At the risk of getting stuck in a world of sequin and Afros, that song of 80’s optimism kept playing in my head while I walked around the tented settlements of Syrian refugees. There were children everywhere. They were dangling in makeshift swings, working in the fields, reciting English in improvised classrooms. Each one was eager to present their drawings, practice the days of the week, and were particularly delighted by the magic tricks performed by a group member.
Kids are kids everywhere you go: impish, eager for attention, curious about the world around them, eager to be loved. What’s going to happen to all these children? I kept asking as I looked around. The Lebanese government is struggling that’s for sure. Most are not in school – a combination of chaos, language barriers and under-funded public schools. That sounds familiar — my adopted home of Chicago struggles to achieve a public school graduation rate of above 60%.
In the vacuum NGO’s and humanitarian agencies have stepped up and become a primary means for getting these displaced kids educated. Running two programs a day in camps all over Lebanon, World Vision is providing school readiness classes for the youngest and remedial language classes for everyone. Or at least all who are fortunate enough to get in. The waiting list is long. So long that these programs run on a four-month cycle so more children can participate.
Walking through the tents with a rep from World Vision was like walking with a rock star. Children, recognizing the orange and white cross, came from every crevice to greet us. The teachers told us that children come early to class – waiting outside the fence until their class time begins.
Absences are rare. “When a child misses the bus, they will walk more than one hour to get here,” director Pamela Daoud said. Pamela is a vivacious, 28-year-old. Young enough to weep openly about the plight of these children, “They have come here with nothing. Some of the children have never even held a crayon in their fingers.” An observation that brought tears to all of our eyes. But Pamela is also faithful enough to believe that the future of these children is not doomed. That what she is doing matters. For this moment, to these kids, certainly. But also to the larger moment and to the goodness of the world.
As we wrapped up our time in the children’s center I learned that the future of the center itself is uncertain. Pamela’s job and the teachers who work for her have no funding after June 2016. World Vision is doing everything it can to stretch its resources as far as possible.
We are the world. We are the children. We are the ones to make a brighter day so let’s start giving. God, did I ever feel that song. I hope you feel it too. I hope all of us feel it.
If you do, here’s one way you can express it. Go to World Vision. Click on the tab for Syrian refugees. They have an account designated just for them. Pray too. Pray a lot. Pray that God will move people like me and you to step up and do what Jesus would do if he were here. That’s all that is asked of Pamela, World Vision and the rest of us.