Reported by ANERA The Bekaa Valley was hit hard by the refugee crisis. It accommodates more than 400,00 Syrian refugees, according to recent vulnerability assessment. These Syrian refugees add to a population of poor Lebanese and Palestinians that were already living in the area. Poverty among refugees and the host community encouraged Ziad Araji to team up with fourteen of his friends and acquaintances to start the initiative, ‘Together we stay warm’ (maa baoud ma fi bared), to collect and distribute winter items for vulnerable families. “For one month, we placed boxes for in-kind donations of clothes and shoes in 30 local centers and schools in the village. We sorted, cleaned and repackaged what we received before distributing them to tented settlements for Syrian refugees and needy Lebanese families,” said Ziad. In total, more than 5,000 in-kind winter items were received, and they were then distributed to around 1,000 families from different communities in Bar Elias, Bekaa. The project was applauded in the village, and the mayor accompanied the youth to guide them to poorest tented settlements. “There are around 125,000 Syrian refugees in Bar Elias living in very critical conditions, and families from the host community are living in poor conditions too, given the scarcity of work opportunities,” said Ziad Abdul Ghani, the Mayor of Bar Elias. “Initiatives like these are a great support to families here.” Youth-led activities have encouraged youth to launch similar initiatives to serve their local communities. This is the case in Bar Elias, where Lama Sarout, one of the volunteers in the initiative, suggested a similar project to collect food for poor families
I left for France after my last post, came back and left again for the Thanksgiving Holiday. Until now I thought Tuscany was the place I'd return to again and again. And now Provence has proved itself to be equally fascinating. If the opportunity arises, don't miss them. Back to the reality of the current refugee crisis. Winter is coming. For the thousands and thousands who are living in shelters made of old pallets and discarded plastic banners, with plastic or an old blanket between them and the ground and no heater, the prospect is bleak. Right now 1,033,513 Syrian refugees are living in Lebanon, 360,000 of them in settlements 3,000 feet above sea level. Freezing temperatures and winter storms await them. Are the churches in your communities banding together to send clothing, blankets, mats, insulation or heaters? What about other charities? If there are none, you might think about donating to the UN Refugee Agency.