12 Dec Last but not Least – Lebanon
by Erika Bozzato
as the final day is approaching, I am trying to take inventory of the experience, pondering its different aspects and challenges.
It has definitely been a stimulating period, as I dived into a new country-unknown language-new habits experience. The language remained pretty much unknown – apart from greetings, vegetables’ names and some words learned on the field such as water, boreholes and … diarrhoea. To make up for it I tried to learn everything I could about the Lebanon, by visiting archaeological sites, hiking mountains, doing some readings and chatting a lot with my colleagues in order figure out their perspectives on their own country and its tricky political stalemate.
Surely I did learn a lot about emergency interventions – especially regarding WASH – grasping its basic concepts and methodologies. Through these it is possible to make a big difference, as they provide refugees from Syrian with basic items and facilities, such as water tanks or latrines, and at the same time all the knowledge to safely use them. Yet it is a drop in the ocean, because as any other person in the world they need also livelihood, protection, respectable shelters, health care, and education to survive and flourish to their full potentials. Refugees from Syria in Lebanon are currently over a million. Twice as many as Luxembourgers, yet having very scarce state structures and services they can rely on.
As EU Aid Volunteer I contribute to this drop. Am I glad I did it? Yes, of course. Am I satisfied? Do I think it is enough? No, definitely not.
But this is probably each volunteer’s concern and boost at the same time, either in Lebanon or in any other city in the world.
Being an EU Aid Volunteer has definitely been a great adventure. I wouldn´t suggest it as first volunteering experience though. Pre-deployment training we had in Madrid has definitely helped me to be more aware and context-conscious. And online training was a useful introduction to concepts related to refugees and protection. But security-wise it has not been smooth, and it got stressful at times. Lebanon is a country at war – although at low intensity, with even more messed up neighbours. One moment the situation seems to be under control, the next something bad happens. This means security becomes an important part of your work and life. You cannot just take the car and drive wherever. When I first arrived I was shocked by all the checkpoints, armed soldiers, and artillery casually displayed in public streets. And I haven´t really got used to it, I must admit.
Also it could be emotionally very challenging. During the interview for this post, I was asked a one-million dollar question “How do you think you could relate to refugees?” The only honest thing I could say was that I had no idea. I had never experienced anything similar to war. I could only try to empathize as much as I could. What about now, after five months? I met them, drank coffee with them and played with the children. I KNOW a lot more on their situation. Would the answer be different? In fact I am not so sure. Listening to their stories is excruciating, honestly it is even worse that I could imagine before the departure. Knowing details is always the worst.
And not only is their past unbearable but also their present is highly unstable and their future very uncertain. For their past there is only healing and overcoming, but for their present and future is a different story. I refuse to believe it is not possible to do more, at political, social or humanitarian level. It´s our big responsibility.