The Maronite Academy 2015 Participants


Maximiliano Chade
| Argentina
Behind every dream there is a history, and behind this history lie more details than you can imagine! When I was selected to participate in the 2015 Maronite Academy, I didn’t know how my dream of discovering the land of my ancestors could materialize. I thought everything would eventually boil down to a simple academic course that would help me learn more about Lebanon from an intellectual point of view. I had no clue what was in store for me. The trip did not begin when I came to Lebanon; it had already started in my head as soon as I got the news and set out to prepare myself for this trip. I felt like I already had a foot in the plane! Getting to Lebanon was amazing; we arrived at night and everything seemed to be just like a dream. We start to talk to each other getting to know our backgrounds; it is then that things started to take shape and the dream was becoming reality. All of us shared the same feelings, the same love for our mother country no matter where we came from. Effortlessly, Lebanon had brought us closer to each other and bound our hearts together. The kindness and compassion in this group were amazing; everyone was worried about the others’ well-being and showed tremendous interest in each activity. The lectures we attended were very interesting and gave us the key tools to become the true ambassadors of our countries. Each lecture opened our horizon a bit more, pushed us to think, to react, and to take initiative in order to spread the Lebanese cultural heritage. Our opinions and critical thinking were always received with the utmost openness and this serves yet as another example of the respect for diversity that characterizes our Lebanon. On the other hand, we got to know the whole of Lebanon, from north to south and from the coast up to the mountains; only the Academy could have realized such a challenge in such a short timeframe. The lovely Abouna Fadi was our tour guide and the wealth of the information he knew was nothing short of breathtaking! The immense historical, geographical and cultural richness of these ancient lands was beyond impressive. I leave Lebanon with an immense treasure in my heart, prouder of my heritage and the knowledge I have gained; none of this would’ve been possible without the efforts of the Maronite Academy which reunited me with my roots and taught me how to cherish and protect them. It gave to me the strength to become the ambassador of my mother land, Lebanon, in my country. We lived a beautiful dream called Lebanon while being wide awake and I’m positive that this is an opportunity many other youths will be benefiting from thanks to the Academy’s prowess and talent. In my heart I keep the names of all my Lebanese brothers who live in different parts of the world, their faces, their smiles, their friendship, and their sympathy. I keep every happy moment that we shared in Lebanon and those faces full of tears, when we said goodbye hoping to meet again in the not too distant future; surely in Lebanon. A big thanks to the Maronite Academy, the cheerleader, the forger of dreams and hopes to all those who are far from Lebanon. Thanks to the graduates of the 2015 Maronite Academy, my friends and brothers who have done this unique and special trip and whom I look forward to seeing again. Thanks to my family in Argentina who were with me every step of my dream adventure in Lebanon. And finally, I want to thank God, who was also dreaming when he was created Lebanon and left part of his soul there. This land is so full of His presence; every place we visited told us a story about Him. My dream became reality, my heart is dressed with the colors of Lebanon and my life, after this trip, it is totally different. Thanks to all!
M.C.
Maximiliano Chade
Franco Mátar
| Argentina
F.M.
Franco Mátar
Elie Matar
| Australia
E.M.
Elie Matar
Nadia-Rita Mouawad
| Australia
N.M.
Nadia-Rita Mouawad
Ashley Gabrael
| Australia
Thank you to the Maronite Academy for allowing me to discover and understand Lebanon's true history, its breathtaking beauty, and sacred sites. I have seen places that even my own parents and grandparents have not seen. I feel very blessed and closer to my Lebanese roots. Meeting Lebanese descendants from around the world was the highlight of this trip. The different cultures and everyone's passion for learning and supporting Lebanon were truly inspiring. Being part of this experience was thrilling and enriching beyond words. I will treasure the memories and the friendships I have made forever. Lebanon you will always be in my prayers and I will forever come back to you.
A.G.
Ashley Gabrael
Jean Gaagaa
| Australia
J.G.
Jean Gaagaa
Danny Touma
| Australia
D.T.
Danny Touma
Roy Nassif
| Australia
R.N.
Roy Nassif
Joseph Boustany
| Australia
I have been to Lebanon many times but the journey of summer 2015 with the Maronite Academy was incredibly unique and surpassed all my expectations. Whilst preparing for the trip, we learnt a lot about the importance of claiming and preserving our Lebanese identity. We also encouraged and assisted people in claiming their Lebanese citizenship. During the trip we were inspired by the conviction and passion of a number of speakers who further promoted their beliefs and ideas through the conferences we attended. But the greatest testimony was our group. A group made up of over sixty youth of Lebanese-descent from fifteen different countries across the world! Cultural barriers instantly dissipated over the mutual love for Lebanon and its traditions, the zeal for the Maronite faith, the hospitality, creativity, intelligence, resilience and the persistent joy which we all shared and united us as a group from day one. These common and innate virtues were a living proof of the reality of our shared identity which has been sacredly nurtured within our families. This amazing group proved that our identity as Lebanese is an invaluable treasure, far beyond a piece of paper or a mere statistic, which we ought to protect! Over two weeks we participated in an extensive program that allowed us to experience Lebanon from a historical, cultural, political, social and spiritual dimension like never before. For me, the ultimate experience was the hike through Qadicha and Quannoubine valley. This is the land where our Maronite forefathers first walked, lived, and suffered in order to defend and protect our Maronite faith. To be able to walk in their footsteps in the valley where they sacrificed all they had was an incredibly humbling experience. I thank the Maronite Foundation for granting me the opportunity to connect with Lebanon and gain such inspirational Lebanese brothers and sisters from all over the world. I would like to thank Father Fady Kmeid and Mrs. Hiam Boustani In particular for their utmost dedication to the program. I support the Foundation’s continued mission in inspiring the young Christian Lebanese diaspora to reconnect with their Lebanese roots and be proud ambassadors of their Lebanese identity no matter where they are in the world! In this way we will be truly upholding the dignity that Lebanon deserves, irrespective of its political instability, and our lives can rightly attest to Saint Pope John Paul II's message that "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message"!
J.B.
Joseph Boustany
Yuri Simão
| Brazil
I am completely astonished by all the beauty and wonders I feasted my eyes with during this trip to Lebanon. Besides cultural matters, the other Lebanese descendants impressed me with lessons of love and brotherhood. Sure enough, the two weeks I spent in Lebanon will mark me for life, but most importantly, I have developed an unconditional love for this country and its people. I am more confident than ever that I will soon come back to this unique place and reconnect with its marvelous people. I am so happy that my dream to reconnect with my roots came true thanks to the Maronite Academy.
Y.S.
Yuri Simão
Daniela Tanos Hannouche
| Brazil
D.H.
Daniela Tanos Hannouche
Charbel Joseph El Darazi
| Brazil
Beirut, Beirut! What a beautiful chant! What a beautiful “world”! Under its skies perfection lives side by side with beauty and objects come alive with its beautiful soul. I thank God for this opportunity and having been able to actually make it there! What a wonderful stay and amazing adventure.
C.D.
Charbel Joseph El Darazi
Carmen-Maria Owaida
| Canada
C.O.
Carmen-Maria Owaida
Anthony Kantara
| Canada
A.K.
Anthony Kantara
Jessica Fares
| Canada
The two weeks spent at the Maronite Academy felt like a lifetime. I believe that everything happens for a reason and that God has helped me build an international loving family. I have met the most kind-hearted, motivated, and inspiring individuals in a span of two weeks. I have seen Lebanon through new eyes, from a different angle, with a different mindset. I got to share this amazing experience with my class as we learned about the faith, culture, and history of our ancestors. Despite the negativity that is constantly portrayed, my love for Lebanon burns nothing but stronger. The resilience and faith that the nation carries can be resembled to the phoenix. I resemble it to a crying child falling off his bicycle and getting back up over and over again, a burning candle that is constantly lit after the wind blows it off, or a nostalgic individual whose emotions come back even stronger every time he is reunited with his family. I could not refrain the tears that dripped down at the sight of Lebanon shrinking behind me, slowly, and eventually vanishing. I have spent the best two weeks of my life with the best people from all corners of the world, and I am now proud to call them my international siblings. Lebanon, we will meet again. To my international family, the 2015 ambassadors, I love you and you will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you to the Maronite Academy 2015! Words cannot express my gratitude, God bless you always!
J.F.
Jessica Fares
Stephanie Zeidan
| Canada
S.Z.
Stephanie Zeidan
Mira Sassine
| Canada
Taking part in the 3rd edition of the Maronite Academy was an honor and a privilege for me. Thank you to all the organizers who put in their time and energy to achieve this two-week program which gave us the chance to explore and learn about every historical, religious, and cultural aspect of this wonderful country. This experience allowed me to meet amazing people from 15 different countries, who share the same interest as me for their roots and their mother country, and with whom an everlasting friendship has been developed. There's a French proverb that says: “Une image vaut mille mots” (“A picture is worth a thousand words”) and that's why this unforgettable adventure will always be engraved in my heart. Sajil ma t2ajil!!
M.S.
Mira Sassine
Georges Diab
| Canada
This experience of a lifetime connected me to my roots, to my history, and to great people from around the world who share the same mission. A mission which seeks to uncover the treasure that Lebanon holds and that is for every Lebanese to enjoy! I strongly believe we found this treasure during this trip and that we are already sharing it with all the Lebanese in the world! Our extraordinary heritage and strong faith unite us beyond physical or language borders. Thank you to the Maronite Academy for this adventure and for choosing us to be the ambassadors of our beloved Lebanon!
G.D.
Georges Diab
Mary Teresa Azar
| Canada
First and foremost I want to thank the Maronite Academy for this amazing opportunity. It’s been almost seven years since I’ve seen my country, going back gave me butterflies in my stomach because I had forgotten how beautiful Lebanon is. These two weeks enriched me with knowledge, understanding and love for my country. When I first arrived I didn’t know what to expect, I was nervous, but mostly excited to have the chance to rediscover my homeland with a bunch of beautiful people who came from all over the world. Even though I was not raised in Lebanon, I have always felt a strong attachment to my country and this trip allowed me to fall in love with it all over again. I am beyond grateful to have been selected to be part of the Maronite Academy 2015. I will be sharing whatever I learned from this unforgettable trip with the people around me so that they can have a better perspective of my beautiful country Lebanon. I know we have a lot of work to do, but I believe we can accomplish so much together. Lebanon is a warrior that got knocked down so many time but always found the strength to get back up on its feet. The people that live abroad are the backbone of this country, the people inside are the fighters. At the end of the day we are of Lebanese descent, no matter where we live : Argentina , Australia , Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, USA, or Venezuela; we all have something in common: the love we share for our country.
M.A.
Mary Teresa Azar
Chantal Abou Jaoudi
| Canada
C.J.
Chantal Abou Jaoudi
Farid Mauad
| Chile
This was without a doubt the best trip I could ever have. Getting to know the country of my origins was a great experience and one that I will always cherish.
F.M.
Farid Mauad
Nicolas Farah
| Colombia
N.F.
Nicolas Farah
Maria Amalia Fadul Nunez
| Dominican Republic
The opportunity to discover Lebanon and its beautiful sceneries, reconnect with my roots, and make new friends who share the same love for this amazing country is invaluable; it is an opportunity I will eternally be grateful for. I am very happy to have been part of the 2015 Maronite Academy and I personally thank all the members of the Maronite Foundation for making this possible. Being part of this was one of the greatest blessings I have had. You are always in my heart.
M.N.
Maria Amalia Fadul Nunez
Elise AZAR
| France
E.A.
Elise AZAR
Paola Kouyoumji
| France
P.K.
Paola Kouyoumji
Roxane Maroun
| France
R.M.
Roxane Maroun
Alejandra Guerra
| Mexico
I came back to Mexico overjoyed with having reconnected with my roots. I thank God for all the blessings we’ve had over the past two weeks. I’m also very thankful to my father for having instilled in me, from a very young age, the desire to return to my homeland. Thank you to the Maronite Academy for this opportunity and to my fellow Academy friends for the wonderful experiences we shared. I will carry those memories in my heart forever!!
A.G.
Alejandra Guerra
Frida Hatch Kuri
| Mexico
I have read a lot about the Maronites since I have a religious background, my great grandfather was a priest from Beiteddine, but I had never gotten the opportunity to experience this knowledge firsthand. Father Fadi took us hiking in the mountains and showed us the landmark monasteries of the Maronite history. It has been such a unique and enriching experience that made me realize the Maronites’ importance and how these incredible mountains sheltered them when they were persecuting Christians. Doing some thinking of my own by the valley opened my eyes; I realized how attached and committed I was to my motherland. I started wondering how we could support Lebanon and help raise awareness regarding the importance of the Maronites’ role in the region.
F.K.
Frida Hatch Kuri
Simon Abdul Massih Karam
| Mexico
I want to thank Mrs. Boustani and all the members of The Maronite Foundation throughout the world for giving me the opportunity to come here and discover the land where my father and my mother’s parents were born. I also want to thank all the Academy people involved in designing this program for their dedication and unrelenting support. If I had to choose only one place in Lebanon, I would choose Lebanon itself! I feel each mountain, each building, each entity, and each person has their own magic. I loved the views from Qadisha, the colors of the sky in Faraya and the mysticism oozing out of the churches and monasteries we visited during this trip. Moreover, I’ve met some really great people here and feel we’ve become a big family. Once again I appreciate this opportunity. And again, I love Lebanon.
S.K.
Simon Abdul Massih Karam
Carolina Stefanoni Abdala
| Mexico
First of all I would like to thank the Academy for this great opportunity. These two weeks spent discovering every corner of Lebanon, its spiritual, cultural and social richness, represented a journey not only to the place that my ancestors left behind, but also a journey inside my faith. I now deeply understand my Lebanese heritage and I am so proud of it especially as a Maronite. St. John Paul II said: “Lebanon is more than a Nation, it is a mission” because this country represents a message, an example of tolerance and coexistence. Throughout its history it has demonstrated to the World that peaceful and tolerant coexistence among different cultures, civilizations and religions is possible. Through the Academy’s program I realized the importance of becoming a part of this mission by supporting our presence in the Middle East
C.A.
Carolina Stefanoni Abdala
Carla Bugosen
| Peru
Thank you, Maronite Academy, for this 2015 edition which you held with great dedication and love. You removed the blindfold I had over my eyes and enlightened my world. I got to discover many religious, cultural and historical places in Lebanon. What ensued was a waterfall of knowledge, culture and understanding of my motherland that was somehow grafted on my heart and on my brains forever. This trip fully accomplished its objective, it reconnected me with my roots and I came out with an unbreakable bond I had never felt before. I am proud to be part of this culture which has preserved its faith, strength and resilience and taught us how to harness and live by them throughout the years. Lebanon is unique, it’s a world of its own that I will forever cherish and nurture in my heart. Thank you friends from 15 different countries, because all of this magic wouldn´t have been possible without your tenderness, light and energy. This trip was one of a kind because of each and every one of you.
C.B.
Carla Bugosen
Fadia Chedid
| Sweden
F.C.
Fadia Chedid
Gabriel Achkar
| Uruguay
First, I want to thank you for everything you have done for us, I really appreciate the effort, the manpower, the money, and the time that you put in to make all this possible I had a fantastic adventure, I reconnected with my roots and it was all thanks to you. For me this trip was amazing, I met beautiful people from all over the world, thank you for that as well. A special credit goes out to Father Fadi Kmeid, Hiam Boustani, Ziad Wehbé, Maya Abdel Ahad, Robert Joe Matta, and Jill Karam. I know - and always knew - that the responsibility they carried was a hefty one, so please give them my best. To conclude, thank you for one of the best experiences of my life.
G.A.
Gabriel Achkar
Farah Khazen
| USA
F.K.
Farah Khazen
Audrey Bolus
| USA
Everyone knows I've been dying to go to Lebanon for as long as they've known me, basically. I can't express how blessed I feel to have had all these amazing experiences this summer. Traveling to and throughout Lebanon was an especially eye-opening experience. My family in Zahlé and my Maronite Academy family both taught me so much through all their different points of view and experiences, and made me laugh so hard my cheeks hurt (basically every day) and cry upon realizing the depth of love between us all. I have high hopes for Lebanon, myself, and all the beautiful people who made this journey truly great.
A.B.
Audrey Bolus
George Chidiac
| USA
Hala ya hala! I wish I could convey the joy I felt on my first trip to Lebanon. When I was a boy, I longed to touch the clouds; in Lebanon, I stood above them. I wish I could share every moment stolen from the camera’s eye, every breath withheld by awe, and every dance born from new friendships. My heart overflowed with delight when I met my teary grandmother for the first time, walked the steps of my father’s nostalgic home, and sat on my mother’s childhood bed. Father Robert Barron shared: ""St. John Paul II commented that, for people of faith, there are no coincidences, only aspects of God’s providence that we have not yet fully understood.” One day, I hope to understand why I was blessed with this gift. Thank you Lebanon for a holy heritage and the Maronite Foundation for grafting me back to my roots.
G.C.
George Chidiac
Peter Sayde
| USA
P.S.
Peter Sayde
Natalie Ezzie
| USA
Of all the places we went to Qadisha valley was by far my favorite. Here, we hiked more than 13km on rocky mountainside at an altitude of about 1900m. The views were surreal. Along the way, we learned the Qadisha Valley served as a place of refuge for early Christians (7th century) fleeing persecution, many of them hiding in the natural caves found at the very tops of the mountains (top left). We also passed by a number of monasteries that have remained untouched for centuries. It's incredible to be able to see and feel these places and hear the stories of these people who lived here thousands of years ago.
N.E.
Natalie Ezzie
Miriam Chouki
| USA
Although I was born in Lebanon and had visited it in the past, I never experienced it the way I did this summer. Thanks to the Maronite Academy, I was able to learn about Lebanon's immense history, visit beautiful parts of the country that I had not yet visited, and develop a deep understanding of the significance of the Maronite Academy's mission. I was also able to meet amazing people from all over the world who love Lebanon as much as I do and are willing to do whatever it takes to help protect their beloved country. This trip has been a great learning experience which taught me about myself, my country, and others. Too seldom do we have the opportunity to simultaneously engage in self-growth and spiritual growth; the Maronite Academy provided me with the opportunity to do so. Therefore, I would like to thank each and every member of the Maronite Academy for creating a program in which Lebanese people from all over the world can unite as one in their country to share as well as develop the passion that they have for Lebanon with one another.
M.C.
Miriam Chouki
Liyana Asmar
| USA
L.A.
Liyana Asmar
Carole Falugi
| USA
Looking back at my time in Lebanon, I cannot imagine how it could have been any better. I can truly say that I have seen pieces of the country that even natives have not seen. From Lebanon’s extensive religious culture, its beautiful sights, to its unimaginable history, I know that I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to visit the far corners of my homeland. There is no place that I value more than the place of my heritage and because of this trip my drive to do all that I can to help this country progress and gain stability has increased exponentially. But my experience in Lebanon was not limited to its vast sceneries and delicious food; it was also enriched by the people that I was able to travel with. I can honestly say that I love each and every one of the individuals whom I shared this experience with and I know I now have life-long friends who share my values on every corner of the earth. My only hope is to be able to visit my Lebanon again and be reunited with my family once more. Thank you so much to the Maronite Academy!!
C.F.
Carole Falugi
Andre Chelala
| USA
A.C.
Andre Chelala
Samanta Elazzi
| USA
Not only did I get to spend the last two weeks exploring the country I am from but I also got to have a drink with my grandma’s sister Teta Eva. Cheers from Lebanon and may God continue to bless us with beautiful memories like these.
S.E.
Samanta Elazzi
Charbel Khalil Khalil El Khoury
| Venezuela
"Thank you to the Maronite academy for taking us all over Lebanon and the back of beyond! You made us fall in love with our origins and our land all over again. The work you are doing is unparalleled and I join my voice to those of my fellow Academy friends in asking how we can help Lebanon as Maronites and Lebanese citizens. Thanks again for everything! "
C.K.
Charbel Khalil Khalil El Khoury
Anthony Yazbeck
| Venezuela
A.Y.
Anthony Yazbeck
Carlos Alfredo Barquet Aguilar
| Ecuador
I am returning to Ecuador, but my heart remains in Lebanon! My loves goes out to every place and city we’ve visited: Zahle, Beirut, Jbeil, Kaslik… Thank you to the Maronite Academy for making this happen!
C.A.
Carlos Alfredo Barquet Aguilar
Bruno KHOURY ATIEH
| France
B.A.
Bruno KHOURY ATIEH




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