Coming Together to Make a Difference
This post is featured in our fall 2021 newsletter.
The last year-plus brought coronavirus to the world; economic collapse in Lebanon and a massive explosion that rocked Beirut; more encroachment of settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem; and another bombardment of Gaza, as well as the continued blockade.
But the Anera community met the moment, as it always has.
In 2020 and 2021, there were so many challenges. We had to think of new ways to do things and to invest more deeply in our ongoing programs. This tough period brought out three of Anera’s major strengths.
The first strength: our staff come from the communities they serve. They know the needs and can jump into action when crises arise. And, because we have been in the region for so long, our networks are well established.
COVID lockdowns, civil unrest, and fuel shortages often hindered our staff’s ability to travel. But their good relationships with trusted community activists and leaders, meant that Anera could continue building school infrastructure, teaching young people job skills, delivering food to families in need, getting medicines to patients, giving computer access to students, and much more.
The second strength: Anera has symbiotic programs that never lose focus on long-term human development, even when the immediate need is emergency humanitarian aid. While Anera delivers relief, we also invest in job creation, infrastructure, education and food longer-term security, so communities are prepared to survive and overcome the challenges each new crisis brings.
Our rooftop gardens in Gaza, for instance, continued to thrive and feed families – despite the bombings in May – because they need very little water and regular upkeep. The solar panels we’ve installed on buildings and water systems in Palestine and Lebanon have ensured they run despite electricity cuts. And we supply hundreds of healthcare centers with medicine donations while building their capacity by providing new medical equipment and upgrading their facilities.
The third strength: because we have systems and people in place, Anera can quickly and creatively pivot to build up our response as new needs arise.
In Lebanon, for example, Anera has had a vocational education program in place for many years. Through our network of training centers, we teach young people skills that will improve their chances at finding work and boost their entrepreneurial instincts. Our staff responded quickly to COVID and the economic collapse by hiring our vocational students to use their new skills meeting immediate needs. Our graduates made 1.6 million face masks, rehabilitated over 1,000 apartments and businesses in Beirut, and made 50,000 meals for hungry families.
In Gaza, Anera connected our greenhouse and women’s empowerment programs to provide healthy meals for children attending preschools that are part of our early childhood development program. When schools closed down during COVID-19, the program pivoted to serve hot meals to families in quarantine. And when the bombings in Gaza happened, the program pivoted yet again to serve families who were displaced from their homes.
The situation may seem overwhelming and bleak. You may feel powerless to effect change. But if you take one thing away from our message to you today, please know that you are making a real difference in real people’s lives. In these chaotic times, solidarity takes courage.
Don’t doubt the power we have as a community. When we come together we get things done.
Even after this war is over, the decimation of life and infrastructure in Gaza will take many years to overcome.