The Outreach & Leadership Academy (OLA) is an educational and cultural center aiming at educating, empowering, and engaging local communities, particularly in South Lebanon, by providing free capacity building training programs, civic engagement activities, and touristic activities.
OLA is housed in the 18th-century Dar Ali Hammoud Palace in Saida’s Historic District, later turned into the Aisha Heritage School. The school site, abandoned since the 1950’s and used as a hub of drug trafficking during the civil war, was restored by Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development to become an educational hub that contributes to the community’s social transformation.
The academy was later established in 2015 as a beacon of civic engagement and social responsibility upon the strategic partnership agreement between Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development and the Lebanese American University.
OLA’s mission is to counter all forms of violence and extremism through education and to promote civic engagement, social awareness, leadership, and citizenship. OLA has played a key role in poverty alleviation in Saida’s historic district by equipping locals with employability skills, creating job opportunities, and breaking the stereotype of insecurity in the district.
The center has also contributed to cultural exchange and social cohesion by hosting programs that bring together people from different backgrounds and experiences in a safe space for learning and dialogue.
The academy’s success has led to the replication of its model in other areas of Lebanon, such as downtown Beirut, Bekaa, and Akkar. To this day, OLA has hosted more than 380 programs and activities targeting over 7,500 participants of different ages and backgrounds, such as the Model Council of Ministers, Model League of Arab States, the Model European Union, Model United Nations, and Lebanon 2020 The State of Knowledge, and other training programs on employability and soft skills.
In 2023, OLA has turned into a specialized academy at Hariri Foundation, promoting environmental sustainability and capitalizing on greening education and capacity building on green transitions adaptive to climate change.