Hiking Lebanon for Syrian refugee children
My parents fled a war zone
I love to hike and travel. I’ve done lots of traveling around the world. I’ve hiked Peru, the Himalayas, the Hindu Kush, Mount Kilimanjaro and many other places. I find it’s the best way to see a country. When I started thinking about where I wanted to go next I realized it had to be Lebanon.
I was born in Australia but my parents came from Lebanon. I had always put off visiting Lebanon because I thought of it as a party destination. But the Lebanon Mountain Trail caught my eye. It would also be a chance to connect with my roots and see my cultural heritage. I had always wanted to see the cedar forests that Lebanon is famous for.
I figured I might as well do it for charity — raise some money and promote my homeland. As I thought about it, I decided what better way to do it than to help people there who are in need.
The experience of refugees is something that speaks to me personally. My parents left their homeland during the Lebanese Civil War in the 1970s.
Back then it was easier for people to migrate to the West. My folks were immediately welcomed into France. Later, they emigrated to Australia. The opportunities were much greater for refugees then. My parents were able to build lives for themselves and create opportunities for me to thrive.
Now it’s very hard for refugees to find a place to live. They are always living in fear of being forced to return to conflict. People need to know that refugees bring so much of value wherever they go. They can make positive contributions to any country in the world where they settle.
Hiking the Lebanon Mountain Trail
I arrived in Lebanon in early October with four other Australians. We started hiking the mountain trail. It was an amazing experience. Lebanon has a lot to offer, even compared to some other amazing, well-known hiking regions. I didn’t get to complete the full trail due to illness and other mishaps. We hiked about 125 miles (200 kilometers) in total.
It was an intense adventure. I was in the center area of the country when the wildfires broke out. Luckily, they weren’t close by. We were camping for much of the way and carrying our gear with us.
The locals we met were very friendly and often hosted us. We visited monasteries and mosques along the way.
Experiencing the October revolution in Lebanon
I went back to Beirut to recover after I got sick. Then the Lebanon revolution broke out. I joined some of the protests. That was how I learned about Anera.
While doing the hike across Lebanon, we raised about $5,600 ($8,000 Australian dollars). I knew I wanted to direct the money we raised toward helping refugees but I was still searching for the best way to do that. While I was in Beirut recuperating, I met someone at the protests who referred me to Anera.
I was there for five weeks in total and left in early November. It was such an amazing experience and time to be there when the revolution broke out.
Being raised by a family affected by war, I always heard the stories of how it created so many divisions between religions and parties. People who left often still hold on to those divisions.
So it was amazing to go to the protests and connect with people of all kinds. To see everyone relating well to each other. You could really feel that we are all brothers and sisters.
The protesters set up encampments in the streets. We sat in tents until 3 am discussing everything that was happening. The protesters were people from varied backgrounds but they were all there for the same reason. There would be a covered woman and a woman with a shaved head and tattoos and people from all sorts of subcultures. And they were all sitting in a circle talking about how they want to see Lebanon united and free of corruption.
It was amazing to experience the sense of solidarity and the feeling that the protesters are all one — all together. I’m grateful that I was able to experience it.
I planned to hike through some of Lebanon’s beautiful countryside and I did — but the trip ended up being more eventful than I ever could have expected. Thank you to everyone who donated to help support refugees in Lebanon.
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