After the 4th August explosions, Caritas aid has been crucial in Beirut to support the population in a country wracked by devastating economic and political crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Caritas helped more than 200,000 people, distributing 158,000 meals and providing medical care and medicines to more than 38,500 people.
Furthermore, a growing number of Lebanese are still depending on assistance from Caritas’s 80-plus help centers across the country. The explosions made half of Beirut’s hospitals non-functional and fees for Lebanon’s highly privatized health system are beyond the reach of many.
The work of Caritas Lebanon in the country is vital now more than ever, as is the contribution of the 1,000 volunteers working in the Caritas Lebanon Youth Emergency Response Unit.
“As Pope Francis said, we young people represent the future, but also the present,” tells Caritas Internationalis Peter Mahfouz, head of Caritas Lebanon Youth Department.
“We cannot stand by while our people suffer. We have the power to change things and the energy that can support and help our communities and therefore, we have a duty to act and it is our responsibility to make the changes that we want to see. As Caritas Lebanon Youth, we come together as one big family in the name of solidarity.”
In the weeks following the explosions, many new young volunteers have joined the ranks of the Youth Emergency Response Unit. Caritas young volunteers were often doing back-to-back shifts, going out on the streets to help people day and night with boundless energy and good humor. They served hot meals, distributed medicines, and helped people to clean their houses after the blast.
“Caritas Lebanon Youth adopts volunteering and teamwork principles based on the social teaching of the Church,” says Mahfouz. “Our young volunteers are driven by an enthusiasm to serve the most in need and build societies guided by justice.”
Caritas Lebanon Youth was on hand to help technical teams provide materials and support to people in rebuilding their houses. They helped renovate seven hundred houses in the first five months after the disaster and efforts are ongoing to rebuild Lebanon.
The economic and political crisis, plus the pandemic, plus the disaster last summer are all having a massive impact on the young people of Lebanon, whose future is increasingly uncertain. But they are not losing hope for a future in their own country.