The last couple weeks have been busy for our team here in Lebanon distributing winter jackets to children throughout communities that are hosting Syrian refugees. It’s part of our work to help both refugee and host families who do not have enough to stay warm this winter.
More than 240,000 Syrians have now fled to Lebanon, including 20,000 in the last week of January alone. They can’t bring much with them, and they arrive to find little shelter. Most end up in temporary settlements or makeshift shelters that don’t even have windows or doors, let alone heaters and blankets.
On the first day we distributed jackets at a local school, I met a family who had been in Lebanon just one week. The mother and her eight children fled Syria without bringing any other clothes with them, and they didn’t have a heater where they were staying. The weather was very bad and temperatures were below freezing. With the jackets, she told me, “My kids can have some warmth now.”
The next day, we brought jackets to an area where many Lebanese families were already living in poverty, but had opened up their homes and helped refugees as much as they could. Now, both host families and refugees are struggling as money and supplies run low after months of this prolonged crisis.
When the children, both Syrian and Lebanese, held their new jackets, their grateful smiles and sparkling eyes were full of compassion and kindness. I won’t ever forget those looks, especially one particular little boy, about 5 years old, who helped his little brother into his new coat and exclaimed, “It’s the first time we are wearing new clothes!”
In all, we ended up distributing more than 1,600 jackets to children at various schools, as well as the centers where we’ve been running our Comfort for Kids and Moving Forward activities since last summer.
Our play therapy and group activities have been helping these kids cope with the difficult situation around them. But they had been more scared and sad since the first bad storms hit last month. When I saw them in their jackets, their smiles had returned. They are constantly reminding me of the power of hope even in the worst times.