|The Compassion Protestant Society team includes, from left to right, Fadi Riachi, Joyce Sakr, Jackeline Saad, Boushra Sayah, Randa Gabriel and Khalil Haddad. Source: Presbyterian Mission|
Despite the recent focus on the Ukrainian refugee crisis the European partners responding, providing assistance to refugees and their families is not new for the Compassion Protestant Society (CPS).
As the diaconal arm of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), CPS has been working with refugees displaced by conflicts in the Middle East for more than three decades. In 2021 alone, CPS assisted nearly 2,000 families.
According to Fadi Riachi, CPS executive director, reports demonstrate that 80% of Lebanese and 99% of Syrian families who are refugees in Lebanon are unable to provide enough food for their families.
A strategic missions partner of the Presbyterian Missions Agency, CPS receives support from the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. in both the form of missionaries and grant funding. In a recent letter, two of these missionaries Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker wrote about one of the refugee families they were assisting with CPS programming.
Bchara is among the thousands who lost their homes during the Beirut port blast in August 2020 described by many in the Associated Press as “the biggest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded,” killing more than 200 people, injuring 7,000 and causing an estimated $4.6 billion in damage.
Since the explosion, he has undergone five heart surgeries and his wife and son suffer from mental health challenges.
The impacts of the explosion shattered the local economy and pushed more than half of the population below the poverty line.
Prior to August 2020, Bchara worked as an electrician making a salary of $5,000 per month. However, today he works as a security guard bringing home $60 a month. Further, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, Lebanon’s record year-on-year inflation rate rose to 224.39% as of December 2021.
This has resulted in basic food items like rice and milk costing more than 10 times what they did in 2019 and basic medicines such as insulin, aspirin and penicillin increasing by more than 500%.
The World Bank says that Lebanon’s economic collapse is “likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crisis episodes since the mid-19th century.”
Responding to these needs, CPS provided Bchara’s family with an $800 debit card, empowering them to be able to make essential purchases of medication, food and other supplies. Additionally, CPS provides supermarket vouchers, giving a record 1,000 vouchers a day during the month of March.
In partnership with the Parkers, CPS is distributing “Agro Baskets.” Given out in the seasonally, the winter baskets contain seedlings for mango, avocado, almond, walnut, lemon, cherry, pear or peach. Spring baskets include vegetable seeds and seedlings to nourish the basics of a Lebanese diet— tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers, basil, mint, parsley and zucchini.
“We intend to generate lasting local economic expansion through governance reform from the ground up,” said Riachi. “We’ll do this through developing democratic committees whose members will include grassroots leaders from the various economic, social and local authorities of each community. Our implementation teams will impart to these committees the skills to work across social, religious and political barriers to manage community economic agendas in a democratic, accountable fashion.”
“It’s a pretty amazing initiative, and other partners who have utilized this model have been quite successful at community-level transformation,” said Elmarie Parker. “As a Lebanese NGO with a Syrian and regional outreach, CPS has, in the relatively short period since its inception, attained a reputation for quick response and effective engagement in disastrous situations — Syrian refugees, the Beirut blast and COVID. The organization is now led by principal members who have joined CPS specifically to chart and accelerate the advancement of economic opportunities and education advancement through decentralized and functional democratic processes.”
Source: Presbyterian Mission