Here at the "Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon" (MSRCL) our volunteers work tirelessly to help feed the hungry refugee children from war-torn Syria. We are always overwhelmed by the need, always short on funds and always amazed by the resourcefulness, resilience and even playfulness of these children that have literally been through hell. The fortunate ones were able to flee Syria with their parents and family.
Many children only have a single parent or relative, and a large number of the children are orphans. But we do not ask the children many personal questions about their family and war experience. The children have all been emotionally traumatized, suffer from anxiety, depression and nightmares; despite the outward playful appearance. Food is in short supply, the children know the meaning of hunger and we cannot feed them all. But as we say at MSRCL: "We cannot help everybody, but everybody can help somebody."
This Easter Morning I reflected back on my childhood and Easter at 2516 SE Lake Road, Milwaukie, Oregon. My sainted Bavarian Mother, Helen Barbara Osterhammar Lamb always prepared for her flock a large glazed roasted ham with all the trimmings. There were candied sweet potatoes at the base of the ham, pineapple rings tooth picked to its sides and a vast menu of other delicious entrees.
To top it off we had the "Lamb family's special Easter Cake" with thick glazed white German frosting and jelly beans. Every chance I got while Mom was not looking I would take a swipe of the frosting on the side of the large five or six layered cake. Of course she could not help but see my fingerprints all over the cake, but she just smiled and pretended not to notice.
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Then after a quick trip to Beirut for an important meeting I was thinking of the words of Dr. Swee Chai Ang , the heroine of Palestine for her inimitable work, loyalty, devotion and unmatched commitment to justice for Palestine:
May the Lord bless you and keep you;
The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace".
Dr. Ang and her brave staff saved countless lives at Shatila's Palestinian refugee camp. They had endured the bombing during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, and risked their own lives to save others during the four days of slaughter in September 1982 at Sabra-Shatila Palestinian camp.
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After Easter Service at St. George Cathedral I decided to take a break and just sit by the sea and reflect. I took a short-cut on my scooter through some alleys near UNESCO, not far from Shatila camp and I came upon some Syrian refugee street children picking through garbage (photo above). It is not unusual. These little ones happen to be Christians from Aleppo. Like many Syrian refugee children in Lebanon they are sometimes condemned to living on the street and sometimes they sleep outside of certain apartment buildings, huddling under the outside stairs to buildings to escape the rainy season.
The little boy to the left in the photo below, his name is Yahya (John), is holding up a prize of blue smelly trousers. His sisters Mariana and Rana told me he can wear them to help keep him warm.
Of course the children were hungry. So with two riding with me on the scooter and the rest piled in a taxi, I took the lovely gaggle for an impromptu Easter feast. Their unanimous choice was McDonald's! While not personally a huge fan of McDonald's I somewhat reluctantly acceded to their entreaties. The children were just so excited and happy that I could not disappoint them. So dipping into my own pocket away we went to a McDonald's.
Except for rare exceptions, MSRCL seeks to provide hot highly nutritional meals, like the ones in the photos below, for Syrian Refugee Children. But sometimes events, conditions, or urgencies occur. What could be more urgent than an Easter "feast" for these street kids who have been through such horrors. My only regret was that I could not offer them a real feast like the spread my Bavarian Mother always prepared.
Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon, (MSRCL)
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So McDonald's is what I served these street children for an "Easter Feast"! (See Picture below). The fruit was donated by Beirut Wholesale Vegetable Market. Sorry but under the circumstances it is all I could do and it brought a little happiness to a few children. They ate everything on their plate! No picky eaters, these malnourished angels.
Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon (MSRCL)
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Unfortunately MSRCL cannot help every child in Syria, nor can we take them all to McDonald's, but we do what we can with what we have. Everybody can help somebody!
The little lad shown above is four year old Basil from Aleppo. He has known nothing since his birth but the death of his family, starvation, bombs and massive destruction of his neighborhood, which until 12/23/2017 was occupied by Jihadist militia. Now he loves to come to Aleppo Park in Beirut.
We at MSRCL are not in the habit of asking Syrian refugee children personal questions about what they experienced or about what became of their mothers and fathers. They have been through enough without our questions but often children want to tell us some things and once in a while we feel ok about asking" "hi al'umm muafq?" (Is Mommy ok?).
Mariam is from a neighborhood in East Aleppo. It never ceases to amaze me how only a short time after fleeing Syria with basically only the clothes on their backs parents achieve much toward 'normalizing' the lives of their children. The father in the photo above even found an Easter Sunday dress for the "Princes", who proudly wore it at Aleppo Park on Easter Sunday as she picked flowers.
A warm Sunday Easter at Beirut's Aleppo Park in the photo above.
In the above photo children are climbing a fence to get to the beach. The fence was erected by the five star beachfront Kempinski Summerland Hotel & Resort abutting Aleppo Park. The fence is patently illegal, but when challenged by MSRCL two days later they did produce a "permission license" from the Beirut Municipality. The cost of the 'license' is anyone's guess and surely the bribe went into somebody's pocket. But the good news is that the smart refugee kids are already burrowing under and climbing over the illegal fence after which they slide down the hill and enjoy the sea at what should be a public beach (photo below).
The photo below is the eastern boundary of Aleppo Park and opposite the Kempinski Resort. MSRCL plans to teach swimming lessons for Syrian refugee children.
Being Easter Sunday the Lebanese army were absent from their watchtower monitoring the Syrian refugees enjoying Aleppo Park (photo below).
But they have increased the razor wire on the eastern side of Aleppo Park (photo below).
But again resourceful Syrian refugee youngsters who have endured hell in their own country tend to become skilled at picking and maneuvering a path through or over the razor wire.
Considering everything, it was an enjoyable Easter Sunday for Christians and others from Aleppo and other areas of Syria this war-torn holiday season.
Meals for Syrian Refugee Children, Lebanon
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