“When problems are combined, that’s when it gets tough,” said Sayeed Milan, co-founder of TSI partner, Warm Heart Lebanon. “It’s like, where do we start.”
Despite the socio-economic climate, Warm Heart takes the job of representing Christ to under-served people seriously.
They press on, delivering instruction and vocational classes to Syrian families through blizzard conditions that often swirl through the mountains surrounding Bekaa Valley, a region of Lebanon filled with refugee camps. On top of that, aid was slow in coming when Lebanese banks went on strike, and in February, a massive earthquake
struck Turkey and Syria with far-reaching effects across the Middle East.
Earthquake affects the entire Middle East
Families in Bekaa Valley spent the early hours after the quake outside their tents, afraid they would collapse. Joseph Milan of Warm Heart was on his way to the valley within half an hour.
“It was 40 seconds of shaking and a [lower magnitude] in Lebanon,” said Joseph.
“On Sunday our mobile school was being used as a clinic
, on Monday at dawn it was used to deliver supplies.”
As Lebanon emerged relatively unscathed, the government sent a team to Syria to help with the damage there, including Sayeed. They retrieved 55 bodies and two survivors.
Sayeed also traveled to Turkey with a second team to retrieve the bodies of two Lebanese citizens. The team drove for hours past collapsed buildings, completing their mission on a Sunday. One day later, a 6.6-magnitude aftershock collapsed the hotel where they had been staying.
“I felt the protection of the Lord,” said Sayeed. “Lebanon was praying for us. The mobile-school children sent videos of encouragement saying, ‘We love you, thank you.’”
Hurdles are nothing new
Sayeed says hurdles are nothing new to Warm Heart, or to Lebanon.
“Since I was born Lebanon has always had crises of varying degrees
. We don’t have any challenges [we can’t overcome], but what hinders us is when you have snow, students don’t leave the tents as much. Their parents don’t let them. They are not equipped with clothes to go back and forth between home and school.”
Consistent attendance by students is an ongoing problem Sayeed hopes to remedy with funding from the Wheels of Change campaign,
covering a heated basecamp tent and vocational training that some parents view as providing more value than academic instruction.
“We know that without education, [Syrian children] cannot achieve much, but they don’t have that perspective. Food, security, family, belonging all come first. Later, self-actualization.