From our hotel in Beirut, the film crew, our guide, fixer and driver drove down to the Bekaa Valley every day. From there we visited the Syrian refugee encampments that overlook the mountains that form the Syrian border in order to get an impression of the lives and situation of Syrian families.
By now, almost 1 million Syrians have fled to Lebanon. From a population of 4 million people, that is an enormous amount of refugees. Lebanon should be praised for their hospitality. Talking to the refugees and the relief aid workers, we heard that the aid is relatively limited and that the efforts don’t always run smoothly. The delicate political balance within the Lebanese (interim) government seems to interfere. Because of internal struggles within the administration and a lack of responsibility aid organizations get slim to none permission to offer continuous help.
I had prepared myself for the fact that I would encounter unimaginable situations, but the reality was even more desperate than I had envisioned. Most of the refugees we spoke to had been in the camps for over a year. Their savings, if they had any, were running low and there was a severe scarcity of food, medical supplies, warm clothing and isolation materials to prepare their shelters for the winter (by now the camps are covered in snow).
All things said, a solar light does not offer a direct solution for what we encountered. Nonetheless, the people were extremely enthusiastic about WakaWaka. Even though they often have access to electricity, they pay extreme prices demanded by the landowners. Not to mention the many power outages. The most popular feature of the WakaWaka was the USB connection, which enabled them to always charge their phones and (on good days via the cheap Syrian network) keep in touch with friends and relatives elsewhere. A cherished ‘luxury.’
WakaWaka offers a small light in a dark life. Every little bit helps. Buy a WakaWaka and give one to a Syrian family or make a donation.
Visit www.mauritsbos.com for a more extensive impression of my visit to Lebanon.