Tag Archives: Lebanon

Young People Making a Difference

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

Living in a Barn in Snowy Lebanon, a Syrian Mom Braces for Winter

This is from the January 3 ANERA newsletter.
Syrian refugees in winter need protection due to poverty and poor living conditions More than half of the residents in Wadi Khaled live under the poverty line, with a large portion of them being Syrian refugees.
Back home in Syria, Nadia Al Hammoud had a house and a little farm. Now the mother of four is a refugee, living in a cattle barn in Lebanon. She fled Al Qusayr, Homs with her husband and four children in 2012, as the war took away all they had. The family of six ran away to save their lives, leaving behind any legal documents. Paperless, they settled in Wadi Khaled, a rural region on the Syrian-Lebanese border. “There are about 10,000 families residing in Wadi Khaled, equally divided between original Lebanese residents and refugee families who fled the civil war in Syria,” said Ali Al Badawi, the Mayor of Al Rama village in the Wadi Khaled area.

Poor Living Conditions for Syrian Refugees in Winter

Syrian refugees in winter need light and warmth, like Nadia who lives in a barn.

“We use candles at night, but now we have this battery-powered light,” said Nadia. “It’s a great support.”

Nadia and her family live in a single shoddy room in the cowshed. It has a cement floor that becomes frigid in the winter, walls that leak rainwater, and a roof rusted with asbestos. There are no glass windows in the shed, only open holes that let in the cold despite Nadia’s best efforts to seal them with nylon bags. But at 600 meters above sea level, the region is cold and windy. Winters see heavy snows.
Syrian refugees in winter live in harsh conditions like this converted barn in Lebanon

The converted barn, where Nadia lives with her family of six, offers very little protection from the cold.

This winter, ANERA distributed winter protection kits to 1,500  Syrian refugee families like Nadia’s. The families reside in Wadi Khaled and Berkayel, both in northern Lebanon. The UN reports that the area is one of Lebanon’s “most deprived regions.” Of the 1.1 million residents, roughly 65% are under the poverty line. The crisis in Syria greatly affected the region, as 300,000 refugees have settled there after fleeing war.

Winter Boots and Battery Rechargeable Lights Support Moms Like Nadia

Syrian refugees in winter need battery powered lights because they have minimal electricity.

Battery rechargeable lights are a necessity in villages like Wadi Khaled, where residents get only three to six hours of electricity per day.

The winter kits include warm clothing, boots and battery rechargeable lights to address the lack of reliable electricity. On average, there are three to six hours of electricity per day, and many Syrian families cannot afford to buy generators.
“We use candles at night, but now we have this light,” said Nadia. “The light is a great support to me, especially when one of the kids wake up at night.” Zahraa, Nadia’s youngest, was excited to slip on her new cozy winter boots and stow away her slippers for the summer. “My siblings will be very happy when they return from school and see the new things we’ve got,” said Zahraa. ANERA distributed the kits as part of its annual winterization program to help protect Syrian refugees in winter. Most of these families are enduring harsh conditions. As winter sets into the cold, hilly regions of Lebanon, these kits are a necessity for helping Syrian refugees keep warm.

And What About School?

I was distressed to learn that there are refugee youth who haven't been to school for over five years.   Does this mean we'll have a generation of unemployable young adults who can't read or write and therefore vulnerable to people who offer them a gun and some money to devastate a community? Here's what's happening in Lebanon.  Surely it's being duplicated in Jordan and elsewhere.  50% of refugee children between age 5 and 17 are not enrolled in school.  Only 17% of teenagers 16-18 are enrolled.  Why this high dropout rate?  There are over a million registered refugees, Syrian and Palestinian.  The schools are overcrowded.  School is taught in French or English, not Arabic.   An organization I've told you about, ANERA, is working to change that by offering education and vocational classes to give students the skills they need to support their families.  We are so lucky to be living here that it's almost impossible to imagine losing our house, our job, our loved ones,  our friends.  It's what happens when people have to run for their lives, leaving everything behind.  It's what makes them poverty stricken refugees.

Winter in Lebanon

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.    

The Refugee Crisis

June 24, 2016   I have to talk about the crisis in Europe.  There’s so much to tell you about what people are doing to make a difference.  And how they are working through UNHCR the UN Refugee Agency, and ANERA, American Near East Refugee Aid. What if you were forced to flee to a foreign country where you were not allowed to work?  You planned to stay just a few months, and you brought money to cover that period – perhaps with a cushion in case you had to stay a little longer. Now you’ve been there for years.  You have no money and no way of earning it.  If you try to go home you and your family will likely be in even more danger than you were when you left. This is what’s happening to thousands of Syrian refugees in Jordan and Lebanon. With families to support, savings exhausted and no dependable way to work, they’re living on the brink.  More than two-thirds have slipped below the poverty line.