Helping People Help Themselves in Lebanon


A man with a disability makes ceramic items in a shop at the office of CRS partner agency Arc en Ciel (“Rainbow”) in Beirut. Photo by David Snyder for CRS

Freelance photographer David Snyder is traveling throughout the Middle East to see the many CRS projects helping people throughout the region. David is blogging about what he sees along the way.

I’m just in from some site visits now—the last of my trip with Catholic Relief Services through the region. My time here has been short, just three days, but we covered a lot of ground, literally and figuratively, to get a taste of what CRS is doing in Lebanon.

We started our time here with a CRS partner called Arc en Ciel, which means “Rainbow” in French. They have been around since the 1990s, and are one of the largest non-governmental organizations in Lebanon dedicated to issues surrounding people with disabilities.

I got to spend some time talking with their project staff about CRS support, which centers on a program helping to place disabled with employers looking to fill vacancies – a win/win situation, especially in a social context where appreciation for and acceptance of the disabled is still very low. At one of the two Arc en Ciel offices in Beirut I got to photograph some workshops where people with disabilities employed by Arc help to build and repair various walking aids, like wheelchairs and crutches. Arc sells them to the Government of Lebanon, which in turn distributes them free of charge to those in need.

The work I saw with Caritas Lebanon was very memorable. I’ve worked with them before here; my first introduction to their work with migrant workers coming during the 2006 war between Lebanon with Israel. I was there when tens of thousands of migrant workers, mostly women from Asia and Africa, were trying desperately to flee the country as the southern suburbs of Beirut were being bombed by Israeli planes.

Through the Caritas Lebanon Migrant Center, which CRS supports, Caritas is continuing its work with migrants. This morning I went to the main detention center in Beirut where Lebanese authorities detain migrants for legal violations —most often staying in Lebanon past their visa expiration dates.

Migrants here are subject to a lot of stresses and pressures, and are sometimes abused by their employers. As often happens, many flee without their passports, which their employers typically take possession of upon arrival, making it legally complicated for them to leave until the cases get resolved. It’s complicated and messy – and this morning, decidedly human, as I met a Pilipino migrant worker in the detention center. Through tears she detailed her experiences working in Lebanon since 2006, and how her previous employer kept her passport, making it impossible for her to work legally here. She ended with a summary of why she and tens of thousands of other young women come to the Middle East in search of work. “I just wanted to support my family .”

I’m out on a flight in the morning. A fascinating three-country trip with CRS.

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