My visit in October to our ministry partner Esther and her team in the Beqaa Valley gave both new facts about the overall refugee crisis (6.5 years on), as well as first-hand and heart-wrenching conversations with individuals affected. According to UNHCR statistics, Lebanon is the third top country for hosting refugees. Approximately 1.1m Syrians are still in Lebanon and now 1 in 6 people in Lebanon is a refugee.
Officially, UNHCR now treats this crisis as “protracted”, and the average duration of this category is 26 years – that’s an awful long time to live in a tent! UNHCR further estimates that 51% of the refugees are children, so it is likely that an entire generation will grow up in squalid camps outside of Syria, with little access to education or healthcare.
My visit to Esther left me once again in awe of her team’s commitment in the face of incredible trauma – including their own. They are very much wounded healers, counting a personal cost.
Since the start, they have been supplying refugee families with healthcare and support for new-borns, food, children’s clothes, and then vocational training and counselling for traumatised girls. A new area of their work is now special needs education. Whilst there are increasing basic schooling opportunities for refugee children in the Beqaa Valley (with other groups, NGOs etc.), it would seem that nobody wants the trouble of those kids with learning difficulties.
Esther and team have dived right in: They work with this group of severely challenged children who have extreme learning difficulties, giving them special needs education, art and music. For these children their challenges started when they watched parents or siblings raped or die violently, and then experienced the trauma of a sudden flight from a familiar home in Syria to communal life in a shabby tent – often with extended family or friends. Some are mute, and most cannot focus on any form of schoolwork or learning. Music and art are proving to be the keys that open doors for healing in their lives, allowing them to begin to engage again, and then progress to more standard education.
At LeaDev-Langham we support the development of Christian leaders as a strategic way to support the fast-growing Church. But leaders who live and minister in contexts of poverty and pressure have few – if any – financial reserves in the event disaster strikes. If an earthquake, tsunami, fatal disease or war hits their area, it is impossible for Partner Schools to carry on with ‘study as usual’ in the midst of chaos, trauma and grief.
This is why we support existing ministry partners with development aid in the event their geographic area is hit with a disaster of significant proportions. This enables them to bring profoundly practical leadership to their communities by being the ‘hands and feet’ of Jesus. And this is what is happening amongst the Syrian refugees through our partners in Lebanon.
How you can help
Right now hundreds of refugee children and their families are being supported by our partners – leaders of integrity in Syria – with medicines, clothes, food, baby needs, trauma counselling, and education. Please would you give a gift to help them to continue to minister the love of Jesus in this way?
Your gift cares! And enables leaders to take compassionate action and bring the practical love of Jesus to children, families and others in their community who are suffering as a result of a sudden disaster.
More than half of Syrian refugees are children – John Corban