Lebanon: Stepping up to support families affected by Beirut explosion

24 November 2020

Sahar, social worker, contributed to the rapid assessment held by JRS to identify how to best support those affected by the Beirut explosion.
Sahar, JRS social worker, contributed hugely to the rapid assessment held to identify how to best support those affected by the Beirut explosion. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

Sahar, 26, has been working with JRS for one year as a social worker at Nicolas Kluiters centre in Jbeil. She was at home when the explosion rocked Lebanon. After making sure that her friends and family were safe, Sahar focused her energy on serving those immediately affected by the blast. She thought, “This is our country. If we don’t support each other, who else is there to support us?”

Her response to the explosion embodied the JRS values of solidarity, compassion, and subsidiarity. First, she volunteered with the Lebanese Red Cross and witnessed the carnage first hand. She explains, “The situation was catastrophic, people were in shock and the destruction was everywhere. I saw the injured people and the bloody scenes. I encountered families who were sitting in their destroyed houses because they have nowhere else to go.”

Moved by the pain that she witnessed, Sahar founded the association “I am Beirut” with family and friends. In giving, Sahar and her friends received much joy and formed new relationships. “We visited the families in Beirut the day after the explosion and distributed cooked meals and food items for them. They told us that they really needed the food that we were distributing. They appreciated our visits a lot and responded with well wishes and promises of prayers. These words deeply touched us and we will always remember them,” describes Sahar excitedly.

We visited the families in Beirut the day after the explosion and distributed cooked meals and food items for them. They told us that they really needed the food that we were distributing.
Sahar, JRS Social Worker

Her work continued with the JRS team in Bourj Hammoud. Soon after the explosion, we launched a rapid assessment to help in responding to those affected by the explosion, and Sahar could not miss the chance of participating in this assessment. “I am a social worker and part of my job is to make home visits, so I went with the home visits’ team to fill the assessment. People were very generous and were always smiling and insisting on serving us food and drinks despite the damages and destruction. We felt tired, but at the end of the day I think that we were able to help a lot by listening to those people,” says Sahar.

“My volunteering experience with JRS was very rich. It was well organized and based on JRS principles. I will always remember the kind words from the people we visited; it is a hard experience, but we should always find patience in order to overcome these hardships.”

Sahar stressed the importance of expressing our problems and not letting them accumulate inside. She advised others to seek help because they cannot do everything on their own. “It is not a weakness if we seek help; this is something beyond our capabilities. We need to talk about our pain, to reach out for professionals, and not to suppress sadness inside. These hardships will affect us in the long term if we don’t talk about them,” ends Sahar.

 

All staff and volunteers who helped in the rapid assessment participated in 2 hours orientation conducted by the Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) Project Director. They were also invited to report to her after the rapid assessment day as a mean of support.