Lebanon! Such a small country brought to its knees by economic, social and health crisis. In its streets, men slaughtered by lack of means, by hunger, by lack of hope in the future. In his heart there is one hope: to live again.
Every month, the volunteers of SOS Chrétiens d'Orient visit the poorest families in Beirut. Every month, they meet Lebanese people who are afraid of the future and yet are still warm and welcoming. Every month, they hope to see less misery, but every month the situation does not improve and the needs grow.
"Unfortunate Lebanon" is the exclamation that has become so familiar to us since we began our mission in these troubled times. Poor, poor Lebanon indeed. After a political crisis, came the beginning of an economic crisis and the health crisis. But while outside the streets are demonstrating, the Lebanese people were still confident about the future. Only one new catastrophe was missing, on August 4, 2020, to definitively seal Lebanon's fate. The explosion in the port of Beirut ended a population already on its knees.
Immediately, we are adapting our mission to this new situation. In addition to the classic activities, emergency help is also provided. Buying essential food packs becomes the sad norm to allow hundreds of families to subsist and hope.
That day, we visit families in Beirut to assess their needs. Our bewildered eyes see the ruins. What a vision of hell! The facade of buldings from various eras are in pieces. Here a modern building where only its metal frame remains and there an art deco house where you can guess the remains of the different floors pierced here and there by pieces of cement. On the sidewalks, mothers, holding their children gently in their arms, are begging for something to live on. Their eyes beg us to help them. There is so much to do!
At the Turkish embassy district, the driver stops at a checkpoint. Our eyes are focused on the soldier with the machine gun. An apprehension grips us. Our translator explains our mission in Arabic and the soldier, after observing each of us, gives us the authorisation to go. Our car leaves for our destination. Nothing very original here, controls are frequent.
Lisa welcomes us at her home, in an apartment that has seen better days. With tears in her eyes, she explains to us that she has always lived serenely in this district. But today, she is afraid!
Afraid? But of what? Afraid that the explosion is only a premise for something worse. But she tries to live anyway because she has no choice. She would like to leave but she has resigned herself to stay in the city where she was born.
We ask her how we can help her. "As you can?" As we walk around her flat, we understand, from the sight of her sheets torn by broken glass, that we will help her as best as we can by offering her linens and hygiene products.
Sometimes these visits are made thanks to our translators who accompany us when the families speak neither French nor English. Marie, who already has two jobs, always holds the post. How does she find the time? "We have to do it well, that's what being a volunteer is all about," she answers with a smile. It is all the more remarkable that she chose to stay when she could have left like so many other young Lebanese who wish to do so. This is also another drama of Lebanon: the exodus of its young people.
Between two visits, we stop at the local pharmacy to get medication. The shortage, due to the impossibility for pharmacists to order in large quantities and to the price increases, forces us to go around several other stores to get all the requested products.
Bedding and medication are recurring requests. But there are so many other needs. Sometimes we are asked for help to pay the rent or school fees. We always try to meet the needs. We wish we could do more and yet, for the Lebanese people we help, it is already more than they have expected.
Josephine thanks us a thousand times as soon as we walk through her door. This is the second time that we see each other. She hastens to offer us the famous Lebanese coffee. Ah ! What a marvel this coffee is! The Lebanese refuse to call it Turkish coffee because of the four hundred years of occupation marked in the collective memory with a red-hot iron. It is a rite, immutable. At the first sip, the bitterness awakens our consciences to prepare us for the interview.
We discuss about her situation to find out if things have improved, from a personal point of view but also on a national scale. Thanks to these meetings, we learn to better understand the situation, we, who are foreigners brought to live their daily life only for a few months. To understand Lebanon, one life would not be enough.
Josephine lives, like so many other Lebanese, on half a salary. She considers herself happy because others are unemployed since the economic crisis. This is unfortunately the case of her husband. But the inflation is such that it is more and more difficult to survive. "We are trying, but what else can we do?" , she says, looking for a word of encouragement from us. We answer her with a word of support and a prayer for the Lebanese. A smile lights up her face.
She sits with her two children, twins, who look at us shyly. We offer them the schoolbooks and supplies they so desperately need to attend classes. These pens, pencils, erasers, notebooks will allow them to work on their French, they promise, handing us a drawing as a thank you. We were not asking for so much. But it is these small attentions that support and comfort us on the importance of our mission. We left after more than an hour, promising to come back and see them again.
Because after the donations, we try to continue to visit the families we have helped, meeting them around a coffee to discuss. Our mission does not stop with material help. We do our best to maintain, with the help of past and future volunteers, the link between Christians of the East and West.
Every month, volunteers in Lebanon visit a dozen poor families. On average, the mission spends € 250 to help the poor. Support our upcoming operations.
Théophane, volunteer in Lebanon.