Humanity Is the Best Medicine


The harsh winter makes life for Syrian refugees in Lebanon even harder. CARE Lebanon distributes blankets and floormats to more than 16,000 refugees and provides them with cash so they can buy stoves, heaters and fuel for the cold winter months. Racha El Daoi, Information Management and Reporting Assistant for CARE Lebanon, writes about her experiences during some of these distributions in the Mount Lebanon region.

Despite all the layers of clothing I was wearing (and I was wearing a lot) I could feel the cold inside my bones. How must the more than hundred Syrian refugees feel who were waiting to receive a warm blanket and cash to pay for a stove and fuel? Some of them were queuing up in summer dresses and wore slippers while it was raining, and the harsh winter wind lifted the tarps of the tents in which they were waiting for their turn.

In their faces I could see the feeling of despair and sadness of being dependent on aid. I remember growing up in a family with Arabic/Lebanese heritage in Sweden, and how it was a taboo to ask anyone for money, food or help. You just did not do that! Even if life was hard on you, you were always to say: “Thank you I am fine, I have enough! Praise God! Hamdullah!” I know these people grew up with the same norms and traditions as I have, and I can only imagine how hard it must be for them to have nothing and to be dependent on aid agencies like CARE. 

It broke my heart when I looked into their sad faces. It was as if all of the life had been taken out of them, especially the children who have been deprived of their childhood. Children, who should be in school and playing with their friends, but who, instead are forced to help their families to survive and live in unstable and unsafe conditions.

While talking to refugees during the distribution, I was reminded of how lucky I have been, never having had to worry about wars or conflicts or cold, hunger or displacement in my life. My parents, who grew up in Lebanon during the civil war, made sure that I would never have to go through the same destiny and reality that many Syrian refugees are facing today. We immigrated to Sweden when I was very young. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people around the world are living in their bubbles, totally unaware of what is the biggest humanitarian crisis of our times. 

During the distribution I took care of the refugees who were waiting to attend training on how and where to use ATM cards. Some of them have never used them before. It was very cold and I was serving them tea. I don’t think I have ever seen people so grateful for a small cup of tea. Despite everything they were going through they waited patiently, always polite and respectful towards me. They asked me questions and thanked me for the information I provided them with.

I did not feel like I did anything important for them, especially not considering their existing needs. But I did understand that even a smile and a cup of tea can sometimes make a difference. I learned the necessity of holding on to humanity in these difficult times and of never losing hope. 

Keep learning: