Assessing Damaged Homes and Rebuilding Beirut
Over the past couple of days, I set out to conduct damage assessments at homes in my beloved hometown of Beirut. I had with me a team with backgrounds in construction, social work and engineering. We confined ourselves to Beirut’s Bourj El Hammoud neighborhood, one of the worst hit by the explosion last week.
Glass covered the streets where we walked. In every direction, we saw destruction. There are no fronts to the buildings. Homes are just open to the world. People are walking around with bandages on their faces and wrapped around arms and legs.
Because there has been no official mapping of needs street-by-street so far – only on the neighborhood level – our assessments in the last two days meant knocking on doors and seeing what we would find.
The people who greeted us were so happy to see us! They invited us into their homes that are now open to the elements and strewn with broken furniture and TVs. Many of those we met were elderly women living alone. Some had serious illnesses that hampered their ability to move around and get help. We got the sense that many were simply waiting and hoping for a knock on the door.
Our team identified 24 homes that we will immediately begin rehabilitating with new windows and other repairs. We will employ our excellent graduates of our construction job skills classes from the Beirut Palestinian refugee camps and vulnerable Lebanese communities to do some of the work. While this rehab work begins, we will continue assessments and identify more homes, in coordination with other humanitarian actors on the ground. There is so much need!
Everyone has a story to tell about August 4th and where they were when the explosion happened. We all want to talk about it. I happened to be at home that day, as I wasn’t feeling well. Normally I would be at the office working late. Being home turned out to be fortuitous. My home suffered fairly minor damage, but my office was a mess! All of the glass – and there was a wall of it – was shattered in on top of the desks! When we went out to do the home assessments, we heard many similar stories. Some were so grateful they just happened to be visiting the mountains that day, for instance.
What has happened to our lovely city is heartbreaking, but what’s inspiring is that everyone wants to help Beirut and is coming together in solidarity, volunteering their time, and giving what they can to make things better. I am so grateful to have a job that lets me respond and help, and a community of Anera supporters behind me, who make our work possible.
We’ll rebuild beautiful Beirut together!
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