Emergency Relief: How It Works

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By Open Doors International | 22 March 2017

How Open Doors works through local partners in Lebanon

Through local partners, Open Doors distributes food and essential items to 12,000 families in Syria and 15,000 in Iraq. In Lebanon, Open Doors works through local partners to support over 700 Syrian refugee families. 

Today, we are in Lebanon, not far from the Syrian border. And in two separate tent settlements we will distribute 150 food packages to Syrian refugee families. The storage room is almost empty now—the small truck was loaded before we arrived. The team is waiting for departure to the first camp.

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Officially, it's not a camp. The Lebanese government does not like to name these settlements ‘camps’. There are over one million Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and many have to arrange their own place to live, often renting land from a locals. The owner lets them live on the land for about $500 per tent per year, often with the obligation that they work on his land during the Lebanese summer for low wages.

“Let’s go,” our guide for the day and managing director of our local partner says. We jump into the cars and follow the truck to the first settlement.

After 20 minutes, the last part travelling over bumpy, dusty roads, we enter the camp. 70 white tents for 90 families. In the past this camp was closer to one of the main roads, but since the Lebanese government ordered that camps be further away from official roads, many camps have had to find alternative locations.


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The families are advised in advance that we’re coming. They know the time and they know the rules. “We have contact with the chief of the camp. He is the man appointed by the people living in the camp to be their leader, their contact person,” our guide Daoud explains when the car stops and we jump out.

The team is working together in perfect harmony. Two chairs are carried from the car together with a table and placed in a tent close to where the truck stopped. In the blink of an eye this is turned into a distribution office. The enthusiasm and motivation of the workers is contagious. Most of the team today are Syrians themselves, helping their own people. “It’s such a privilege to serve the Lord in my work,” a Syrian team member in his 30s says.
One of his colleagues looking at all the people walking between the tents adds: “It is so sad to see the people living like this. They are all created by God, God has something better for them. I am so happy with what I can do for them. All of the workers feel motivated by their Christian faith.”
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Two of the female workers, one Syrian and one Lebanese, are sitting at the registration desk. They start receiving the first people. At the same time, the relief packages are being assembled containing essentials such as oil, detergent, washing powder and soap.

Before we arrived, the chief of the camp had already organised the collection of the recipient’s registration cards and they were soon handed over to one of the workers. People in a camp can register with our partner only after staff of the organisation has visited them. They are then issued their card which enables them to receive food and essential supplies.

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One of the workers checks every card and calls out the names. One-by-one, the recipients come forward and are given their card back. They then walk to the registration desk with their Identity Card, our local partner’s registration card and their UN documentation. Each person stamps their fingerprint to confirm they received the package and walks to the truck to receive their package. The packages are heavy and some women carry them on their shoulders, others have their husbands or sons carrying the bags or boxes.

“We’re very glad that we receive this support, we need this food to survive,” says Halid, a Muslim from Syria. He and his wife and five children fled in 2011 from Homs to Lebanon.

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Tamer is chief of the camp. “Life is hard here,” he says as the distribution efforts continue to run smoothly under the hot sun. At the start of the distribution, he had to make sure people were in line, waiting properly for his or her turn, but now everything goes as it should. “Before the distribution starts I always tell them to abide by the rules. I am very happy with the help we receive. We really need this food.”

After 90 minutes the team is ready to depart. Distribution is finished. The chairs and the table are carried to the car; the truck is half empty now as we drive to the second camp. On our drive there, Daoud explains a little bit more about the strategy of our partner: “We intentionally don’t give them enough for the whole month, we don’t want them to be fully dependent on us.”

Arriving at the second camp, the whole process starts over again. The team works hard today and successfully hands out all 150 packages.

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This blog was originally published by Open Doors International on Exposure.