friendship
       Zeina Kobeissi
       Com/Families of the Kidnapped and Disappeared in Lebanon
       General Union of Palestinian Women
       Hanadi Fawaz
       Lebanese School for the Blind and Deaf
       Mayada al Khateeb
       Paul Abi Rached
       Wafica Abou Merhi
       Mme. Marie Mansour Khoury
       Boutros Hanna Aoun
       Christine Sayegh
       Dunia Maria Achkar
       Gladys Aoun (SeSobel)
       May Mezher
       Rabih A. Achkar
       Saria Nahouli

Primary Companies and Vendors for the UNESCO Project
       Mr. Abdulwahed Chehab, Architect
       Mr. Ayman al-Hajj, Construction
       Mr. Maher Adada, Signs, Plaque, Map
       Abillama Group, Carpeting
       Schindler Lebanon, Elevator


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