We are supporting our partner Caritas Lebanon as they provide aid to refugees from Syria. Caritas Communications Officer Laura Sheahen describes her recent trip to Lebanon:
Monday morning: Visited Syrian refugees squeezed into tiny apartments in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon. The parents don’t know how they will make ends meet. They also worry about their children not making friends in their new country. One boy, Salem, says, “People here don’t want to play with us.”
Salem has sketched a drawing of what he saw before they left their town in Syria: soldiers shooting people and airplanes overhead. “We had a good life once in Syria,” says Leila, his mother, looking at the picture. “But I saw what was all around my children. This is why we left.”
Monday afternoon: Travelled to tent camps in the Bekaa Valley, near the Syria-Lebanon border. Caritas has distributed food, hygiene materials like soap, and other items to many families in the camps. A man who asks to be called “Jafaar” – most Syrian refugees don’t want their real names known – introduces us to his teenage relatives, whose parents couldn’t escape Syria. He shows us into their bare tent and asks if they can be put on Caritas’ distribution list.
The refugees have made the tents by sewing sacks and cloth together. They’re surprisingly spacious and airy, but like any cloth tent, they can catch on fire. In one camp, we see the results of an indoor cooking fire gone wrong: charred remains of several shelters and blackened leaves on the trees above. A man whose arms were burned when he saved his children shows us the ointment he had to pay for earlier.
Tuesday morning: Went to Baalbek, eastern Lebanon, where Syrian refugee women lined up outside a Caritas centre with vouchers in hand. In a storeroom, they sift through piles of donated clothes and drag away boxes of food and jugs of shampoo.
Tuesday noon: A white van drove up and a doctor and nurse climbed out; it’s the Caritas Lebanon mobile clinic. Carrying a box of medicine to an outdoor table, the two men set up a makeshift examination space. Syrian women bring their kids and, one by one, the doctor checks them over and hands out free medicine. The children, even the babies, are surprisingly well-behaved; there’s not much crying. Maybe after months of listening to bombardments, the kids think a visit to the doctor isn’t much to be afraid of.
Tuesday afternoon: Syrian women keep arriving at the Caritas centre to pick up food and toiletries. One woman holds up her hands, saying she sold her wedding ring because her daughters have nothing to eat.
Tuesday evening: At a Caritas centre in a city called Zahle, one of the team talks to three Syrian refugee children who are selling good-luck charms on the street. At least one of them, a 9-year-old girl, probably won’t go to school in autumn. She’ll have to keep selling the good-luck charms to help her family.
This diary first appeared on the Caritas International blog
We have pledged £50,000 to help Caritas Lebanon and other partners in the region respond to the crisis in Syria. Please keep all those affected in your thoughts and prayers.