Catastrophe in Beirut - Volunteer in action

EN - Sunday, 09 August 2020

Sos chretiens d'orient provides emergency help for beirut inhabitants. For the homeless, for those who have lost everything, donate!

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Beirut, Saturday, August 8, 2020

"Over 100 dead so far according to our sources, you're packing your bags tonight. "These are the words of the head of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient in Qaa, a Christian village that seems both peaceful and far away from the turmoil of the Lebanese capital.

On Tuesday 4 August at 5:15 pm, two successive explosions occurred at the port of Beirut, costing the lives of many people. Our phones vibrate, the names of the victims appear in the press. After the political and health crises that brought Lebanon to its knees, comes this humanitarian crisis that has just completed it, pushing it into such a deep abyss...

Faced with the urgency of the situation, SOS Chrétiens d'Orient decides to call three volunteers working in Tripoli and three others in Qaa to Beirut, I am one of the latter. Our small, close-knit team in Qaa works with families in difficulty, young people and the handicapped: most of the activities revolve around moral support for the local population, mainly of Greek Catholic faith. After a few days of volunteering, I find myself in Beirut facing the worst disaster the country has seen in decades.

Arriving this morning on a shuttle bus that left around 5 am, we see the distress of the Lebanese people in the face of this tragedy. All the windows of shops and buildings are broken into a thousand pieces, garbage cans are knocked over, faces are blackened and marked: Beirut is in mourning.

In the shuttle, stunned by the landscape I am discovering, I see many young people rushing through the streets with a broom in their hands to come and support the families whose homes are flooded with wreckage. It is moving, but unfortunately it seems insufficient in the face of the latent chaos that reigns: I end up believing that the Lebanese are never surprised by their bad fate, they persist in helping, in remaining united: I feel far from home.

Lebanon, in spite of the real community tensions that are shaking the country, remains a big family: with 4 million inhabitants, the neighbourhoods are getting closer and many of those we meet are those who know victims, their families. The streets are devastated: the explosion has affected a very large area of the city, starting with the Christian quarter where we are staying. Beirut would have become a field of ruins in a short space of time.

SOS Chrétiens Orient nettoyage école volontaires BeyrouthWe arrived at the headquarters of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient at around 9 am, we quickly put down our suitcases and we head towards the Laure Moghaizel Shahroride establishment, a public and interdenominational school. The idea is to be able to quickly clean up, pick up the rubble. I was full of hope before I saw the school with my own eyes. I was light years away from imagining such a disaster: it is absolutely appalling. The doors are shattered, the windows all broken and scattered around the schoolyard, which is close to the port of Beirut. Chairs and tables flew over the windows and broke into the courtyard. The floors are all in a pitiful state.
Naturally optimistic, I climb the stairs and hope to find a classroom where only the windows are broken. The Lebanese state, in default of payment, will not be able to finance the damages. Our visits to the classrooms follow one after the other, none of them are able to accommodate students at the beginning of the next school year.

Young people from the neighborhood are present, they keep smiling, they come and tell us by ear "Thank you France! ». Among them, many are themselves pupils of the school, who have come to support our team of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient to restore a semblance of order in the place. Together with the students and the volunteers of the Caritas Lebanon association, we are forming human chains to empty the rooms of the debris from the explosion. We try to maintain the troops' mood, but nothing helps: the task seems too big, dizzying, yet we are numerous on the spot and globally very motivated. We keep our attention on our gloves and shovels, our motions: it's a way to avoid being overwhelmed by what surrounds us.

I can see to what extent we can be overwhelmed by events and history. We will remain for an indefinite time in Beirut reduced to rubble.

SOS Chrétiens Orient Liban nettoyage école Beyrouth volontaires"It's a miracle that no students died, we have a few in the hospital, but we remain optimistic. " explains a French teacher who came to supervise the work. All the windows of the buildings surrounding the school were blown out and crashed on the 2nd and 3rd floors. After 8 hours of work, breathless by the task, we return to the mother house, feeling confused: both depressed by the spectacle of the day, but amazed by the mobilization of the Lebanese people in the neighborhoods. Our eyes meet, mingled with sadness, compassion and gratitude. We are maintaining our recently trained team in Beirut, and will once again intervene at the Moghaizel Shahroride school, but also at the Quarantine Hospital, also close to the port and devastated by the explosions. We will continue to participate actively in the emergency plan set up by SOS Chrétiens d'Orient.

François M, volunteer in Lebanon


Sos chretiens d'orient provides emergency help for beirut inhabitants. For the homeless, for those who have lost everything, donate!

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