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Iraq: Haret Hrek Center - More than a center, a second home

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Balloons and ribbons adorn the spacious rooms while time-honored folk songs are performed on the oud, soulfully telling stories about the beloved Iraqi homeland through music, and traditional food is plentiful - all marking the celebratory opening of the International Medical Corps Community Center in Haret Hrek.

The Center, located near the municipality and Haret Hrek Secondary School for Boys, is meant to be a holistic center offering a variety of services to Iraqi refugees residing in Lebanon as well as for the vulnerable local population. The location was specifically chosen because of the density of Iraqi families.

Among the guests: the Iraqi Ambassador to Lebanon, representatives of the United Nations Higher Refugee Counsel, the Middle East Counsel of Churches and members of the media. International Medical Corps and Center staff members were also in attendance.

While cutting the ribbon, Mr. Omar Barazangi, the Iraqi Ambassador to Lebanon, announces the center to be open and speaks of the hardships his country has faced since the beginning of the Iraqi war and how grateful he is for non-profit humanitarian organizations like International Medical Corps that are helping his people in their time of need.

Representing International Medical Corps, Lebanon country director, Mr. Colin Lee, spoke about the importance of providing refugees a place like the Haret Hrek Center to address their many needs; may they be health, psychological, or social.

The Center will provide an array of services including Early Child Development trainings for Iraqi mothers and fathers as well as psychological and social services. The center is staffed with a director, a psychologist and social worker as well as support staff.

The goal of the Haret Hrek center is to be a safe haven for Iraqis living in Lebanon; a place where they will be comfortable expressing their concerns and needs; a place where information regarding safely returning to Iraq, available health and psychological services, and appropriate points of referral are all provided. But it is much more than a physical building where critical services are being provided. It is also a second home.