Lebanon (MNN) — Millions of Syrian refugees are fleeing their country. Some are looking for safety in countries that refuse to take them. Others are piling into countries that already have disasters of their own.
“This is the worst refugee crisis for many, many years. And the UN has described it as the greatest humanitarian tragedy of our time,”says Matt Parker of Kids Alive International. “Lebanon itself is a country that has received 1.5 million Syrian refugees.”
With those numbers and more still adding up, around one in three people in Lebanon are refugees, and it’s causing instability.
Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil recently warned the crisis was creating devastating effects on the country’s security and economy. “This crisis had catastrophic effects on security, development, the economy, the society, and the environment…. [It] broke the back of our infrastructure–especially the health, education, energy, water institutions,” he said.
While seeing the effects the crisis has on permanent residents, we also look at Syrian refugees who are struggling to simply survive. “A lot of these refugees are living in squalor. Many of them are just in temporary tents, and they really have no hope of returning home anytime soon,” Parker says.
Diseases have spread through refugee camps, and any harsh weather conditions can have drastic effects on livelihoods.
“Of course it’s the kids that really suffer in these situations. Children are at risk of forced marriages, at risk of hunger, violence,” says Parker. “Many of them have no opportunity to go to school. They face discrimination. A lot of them are just ending up on the streets.”
But last year, Kids alive started their Oasis Refugee Center, where kids are able to continue their education, receive food, daily care, and learn about the love of Christ. Right now, they’re keeping around 100 kids off the streets.
“The exciting thing is that we really see our program working,” Parker says.
“The kids are really making excellent progress academically. We are seeing their health improve. We’re seeing self-esteem growing. And we’re so encouraged to see these children recognizing the love of God.”
The program isn’t without its challenges. however. The start of kids’ schooling is pretty rocky. Caretakers have seen how difficult it is to get through to refugee children. “The kids that we work with come from such desperate circumstances, and it takes time for them to really settle into our program.”
Parker shares the story of a boy who didn’t want to interact or engage in games or programs. He didn’t want to play with the other children, and he didn’t want to smile.
But after weeks of caregivers showing him love and support, there was a transformation. The boy started participating and was much more joyful. Parker notes that now, the boy is usually the first one who offers to pray.
“We’ve seen that in a lot of the kids as they come to us. They come into our program, and they’re struggling. They’ve seen so much; they’ve experienced so much pain. But just as they receive the love and care and support on a day-to-day basis and they have the security of the ministry, we see great changes in their lives.”
That isn’t the only problem the program deals with. They also need resources and additional staff.
“Please consider supporting our work and [help us] to add another 60 children to our program over the next few months… That will allow us to expand. It will allow us to share the love of Jesus with them, provide shelter, food, medical care, education–these kids’ basic needs.”