A Strong Spirit

14 Jan 2014   |   Blog   |   Syria   |   Emergency Relief

Tags:  young people, Lebanon, Syrian refugees, volunteers, ecumenism   |   1 comment

Late last year, Madeline Baker from Caritas Australia’s Humanitarian Emergency Response team travelled to Lebanon to see how Caritas’ support is assisting Syrian refugees. In this third blog by Madeline, she says that the spirit of the youth and young people she met is astounding.

Youth volunteers at a distribution centre

In Koura, northern Lebanon, I visited a food and hygiene kit distribution centre run through the ‘Ecumenism in Action’ program. A collaboration between Caritas Australia, Caritas Lebanon, Catholic Relief Services (Caritas in the USA) and the International Orthodox Christian Churches (IOCC), its aim is to bring together young volunteers of different Christian denominations to assist Syrian refugees and vulnerable Lebanese communities.

When I spoke with some of the volunteers, I was surprised to find out that four of them were Syrian refugees. Jak, Lamis, Ahmer and Khalel, aged between 20-35, had fled Syria in the last six months, leaving behind their families. I felt great sadness for them all, imagining how hard this would be.

Their stories

I just had to do something, I couldn’t sit around doing nothing …”
Lamis, a Syrian refugee volunteer


Jak explained how he made a narrow escape from Syria, but his brother had been shot in the leg and was now unable to leave. He told me, “In Syria I was finishing my university degree, I had a good job and a car but now I don’t have a future”.

Lamis had fled Syria with her children, but her husband, father, mother and sister had remained. She explained that her father didn’t want to leave his home and therefore neither did his mother or sister. Lamis used to work with UNHCR with Iraqi refugees in Syria and she couldn’t believe how things had changed.

When I asked her why she’s helping, she said, “I just had to do something, I couldn’t sit around doing nothing … It is truly heartbreaking to see what is happening to Syria”.

We are there to help

It’s like finally someone cares for these families; the best thing we can do is making refugees feel they are human."

This program is a small silver lining as it is giving a purpose to refugees and young people in Lebanon. Linda Shaker Berbari, the IOCC country representative for Lebanon said to me, “If this program works, it’s a chance that things may get better … an effort on peace and love and just accepting one another is so much in need.”

She believes that addressing young people is the way forward to making a positive change for the future of the country.

A Lebanese volunteer emphasised the impact of this program by saying to me, “When we help, we don’t look at religions or race or anything … we are just there to help.’

Another said that during the distribution it’s amazing to witness the reaction of the Syrian refugees. “It’s like finally someone cares for these families; the best thing we can do is making refugees feel they are human.”

It was truly amazing to see the passion these young volunteers have to help others. From decades of war and rule in Lebanon, an extremely resilient population has been created – one that is strong and ready to stand by each other and help their neighbours. It is hard not to be astounded by their spirit.


Can you help us assist the Syrian refugees? With winter approaching the need is greater than ever. For more information or to donate, head to our Syria crisis appeal. Thank you.


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1 comment:

  • Chloe

    “that is awesome!!! good job Caritas keep up the good work”

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