The informal camp in Bar Elias in the Beqaa Valley was set up in 2011, a few months after the Syrian war erupted next door. It is now home to more than 110 families. Last winter several deaths were reported after roofs collapsed under the weight of heavy snow. There was a shortage of winter items, like clothes and blankets. This year, this camp, along with other refugee settlements in the Beqaa valley, have been included in ANERA’s newly expanded winterization programs that reach out to the valley to support the refugees.

On a recent cloudy morning, camp residents waited for the distribution of a shipment of 5,400 quilts, 800 school kits and some 3,000 hygiene kits. The generous donation from Lutheran World Relief (LWR) is helping refugee families cope with the coming winter cold.

Life Changes Drastically for a Young Syrian Girl

Waiting along with her grandmother is seven-year-old Zainab Hisso from Aleppo, Syria. “My parents decided to bring us to Lebanon one by one to keep us safe,” she explains. “I got here first with my grandmother but my mother and father got hit by a missile on their way back to Aleppo to bring my brother.”

Now the young Syrian refugee lives alone with her grandmother in the camp. Her 10-year-old brother remains in Aleppo at his aunt’s house. Zainab says she and her grandmother take care of each other because they have no other family outside Syria.

Zainab's parents were killed trying to get her brother out of Syria. She lives alone with her grandmother.

Zainab’s parents were killed trying to get her brother out of Syria. She lives alone with her grandmother.

After picking up her parcel, Zainab leads her grandmother to their tent where she invites her young friends to join them for tea. “This is Ismail and Aya, my best friends,” she says as she introduces them. “We go to school together, play and eat together, we are inseparable.”

Syrian Refugee: Zainab's story

Zainab wraps herself up in her new quilt.

Zainab explains her daily routine. “Next to the camp there is a school for children like me where we have English, Arabic and math classes.” That’s where Zainab was introduced to school lessons, pencils, books and notepaper to draw. She smiles and hugs her school kit.

“If I were to rule the world, I would send parents to work and children to school,” Zainab declares. “This is how the world should be: We should only have to worry about school and pencils.” She adds, “One day I will become a teacher, a math teacher or science – okay, a teacher in general regardless of the subject.”

Losing Sight of Dreams as Winter Approaches

That’s just one of Zainab’s many wishes: She also wants buy a new pair of shoes because her sandals are too tight for her feet. And, Zainab says, she wants to return home to Aleppo. “I remember our big house. We had a big kitchen and my room was big and filled with dolls and we had a large garden where we used to play. Life was beautiful there,” says Zainab. Then she frowns, “Do you think my house has been destroyed?”

The UN reports more than 1.1 million Syrians are registered as refugees in Lebanon. Living conditions are overcrowded and dismal, with few educational opportunities and no space for children to play. For thousands of young Syrian refugee children like Zainab, dreams of a wonderful life back home are fading as the cold harsh conditions of their new reality takes hold.

Zainab and her friends play in the refugee tent settlement that is now their home.

Zainab and her friends play in the tent settlement that is now their home.


Giving Tuesday for Refugees in Lebanon

Mahmoud Imreish is 26 years old. He lives near Hebron where he is a familiar face at the charitable medical center in the Old City of Hebron. Mahmoud has Down Syndrome. For two years, he has been the patient of Dr. Wael Al-Rajabi’s and considers him a good friend now.

Mahmoud lives in extreme poverty with his brothers and sisters. After losing his parents, he turned to his siblings and charity organizations for help. Because of his intellectual disability, he is unable to work or maintain a steady income. Mahmoud managed to buy some basic medication for his condition with help from the people around him. Now, he is able to benefit from the center’s free treatment and medication services. Dr Rajabi says it has lifted a huge burden off his shoulders.

Medical Donation Eases Burden on Clinic, Patients

Mahmoud smiles holding new medication from a recent medical donation to Palestine

Mahmoud smiles holding the new medication.

Doctor Rajabi explains that the center receives a lot of cases with congenital abnormalities, and its doors are always open to them, regardless of their financial backgrounds. So medical donations like those ANERA can deliver are of great value to the center and its patients. Dr. Rajabi says they are crucial to the center’s sustainability. The majority of patients cannot afford to buy the medicines they need so the center depends on donor organizations to provide those vital medications for them.

One of those medicines was an antibiotic donated by Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC). It has helped patients like Mahmoud treat urinary tract infections. The doctors are encouraged about the effectiveness of the medicine because of its extended release feature, which means that Mahmoud has to take the medication only once a day. “A tablet a day from this excellent medication requires minimal follow-up from his family. It is something he can easily remember to take,” explained Dr. Rajabi.

He says the center treats 40 to 50 patients a week with urinary tract infections. The number soared this summer because of an unusual heat wave, causing cases of dehydration that the doctor says can lead to urinary infections. The change in weather can affect people with Down Syndrome even more because of abnormalities in their immune systems.

As Dr. Rajabi watches Mahmoud walk down the hall to collect the medicine and greet everyone on his way, he says he is heartened to know that donations like the HPIC medicines can help his patients and ease their financial burdens. “Mahmoud has amazing kindness. I wish we all had his big heart.”

Dr. Rajabi and Mahmoud have become good friends at the Palestinian clinic.

Dr. Rajabi and Mahmoud have become good friends.

In the village of Dar Salah, located about 4 miles east of the city of Bethlehem, there is only one medical facility that serves all 3,300 inhabitants. The modest charitable medical center also opens its doors to patients from five nearby villages, and with its out-reach and health care services makes sure that the most vulnerable and secluded communities are also taken good care of.

Starting from a one-story building established in 2001 with limited service, the clinic has been able to gradually grow with help from friends like ANERA. Vital medications and supplies donated by generous donors such as AmeriCares and Vitamin Angels are truly the propellers that keep such small, yet important, Palestinian clinics going and growing. Through ANERA’s solid partnerships with highly reliable medical facilities, the medicines reach the most impoverished and vulnerable of communities at no cost at all.

Always having vital medications in stock alleviates some of the facilities’ financial burdens, allowing some room for possible self-development. The well-kept center in Dar Salah has now expanded into two floors housing a gynecology clinic, general physicians’ clinic, pediatric clinic, dental clinic, medical laboratory and storage room.

Maternal Health Care Palestine: Mother and Baby

34-year-old Reem is anemic, like many young women in her neighborhood, and had trouble getting out of bed due to fatigue, even before her pregnancy.

Prenatal Vitamins Help Women Suffering from Vitamin Deficiencies

Most recently, the doctors were delighted to receive a generous donation of multivitamins for pregnant and lactating women from AmeriCares. Each multivitamin bottle contains 180 capsules, and they are given to women for free. If patients were to obtain similar supplements, it would cost each patient over $10 a month; a heavy burden, especially for expecting mothers.

People like you make our medical in-kind program possible. Learn more>>

Over the past several years a common phenomenon of anemia has been observed in the population of Dar Salah, particularly among women. This has been attributed to bad nutritional habits, leading to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. Gynecology resident Anas Jawareesh explains just how important the donation is to mother and child health:

“We examine around 350 women a month, some of whom are pregnant, and the majority of them suffer from vitamin deficiencies and anemia. There is a constant need for multivitamins, especially because most of our patients come from extremely poor backgrounds — and donations like this one help us cover it.”

At a health clinic in Palestine, a doctor holds baby.

Dr. Jawareesh holds baby Solin during her mother’s routine visit to the clinic. He has been vital in ensuring both the mother and infant’s good health.

Gynecology resident Anas Jawareesh explains just how important the donation is to mother and child health: “We examine around 350 women a month, some of whom are pregnant, and the majority of them suffer from vitamin deficiencies and anemia. There is a constant need for multivitamins, especially because most of our patients come from extremely poor backgrounds — and donations like this one help us cover it.”

Fatigue, weak legs, headaches, nausea are familiar symptoms to many expecting mothers during the first three months of pregnancy, but Reem Dannoun had experienced these symptoms them even before she was expecting.

“I couldn’t just simply get up in the morning, and I found house chores to be physically draining. I felt exhausted all the time,” said 34-year-old housewife Reem. The symptoms increased during her pregnancy, and she soon learned from her doctor that she had low blood count and needed multivitamins to help her regain her strength. Luckily, the timely delivery from ANERA was able to help her, as well as many expecting mothers like her.

Reem has two older children and a three-year-old girl. “My older son and daughter were my personal helpers around the house during my pregnancy. They knew I had no energy to do any work, so they would help each other with their homework and do some chores around the house to make things easier on me,” explained Reem with a proud smile.

A Healthy Child is Born, But Community Health Concerns Continue

Today, Reem visits Dr. Jawareesh with her new baby in her arms. Now 5 months old, Solin is a very healthy and playful little girl. Reem continues to benefit from the multivitamin donation, as she is determined to carry on with the natural breastfeeding for as long as she can, as advised by her doctor.

“Often, women, and mothers in particular, innocently neglect their own health trying to take care of everyone around them,” explained the doctor. “At the center, we always make sure women are reminded of their responsibility towards their own health as well.”

Baby Solin reaches for her mother's multivitamins in Palestine health clinic

Mothers like Reem have trouble keeping a balanced diet due to extreme poverty and a lack of awareness. She will continue to take multivtiamins throughout her breastfeeding period. Baby Solin is excited!

The medical staff at the center deeply believes in the power of public health education, launching several campaigns and delivering workshops to men and women alike in Dar Salah on topics that aim at developing the health of their community. According to Dr. Jawareesh, poverty remains a strong obstacle in the way of the community’s well-being and prosperity. “When a mother like Reem comes in with an obvious case of anemia, we know that poverty has played an important role in that.” With five mouths to feed, Reem’s husband who is a small greengrocer, barely makes enough money to take care of his growing family’s basic needs.

However; Reem and her husband are lucky to have a steady source of income at all, as unemployment in their village has reached an astounding 50%, according to a research conducted by the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem in 2010.

“Not only do patients lack awareness,” continues Dr. Jawareesh. “They also lack the resources to provide a well-balanced diet for their families. Through your donations, be it multivitamins or antibiotics or chronic disease medications, we can take care of their health, allowing them to turn their attention to their own development and their kids’ future.”

Giving Tuesday Palestine Health Care

A handwritten recipe hangs on a green tree outside Al Rahma preschool in Gaza. Children and teachers check the list as they gather around a small table to prepare a delicious treat.

It’s a lot of fun. But teacher Iman Ali explains that cooking at this preschool is about more than just preparing food – it’s a multifaceted educational activity. “This is a way to introduce new words to our children in a fun way,” she says with a smile. “Today we’re making cake and the kids will help make it happen and learn some new vocabulary, like vanilla, baking powder or cooking oil.”

Through cooking, children also improve their math skills by doing simple tasks like counting eggs or pouring water into a measuring cup. The child-friendly cake recipe lists quantities and measurements but also has pictures to make learning new skills easier. For instance, “one cup of milk” is written and then illustrated with a representative drawing.

Education in Palestine takes the form of baking for these Gaza preschoolers.

At Al Rahma preschool, children learn math, science and vocabulary through the real life process of baking a cake.

Activity Centers Critical for Children in Palestine

Cooking for the children also opens up the world of science and nature as they do experiments by themselves, with help from the teacher. “They follow the steps of scientific research and they learn how to solve problems as well,” explains Suad Lubad, an ANERA Early Childhood Development (ECD) trainer, who advises the teachers on active learning methods as the core of a successful educational program.  

Education Gaza Preschools: Teacher Iman Ali Makes a Cake

Teacher Iman Ali gets hands on helping her students prepare their cake.

ANERA recently renovated Al Rahma preschool inside and out, adding bright colors and activity centers to classrooms and play areas. The cooking class takes place in the schoolyard as part of the science and nature center activity that allows children to explore and experiment with handmade materials or recycled materials and other educational tools, from flour, salt and spices to magnets, tree leaves and flowers.

ANERA offers training to teachers to incorporate creative learning into activity centers, such as reading, science, art and music. The activities are an essential part of active learning that ANERA’s Right Start! ECD program has been promoting in preschools.

During an activity like cake baking, the teacher can observe the children’s interaction and how they handle different challenges. ‘The kids learn that if they want to have a good cake they must follow the recipe so if they face any problem as they prepare the cake, they have to figure out how to resolve it,” says teacher Iman Ali.

Teacher & Trainer Insights on Interactive Learning

Trainer Suad Lubad describes problem-solving as the essence of the math exercises, that include addition and subtraction.

Your #GivingTuesday gift can fund programs like this one. Learn more >>

“For instance, when children make dough from flour, water, oil and sugar, sometimes the mixture gets watery and this prompts them to look for a solution. They may think to add more or less flour and this is called comparison. They know that some materials are liquid, some are hard, some are powdered, and some have a smell and some don’t,” says Suad.

The fun class is also a valuable learning experience for the teacher who shares information with her trainer about the children’s physical and cognitive development. Iman reflects:

“The main thing is that in this science activity center and all other activity centers the children have a lot of fun, which makes the learning process a thrilling and memorable experience that stays with them for the rest of their lives.”

More Photos of Al Rahma Preschool Children Baking

At the Lebanese International University campus in northern Lebanon, a group of 400 teenage boys and girls – Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese – are gathered on a field, smiling and joking with one another. In the middle of Lebanon’s refugee crisis, this is a rare sight.

Most refugee children in Lebanon have been out of school for several years. It’s currently estimated that some 80 percent of Syrian children in the country are unable to attend school. Instead, they spend their days working long hours in convenience stores and restaurants, or peddling roses and chewing gum on the streets. They want to learn and play, but they can’t afford the bus to school or have to work when classes are typically held.

In these critical years of their lives, many youths in Lebanon are missing out on regular socialization activities. Most have been victims of poverty and violence. And all are aware of the tensions between their respective communities: Who is receiving the most aid? Who’s taking up most of the jobs? Who’s to blame?

Sports & New Uniforms Unite Youth in Nahr El Bared

But today is different. There’s excitement in the air. It’s ANERA’s Open Sports Day event for the youth of Nahr El Bared Palestinian refugee camp and their peers in surrounding communities. Children and teens are running around the field, passing soccer balls. They wear brand new blue, gray and red sports jerseys.

Lebanon refugee crisis: teen tries on soccer uniform

New uniforms Ziad and his teammates feel like they are part of a real team.

Ziad Ahmad, 17, is a member of the Wahdeh Soccer Club, an ANERA partner in Nahr El Bared. Showing off his new jersey, he says “The uniform makes me feel like I’m part of a team. It also makes me feel confident, like a real soccer player.”

Indeed, the teams do look professional with their new uniforms and soccer gear, which ANERA has delivered thanks to a donation from Reach Out to Asia (ROTA). In total, 1,400 sets of sports gear and uniforms were distributed to teams and clubs in different regions and camps throughout the country, benefiting 2,000 children. The Wahdeh Soccer Club was thrilled to be a recipient.

Wahdeh Coach Khalil Monsour says it has helped his team bond.

“A sports jersey may not mean much to others,” he explains. “But for these children, who come from fragmented communities and are constantly faced with challenges, it helps them create a sense of belonging and community.”

Teen refugee girls try on their uniforms in Nahr El Bared Lebanon

Teen girls try on their new uniforms at ANERA’s distribution and Open Sports Day.

Refugee Youth Development: Filling in the Gaps

This isn’t the first time that ANERA’s program implementers in Lebanon have used sports to reach at-risk youth. Since 2010, ANERA has been working with organizations like Reach Out to Asia and USAID’s Office of Transitional Assistance to ease tensions and provide safe-havens for young people through sports.

Team shows off jerseys in refugee sports program in Lebanon

ANERA’s sports program helps Coach Mansour’s team bond and benefit from a sense of community among their peers.

ANERA’s first youth development project with Reach Out to Asia in 2010 helped build the foundation for a robust non-formal education program that includes a large sports component.

Presently, ANERA’s sports program in Lebanon renovates playing fields in camps and tent settlements, helps sports clubs build capacity for practices and tournaments, hosts workshops and open days, and trains community leaders and coaches to sustain the programs. By stressing the importance of gender inclusion, ANERA also makes sure that girls have the chance to play.

The approach seems to be working. Coach Mansour, the Wahdeh Sports Club soccer coach, describes the changes in his team since they’ve become part of ANERA’s program. “There is much more cohesion, commitment and team spirit. I can see my team coming together and working together as one, unified unit.”

Giving Tuesday Gaza