The ancient ruins of Baalbek are pictured on many a postcard from Lebanon. Just a short drive from Beirut, the city draws tourists from around the world.
Baalbek is nestled in the Bekaa Valley, a mountainous region known for its farms and vineyards.
But few people know that the city also hosts a large population of refugees. The Wavel refugee camp (also known as Al Jalil) lies on the outskirts of Baalbek. It was established in 1952 to house 8,000 Palestinian refugees. But over the decades, the lack of economic opportunity in the rural area meant that many migrated elsewhere to live and make a living. Now there are about 3,000 Palestinian refugees left at Wavel Camp.
Without proper attire like winter boots, children have to walk to school through rain, snow and below-freezing temperatures.
Refugee Children Walk to School Without Warm Shoes
With the start of the Syrian civil war, the Bekaa region—and Wavel Camp in particular—saw an influx of Syrian refugees, as well as Palestinian refugees from Syria. In fact, the UNHCR reports that the Bekaa Valley hosts the most era, with around 35% of registered refugees residing there.
Given the poor socioeconomic conditions of residents of Wavel Camp, most families cannot afford to buy basic winter clothing for their children. Without proper winter attire like boots, children have to walk to school through rain, snow and below-freezing temperatures. And since the camp is located in a remote rural area, rainwater forms dirty puddles in the streets where they walk and play. The lack of waterproof winter boots increases their risk of contracting infectious diseases and of absences from school.
TOMS Winter Boots Come to the Preschoolers at Wavel
Anera delivered hundreds of high-quality TOMS winter boots this winter, so preschoolers at Wavel Camp can now keep their feet warm and dry this winter.
While the boots were distributed at Rawdat Alaqsa Preschool, four-year-old Abdel Hadi proudly hugged his new pair of TOMS. "Now the snow won't get on my feet," he said.
“Parents often defer the $200 tuition, and we have many cases of students who cannot afford even a fraction of this amount,” said Karima.
In total, 440 preschoolers received new boots. Of these, more than 40% were Syrian refugees or Palestinians from Syria.
“The poor situation of families here is critical, for both the original Palestinian refugees and those that fled Syria recently,” said Karima Hassan, principal of Rawdat Alaqsa Preschool. “Parents often defer the $200 tuition, and we have many cases of students who cannot afford even a fraction of this amount,” she added. Annually around 25 students are admitted for free on a humanitarian basis.
In Wavel Camp, Double Shifts for Refugee Children
Rawdat Alinaash Preschool is the oldest preschool in the camp, established in 1976. The preschool has added afternoon classes to accommodate preschoolers who are Palestinian refugees from Syria. Currently, a total of 105 students attend the afternoon classes, while 186 preschoolers from the initial refugees of Wavel attend the morning classes.
“Wavel Camp has welcomed around 630 families from Syria,” said Fatima Mosleh, principal of Rawdat Alinaash Preshcool. The arrival of so many new refugees has strained facilities and services in the camp, and has made it harder for parents to find work.
In these conditions, the distribution of TOMS Boots brings great relief to families in the camp. Now their children can walk, run and play safely and while keeping warm in the winter.