Future? What do you mean by future?

Presenter and reporter Julie Etchingham travelled to Lebanon to see the work of CAFOD partner Caritas Lebanon. 

It is Wednesday afternoon and we’re sitting on the floor of a shack covered in tarpaulin with eight year old Karim, where he’s been living with his family since fleeing Syria.

Karim picking potatoes.
Karim picking potatoes.

He was up at 6am this morning picking potatoes in the neighbouring field to bring in a few dollars a week for his family. He is a strikingly handsome young boy – bright eyed and smart – and he’s sick of having to work.

Help a refugee child Continue reading “Future? What do you mean by future?”

What CAFOD is doing in the Gaza Strip

Olwen Maynard has been working on CAFOD’s Middle East Desk since 2006. Here, she looks back at what the generosity of CAFOD’s supporters made possible in the two years following the last major military offensive.

Drinking clean water in Gaza
A young boy takes a drink of water made clean thanks to your donations (Credit: CRS/Shareef Sahan)

A cup of clean water

Gaza’s tap water is heavily contaminated and dangerous, but buying bottled water is expensive, and can mean having to cut down on food. CAFOD has been working since 2013 with Islamic Relief to provide Reverse Osmosis Units to poor women-headed families, so they can filter their water and make it safe for drinking and cooking. Over the two years since the 2014 airstrikes, which caused massive further damage to the water supply infrastructure, the project has been extended to another 220 families and also to 65 kindergartens, providing clean water for thousands of children, along with hygiene education to help them stay healthy.

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Lost Family Portraits: meeting Souraya’s family

Nana Anto-Awuakye is CAFOD’s World News Manager. She recently met families living in the Bekka refugee camp in Lebanon as part of CAFOD’s Lost Family Portaits project.

Nana with young refugee children
Nana playing with some of the young children at Bekka refugee camp

Last Christmas, various family members snapped away on their latest mobile phone cameras, and we all dutifully posed for the camera. I asked for the unflattering photos of me to be deleted, my sister refused saying, “It’s Christmas, and we are all together.”

Only a few weeks earlier I was in Lebanon’s Bekka valley, just nine kilometres from the Syrian border. I was working with our partner Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre, the photographer Dario Mitidieri, and the creative agency M&C Saatchi to photograph family portraits of Syrian refugees inside some of the informal camp settlements in the Bekka.

See the Lost Family Portraits

Our arrival with the photography crew creates an air of excitement, as children run out from the labyrinth pathways in between the tented dwellings, as if the Pied Piper were calling them.

The camp leader, or ‘Chawish’ tells me: “Every family here has someone missing; they are either dead, kidnapped, or trapped.”

Continue reading “Lost Family Portraits: meeting Souraya’s family”

Freezing temperatures await refugees at the start of their Balkan journey

Laura Ouseley, CAFOD’s World News Officer, recently traveled to Greece to meet refugees attempting to continue their journey through Europe, and the Caritas partners working with them.

Laura Ouseley, CAFOD's World News Officer
Laura Ouseley, CAFOD’s World News Officer, visited refugee camps in Greece.

As we drove up out of Thessaloniki, Greece’s second largest city, and headed north towards the border with Macedonia, snow-capped mountains gradually came into view, the temperature dropped, and the landscape became increasingly barren.

I was in northern Greece to meet refugees who had already risked their lives crossing the Aegean Sea in overloaded boats and were now attempting to continue their journey through Europe. They had all saved up, borrowed money or sold their possessions so that they could make this dangerous journey in search of a better, safer life. They had already traveled at least 20 days to get there. For some it had taken much longer.

Meet Syrian refugee families whose lives were shattered as they fled the conflict

Every day at the border, coaches arrived with hopeful refugees.  Hassan, a Syrian teenager I met there told me that this part had been the most difficult. I have been waiting for so long. It is boring and so cold”, he said.

Continue reading “Freezing temperatures await refugees at the start of their Balkan journey”

Lost Family Portraits: Photographing the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon

Dario Mitidieri in Bekaa Refugee Camp, Lebanon
Dario Mitidieri in Bekaa Refugee Camp, Lebanon

Dario Mitidieri began his career as a professional photographer in 1987 working for The Sunday Telegraph and The Independent newspapers. In his long and illustrious career, he has travelled to Tiananmen Square in Beijing to witness the army repression of students. He has also photographed the conflict in Northern Ireland, the Iraq War, the 2005 Tsunami in Indonesia and the Kobe Earthquake in Japan. He recently travelled to the Bekaa valley, Lebanon, with CAFOD and creative agency M&C Saatchi where he worked on studio-styled portraits of twelve families who have fled the conflict in Syria.

It is early – just before eight, but winding through the steep hill side roads of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, there is a frenzy of building work: hotels and luxury apartments going up. This ancient, open city is alive.

Once we leave the concrete landscape behind us, the undulating hills of the Bekaa valley – Lebanon’s agricultural pulse and once the ‘breadbasket of the Roman Empire’ – come into view. Overnight there has been a first dusting of snow on the hills.

Just over the mountain ridge, some nine kilometres away is the border with Syria.

I’m heading to a Syrian refugee camp, with CAFOD and its partner, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre.

Just before Christmas, I came together with CAFOD, the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Centre and the creative agency, M&C Saatchi, to work on a unique project to highlight the plight of Syrian refugees: Lost Family Portraits.

See some of the Lost Family Portraits

The idea is to take a pop-up studio and set it up in some of the camps and take family portraits of Syrian refugees, with empty chairs symbolising the loved ones they have left behind or lost due to this horrific six-year war. Continue reading “Lost Family Portraits: Photographing the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon”