Fr. William Stuart – Syrian Refugees in Lebanon

Letter from Fr. William Stuart – 1,2,3′s and a,b,c’s

South Lebanon

July 2020

Dear Fr. John,

Greetings from a very warm and very confused Lebanon.  We are in complete flux here politically and economically. When I  ask people what will happen the same answer comes from everyone, ‘no one knows’.   During the week there was a Hezbollah bomb only 23km from Tyre where I operate. It’s getting too close and unpredictable to be taken for granted. I  fear the worst is yet to come.

We have enrolled our 60 kids from the camps but we will have to bite the bullet and take much more. The financial situation here in Lebanon means that many refugee kids who up to now would have found education in state schools will not now be offered a place. The sheer number of lebanonese transferring from private to state schools because of the crisis means there is ‘no room at the Inn’ for the displaced Syrians.

In addition to all of this the level of corruption and theft among many NGOs is way beyond belief. Most of the international aid that came following the August 4 bomb was sent to NGOs as no one trusts the political establishment.  This aid has been largely stolen. I was speaking to a high level UNIFIL official on Monday who told me that following the bomb local volunteers swept the streets but the aluminium and glass sent by overseas aid in all its forms has disappeared. I personally know of one local NGO that received supplies of medical aid. They got their staff to package and store the equipment in order to sell it at a later date, none of it was forwarded to those in need.  Corruption and service to self has ruined a beautiful country on the shores of the Mediterian. That corruption is now so endemic that it is hard to see how the ‘pearl of the Middle East’ can emerge from its new status as a failed state.  In the meantime my Team and I will continue to support as best we can our students and their families knowing its a tiny drop  in a very  large ocean but as always it’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

And the best for last!

As you know I spent much of my time at home plugging my cause over the course of the summer to raise funds for much needed education for the poorest of the poor refugee Syrian children.  I am overwhelmed to report that people’s generosity went way beyond  what I could ever have imagined.. It came in the large and the small and much of it in the middle. But it came from a desire to help those whose lives and sufferings we will never understand. It came to be given in its entirety to those who need it the most. It came because many people know me or have heard of my work. It came because they know that my operation is a very small one and is not burdened with the cost of administration and because it has come we can now double the size of our school for 60 to 120, girls and boys who otherwise would have no access to the 1,2,3′s and the a,b,c’s.

I am very appreciative of your support Fr. John and by extension all the folk in Greystones  Parish and St David’s school who have taken my mission into their hearts.  Their encouragement and notes of support mean an awful lot.

With warm regards, blessing and a gratitude so deep in my heart that words simply fail me.

William Stuart

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