May 2022: a visit to Lebanon after a long absence
Dear friends and supporters,
In late May two of our volunteers spent ten days in Lebanon, after an absence of more than two years. We regret to report that the situation in the country has dramatically worsened; it is difficult to describe the misery and penury people must endure.
The services traditionally provided by the government have essentially disappeared. There is nearly no electricity (less than 1 hour a day in the capital Beirut, and unpredictable), no drinkable water, no public transport. Friends said that police do not intervene when called, as they lack petrol for their cars. Traffic lights don’t work. Medicines are either not available or too expensive. The banking sector has all but collapsed; even those who have funds cannot withdraw money beyond a certain arbitrary, and fluctuating, limit. The currency has lost almost all its value and is extremely volatile. Those who can have left the country, or are trying to leave.
Until mid- to late 2019, 100’000 Lebanese Lira (about 70 dollars, or 65 euro) were a respectable sum, enough to buy meat, cheese, vegetables and so on. Now it’s worth less than 3 dollars, and won’t buy an ice-cream. Salaries, of course, have stayed the same – so people who used to have a decent, if modest, salary now earn the equivalent of 30 or 40 dollars at most. Many essentials are imported, first and foremost fuel, necessary for transport and for electricity generators – hence the skyrocketing prices for food, medicine, transport and electricity. Apartment buildings have their own private generators that work at set times, so that people who cannot climb stairs have to go out and come back according to the generator’s schedule to use the lift. Refrigerators cannot be used.
Many shops and restaurants have closed; there is much less traffic than before; the city is dark at night. Young men scavenge garbage bins looking for items to resell or for scrap metal. There are many beggars, young and old. The modern city centre near the Parliament, completely rebuilt after the civil war and once full of high-end shops and restaurants, is now cordoned off and totally deserted, guarded by underpaid soldiers.
Elections on May 15 brought some new faces – and many old ones – to the Parliament. One hopes that things will improve.
Of course, there is still a minority of wealthy people in the country, so one can see luxury cars and full restaurants in certain areas.
Our volunteers visited FAID, a school for deaf children, and two kindergartens for refugee children. We have been supporting these institutions for many years now.
- The FAID school this year has more than 80 pupils, from kindergarten to high school, and functions from Monday to Thursday to reduce costs. About 30 children – boys and girls – are boarders, sleeping at the school 3 nights a week. A nearby plot has been converted into a vegetable garden, complete with chicken, geese, rabbits and goats, by the school’s caretaker. The school survives on donations (including from large organisations such as UNICEF) of money and food, as the government has halted all financing. As the harsh conditions of life in the country impact children as well, the teachers would like to organise a “summer camp” in July to offer them some respite, where the pupils (divided into 2 groups) can spend five days & nights at the school and do fun activities.We donated EUR 3600, to cover the summer camp food and fuel for 10 days (60 children in total), and one outing. In addition, we financed a replacement water pump for the school (EUR 220) and did some light maintenance work (EUR 40 for materials).
- We also donated EUR 1700 to the kindergarten of the refugee camp of Chatila in Beirut, and EUR 1700 to that of the Burj el-Shemali camp in Tyre in southern Lebanon, run by the Association Najdeh, for their operational expenses and purchase of educational material for the children. Thanks to solar panels and batteries, they have electricity all day. The teachers at these two institutions are exceptionally active, motivated and resourceful, really making the most of the scarce and ever-decreasing resources they have. In Burj el-Shemali they also prepared a wonderful Palestinian lunch for us!
We would like to thank our generous donors from the bottom of our hearts for their continued support.
Summary: Disbursements to the supported institutions, expenses (Euro)
|Donation to FAID for the summer camp||3600.00|
|FAID’s water pump and materials||260.00|
|Donations to Association Najdeh (refugee camps)||3400.00|
below: with the FAID pupils and teachers
At the refugee kindergartens: classrooms, the teachers and a very happy volunteer about to enjoy a yummy lunch, and the ever-successful soap bubbles
FAID’s vegetable garden:
A bit of light maintenance work by the volunteers: