With the war still ongoing in Syria, Lebanon is seeing more and more of an influx of Syrian refugees, a lot of whom are widows and children. University students in Hamra, Beirut pass by dozens of beggars (women and children) every day on their way back and forth from class. We often go from class to lab to job to dorm in a rush, wanting to do something to help these young mothers with children asking for money or food but largely ignoring them because:
1. We don't know how to help them in a way that doesn't hurt them. Often, giving them money is not helpful, because it ends up in the hands of the men who might have sent them out. Not everyone on the street is being controlled by one of these 'pimps', but most are.
2. We lack the funds to give every family we encounter a meal/diaper/a bottle of water. Students encounter so many people every day, and it is often overwhelming to realize that we cannot help every person that comes our way. And it is not easy, turning down someone who needs help.
Therefore, a group of students from campuses around Beirut are aiming for more sustainable ways of serving these women and children. So far, there are about seven students fully committed, and several others who are willing to contribute some of their resources.
For the children: Besides getting food for them every now and then when we can, we want to give 30-60min of our time just once or twice a week, reading with the kids who often don't know how to read and coloring books with them, at least to begin with. We will go out in groups of two or three at the start, and then start reaching out to the kids individually. As time goes on and as we get to know the kids more, our time with them will surely increase. While recognizing that the kids need food, clothes (which we also hope to provide through donations of friends and through fundraising), proper shelter, and so much more than coloring books, we also recognize that children need so much more than "basic needs." They need to encounter adults who are willing to play with them, teach them how to read, and will look them in the eye and ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Therefore, we will be buying children's books, coloring books and pencils and putting them in packages so that each kid will have his/her own set. However, we are not certain whether we should give them the packages, due to the likelihood that they will end up in the wrong hands and then sold.
For the women: We want to care for the mothers of the children too, as well as other women around Beirut who do not have children, by putting togethers packages for them. These packages will include things like: bottles, milk, diapers, blankets, soap, sanitary pads, shampoo, etc ... As we develop relationships with these women, we hope to be able to connect them to NGOs and ministries that are working to integrate them into Lebanese society in several different ways.
We know that we need discernment and wisdom about when and which families to approach on the streets and interact with- since sometimes it may be putting the kids or ourselves in danger - but we hope to prayerfully encounter parents/mothers who wouldn't mind these sorts of interactions rather than pimp-assigned-guardians.
Please join us by giving to this cause - as we collect money for supplies for this project - and by praying with us for these refugee families on the streets of Hamra, a vibrant collegetown with so much potential to change this nation and all of the Middle East.