AVSI has been working in Lebanon since 1996 (Photo: AVSI)

AVSI Tents: Peace can also flourish in Lebanon

Jihane Rahal, an AVSI worker in Lebanon, speaks of the difficulties of a nation always on the brink of crisis. And of a path of good that "challenges us with all our humanity."
Maria Acqua Simi

The Switzerland of the Middle East. This is what Lebanon was called, years ago, because of its wealth and its ability to be a country of dialogue in the chaotic Middle Eastern framework. Today, very little is left of its former glory: with no president of the republic for over a year, caught up in a years-long economic crisis, the country is under pressure from millions of refugees from Syria, Iraq and Palestine. Disagreements with Israel's neighbours, which escalated in the south of the Land of the Cedars in connection with the Hamas attack on October 7, have certainly not made things any easier. Yet there are those who still bet on Lebanon. And they do so with conviction. “My country is beautiful even if tormented. The political situation is at a standstill, there are many difficulties and emergencies, especially after the explosion at the port of Beirut and with the rekindling of the conflict on our borders. But the Lebanese people are resilient, generous, there is still the will and desire to build something good. We at AVSI believe in this.” Speaking is Jihane Rahal, an Italian-Lebanese who has been living in Beirut since 2014 and is in charge of the AVSI Foundation's communication for the entire so-called "MENA" (Middle East and North Africa) area.

"In recent weeks we have been tested even in our own small way, because our staff is made up mostly of Lebanese people and there is great turmoil over what is happening between Israel and Hamas. There is the temptation to take one side or the other, but the real challenge is to seek peace, also and above all in dialogue among ourselves, with all our humanity. As AVSI, our contribution starts here: from taking seriously the desire for justice and truth that everyone has and to channel it into a path of good. Our task is not to exacerbate violence but to stand by those who suffer, to help them, regardless of their religious or political convictions. We serve everyone: Lebanese, Syrian refugees, Palestinians... We will not solve wars, I wish we had this power, but what a satisfaction it is to see children studying who no longer go to school, to keep them company with art therapy, or to see men and women rediscover their value by returning to the world of work.”

Read also - AVSI Tents. Syria: educating to rebuild

AVSI's activities in Lebanon are indeed numerous. The NGO has been present here since 1996 and since then has accompanied and supported almost 200,000 people. Over time it has operated in Palestinian refugee camps, moved to support reconstruction after the disastrous explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020, and promotes cash-for-work interventions, which allow beneficiaries to carry out public utility work in exchange for a decent salary. Since agriculture is one of the biggest sources of income in the country, Jihane explains, AVSI now supports several state-run agricultural schools and also Lebanese start-ups, farmers and cooperatives through targeted training courses. That is not all. "In the Marjayoun plain, AVSI organises educational and psychosocial support activities for Syrian children and distributes basic necessities," Jihane recounts. "Now that the waters are rough, we have had to temporarily close Fadaii, the multifunctional centre created and designed to respond to the concrete needs of communities in southern Lebanon. However, the activities continue online and it is heart-warming to see how, despite electricity coming and going, the families keep going. They teach their children that studying and being curious is good and that difficulties can be overcome. Together. This is also a beginning of peace building."