Carmen Chahine Debbané left Lebanon during the dark years of the war, holding a Bachelor of Science diploma. But life sheer chances and random encounters made her life take a different turn. She ventured into fashion, real estate development and humanitarian actions that included sending medicines to Lebanon after the war has ended.
A few years later, a personal experience led her to discover and take active interest in children suffering from learning difficulties. She conceived the idea, or rather the utopia, to create a structure aimed at helping children with similar difficulties in her native country, Lebanon. She pluck up her passion in both hands and, fuelled by her willingness to turn this dream into a real project, and rallied her family, friends and some professionals, among them late Mrs. Marianne Klees, a leading figure in research and support for children with learning difficulties. Carmen Chahine Debbane officially founded CLES, on March 8, 1999 and became a pioneer in this field.
The problem was how this country, devastated by years of war, and where the priority was given to survival, could be seriously interested in taking care of children suffering from dyslexia, dyspraxia, dyscalculia, dysphasia or ADHD? These children who are not disabled enough to draw attention, often occupy the back benches of the class, fail, repeat a grade until they end up, in some cases, in real social exclusion. However, how many broken lives and failures could be prevented if only “these forgotten children” were given early diagnosis and efficient support?
“I am really convinced that the road to peace goes through the education of children and the opportunity to give every child the right to achieve his full potential. It is by accepting our own difficulties and those of others, by giving everyone the chance to deal the best way they can, with these difficulties, thanks to sustainable education, that we give our children the tools they need to help them navigate through life with clarity… The power doesn’t lie in the flawlessness or in the absence of difficulties, but in a clear and generous gaze focused on ourselves and the others”.