Project Description

Help for orphans in Lebanon

The situation in the country

Lebanon is a country in Western Asia on the Mediterranean Sea and although it is a mainland it is actually an “island” because the neighboring countries are the warring country Syria and the deadly enemy Israel. The port is thus Lebanon’s only access to the outside, where brisk trade and exchange took place for centuries. But in 2020, a gigantic explosion in the port left a picture of devastation: a Part of the city of Beirut was destroyed and thousands of people remain homeless to this day. But the blast has also created an ongoing government crisis. This resulted in a massive supply shortage, there is a lack of petrol, electricity, medicines and much more. In some places there is no access to water.

In addition to the government crisis and the shortage of supplies, over 1.5 million Syrians found refuge in Lebanon due to its geographical location between Syria and Israel. In addition, there are around 500,000 Palestinian refugees in the country, which is roughly the size of Upper Austria. Only a few local NGOs try to help the people in need.

The severe political problems and collapsed economy triggered massive inflation. The locals can no longer help the 2 million refugees who have found shelter in their country because they themselves fear for their existence. Unfortunately, this is not the end of Lebanon’s crises: the country is 100% dependent on grain supplies from Ukraine. Rising grain prices are exacerbating the country’s ongoing supply crisis.

Our help on site

In mid-October 2021 and in May 2022, we set off for Lebanon with an aid team to help refugee (orphan) children on site. Our team was a colorful mix of artists, clowns, musicians and volunteers. They all had the common goal of giving the children joy of life through their artistic shows and confidence through the distribution of donated relief goods. In 2022, we were accompanied for the first time by a team of artists who offered the children mobile painting workshops.

The mission of our relief efforts in Lebanon is simple: Personal help for the many refugee children in Lebanon. But our ways of helping on site are very different:
  • Foundation of the school “Oxygen”

One of our heart projects in Lebanon is the “Oxygen” school in the middle of the huge Shatila refugee ghetto in Beirut. About 30,000 refugees live there, who after decades are still considered refugees and have very few rights, they are, so to speak, “second-class people”. There are also hardly any educational opportunities for the thousands of children in Shatila.

During our first aid mission in 2021, we met the young, committed teacher named Batoul. She finally got support from two other teachers (Shaymaa and Hiba), who we were able to hire. Both are 22 years old and attended the International University of Beirut. Shaymaa speaks absolutely perfect English and is also good at teaching it to the children. Hiba teaches mathematics and history, Batoul himself teaches Arabic and takes the children on excursions and sports activities – if time and money allow it.

The three young teachers teach around 200 children between the ages of 6 and 14. The classes are made up of 50% Palestinian and 50% Syrian children.
  • Foundation of the school “Together we can”
A few days ago we were in the second huge refugee ghetto in Beirut, the “Burj al Barajneh”. Between 30-40,000 refugees live here in their own microcosm – without running water, only with salt water and a maximum of one hour of electricity per day. Dhe large refugee camps are more like a district or ghetto with their multi-storey houses, built close together and separated only by narrow connecting streets. These neighborhoods have the highest population density in the world at 40,000 people per square kilometer! In addition to Palestinians, about 50% Syrian refugees now also live here.

Weeks before our departure, caravan founder Pascal received a call for help by email from the teacher Mirvat. Similar to Shatila, the problem here in Burj al Barajneh was that there was simply no money to rent classrooms. However, the needs of a school exceeded the size of the small roof terrace, on which the teachers have tried to give 120 children between the ages of 4 and 13 access to education. So the school in Burj al Barajneh was about to close.

After our first conversation, we promised the teachers that we would support their project in the long term. Nevertheless, the ladies couldn’t believe that a few days later we kept our promise and handed over the annual rent for the new school building (a three-room apartment) to the owner. The shining eyes of the teachers were in no way inferior to those of the children during the clown shows.
  • Support for very special children
Thanks to our local partner NGO ISWA, we learned about two centers for children and young people with special needs. The supervisors look after more than 80 children and young people with special needs with joy and a lot of love. And that despite the difficult situation: Both centers were on the brink of existence because the Lebanese themselves had not received any support since the economic crisis.
Thanks to our donors, we were able to raise funds for the salaries of the supervisors (EUR 2,651.44) and the renewal of the solar system (EUR 2,548.56).
We were very touched by these projects and we will in any case continue to accompany them and – with your help – continue to support them!
  • Mobile painting room
The artist and director of the Pfullendorf art school, Till Schilling from the Allgäu, accompanied us for the first time on our relief mission in May 2022. His two assistants, Sabine Gerstenmaier and Anja Kocher, also traveled with him. The new caravan members prepared themselves well for the assignment and took high-quality art equipment with them to work with the children in painting.

20 to 30 children daily had the opportunity to express their feelings through their paintings. It was painted freely without adult criticism and without thematic interference. The great strength of the mobile painting room: Feelings, thoughts and moods can be expressed without words and thus mostly directly and are captured and made visible in the pictures.

The children gladly accepted the offer and were very enthusiastic about it. It was a great pleasure to be able to give the children back a little joie de vivre, stability and self-confidence.
  • Caravan of clowns – encounter through laughing together

The caravan of clowns was supported in both relief operations by the “ Clowns without Borders eV ” from Germany. The aid team visited refugee camps, where hundreds of children often have to live on their own. These children have probably seldom or never before seen adults who just had two or three hours of fun with them. The adults in the camps have other tasks to deal with …

The time after the shows was at least as valuable for the children as the clowning and the art of blowing bubbles. Clown Anita told how the children melted away when she painted little make-up on their faces with a brush or, even better, with her finger. How important the smallest, tender touches are for us humans was also shown in a camp in the mountains of Lebanon: After the show, some children began to hug the clowns, which happened more often. That afternoon, however, it turned into a real “hug orgy”. Many of them had closed their eyes tightly, smiled blissfully and would have loved to never let go.

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“Even if everything is just a drop in the ocean, with our donations and our on-site help, we actually save human lives from freezing to death.”

BRUNO MAUL • ON-SITE TEAM

Photos from our aid operation in Lebanon

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