Discovery, creativity and wellness are important values that Middle East University (MEU) holds in high regard. Serving and reaching out to the local community in order to share these values is a core principle behind the existence of the University. These are the reasons why MEU decided it was critical to establish a community center in the midst of the local Sabtieh community.
On Thursday, February 28 at 7 p.m., the University proudly opened the For Your Life (4YL) Community Center at the base of the hill in Sabtieh. The Grand Opening was well attended by members of the local community. Mr. Antoine Kaysar Jbara, the mayor of Jdeidet-Bauchrieh-Sed Municipality, attended as well.
This new center is intended to serve as a place of continued learning and support for local residents. Tutoring for students, music lessons, language classes, computer classes, cooking classes and various seminars will be some of the continual offerings to the community.
Talking about the inspiration behind the center in a speech at the opening, Dr. Leif Hongisto, MEU President said, “Four years ago I moved to this beautiful hill of Sabtieh and [I] was always [going] down the hill or up the hill and it felt more comfortable to sit in a car than to walk . . . So I started to walk here in the neighborhood, I became friends with [people in the community].”
Continuing, Dr. Hongisto explained how out of his own experience he saw the need to reach out and interact with the local residents, “I began to think about way how we as MEU would be able to reach out to this community. I was thinking about moving and learning for a life well lived.” This vision was the beginning of the 4YL Center, a place where the University not only interacts with community members but also provides resources to help them live richer and fuller lives.
During the first two weeks after opening, the 4YL Center is hosting a group of staff and students from the Weimar Center for Health and Education, California, USA to present special seminars on Health and the NEWSTART program. NEWSTART is an acronym that highlights Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) values for a healthy lifestyle: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunlight, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust. After this initial program, a routine schedule of various classes will be available with special presentations, seminars and events planned throughout the year.
The campus of MEU is idyllically placed on top of a hill overlooking the city and the Mediterranean Sea, however, this positioning also isolates MEU from the local community below. Opening the center in the heart of the Sabtieh community creates a concrete location where residents and passersby can easily interact with MEU on a daily basis.
Thus far the local residents have shown a keen interest in the center and the programs it has to offer. The health seminars by Weimar have been very well attended showing that the Center is already beginning to meet the needs of the local residents.
Becoming part of the local community and serving the area residents are precisely the objectives behind the 4YL Center. Summing up the centers mission while speaking to the attendees of the Center’s opening, President Hongisto stated, “It’s for your life, it’s for your life well lived.”
Written by Jason Lemon
Photos by Levon Kotanko