Wednesday! It feels like we've been here for a month, but it was only a week ago that we flew out of Dallas. This morning, a few of the social workers on the trip were privileged to meet with Rupen Das, a director for community development with the Lebanese Society For Education and Special Development (LSESD). Rupen grew up in Lebanon and attended primary school with Tim and Sheila; he was glad to meet with us to tell us about the capacity building and programs that LSESD is starting up and partnering with throughout Lebanon. Rupen also provided us with excellent information on the complex problem of poverty in Lebanon. He recently finished a qualitative study of impoverished groups in Lebanon and released a book in 2011, Profiles of Poverty: The Human Face of Poverty in Lebanon. The book has attracted significant attention, and landed in the hands of important leaders, which the authors had not anticipated at its outset. In a country of approximately 4 million (not including the 1 million refugees and migrant workers, whose number continues to swell), 28.54% of the Lebanese population live below the national poverty line. Their research looks at a cross-section of poverty in eight communities, ranging from the slums of the urban city to the isolated rural regions of the mountains and into a refugee camp of Palestinians. By creating awareness within Lebanon that, although the civil war has long since ended and Beirut is once again a beckoning metropolis, there is a looming question mark about what the country will do about its impoverished citizens and the growing numbers of refugees that also exist at or below the poverty line.
We asked Rupen what the LSESD is doing with the findings of the research. 'We are just at the starting line,' said Rupin. They have been gathering information and making contacts for the past three years and are starting to receive funds and grants to begin implementing programs in various parts of Lebanon. We were interested to know more about how the types of programs and resource-building had been chosen by LSESD. Rupen shared, "You cannot go into a place and tell them what they need, 'You need a school and we will build you one'; you have to go and ask questions. Ask the right kind of questions."
During my time in Lebanon I have had to remind myself to reserve judgment, observe, ask questions, and listen. What do each of the different boys at Dar El Awlad need? Love? Grace? Discipline? Education? Discipleship? Empathy? Is two weeks long enough for me to figure out the right kind of questions to ask? Am I equipped and ready to help provide resources when the answers are given? What questions will I ask of myself when I leave Lebanon?