With the holiday season fast approaching and coronavirus cases surging across the country, many of us are wondering how to celebrate our traditions - such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa - safe from the virus. After months of isolation, the idea of staying away from our loved ones during such a special time of the year is especially hard. But it is comforting to know that even in the most difficult times, we can always find opportunities to connect and take care of each other.
This Giving Tuesday is the perfect opportunity to show kindness to refugees who face another cold winter. With the help of compassionate Americans, our goal is to deliver 1,500 winter kits to keep refugee families safe and warm. Each kit includes three mattresses, six fleece blankets, one plastic sheet and winter clothing. You can help us spread kindness and warmth during the coldest months of the year.
Temperatures in Lebanon can easily fall below freezing during the winter months, putting the health and wellbeing of refugee families like Noura’s at extreme risk. Noura’s family was displaced twice within Syria before they were forced to flee the country nearly seven years ago. She lives with her husband Hussein and their four young children in a makeshift shelter in the Bekaa Valley.
“The moment we arrived on Lebanese soil, we felt safe because there was no more shelling,” said Noura, recalling her immediate sense of relief upon crossing the border from Syria to Lebanon. Although the family has escaped the bombings and violence in Syria, there is one threat they now face every winter – the cold.
The children often fall ill during the winter and Noura’s chronic rheumatism in her arms causes painful swelling which becomes even more severe in the cold and damp weather. Sadly, Hussein has developed epilepsy and needs medication and frequent medical attention. Their conditions are treatable, but like many refugees they are unable to work and they have exhausted their savings.
Noura remembers last winter far better than she would like to. “It was a very harsh winter – harsher than all the others.” Snow and rain fell on the settlement for days before it was turned to ice by the bitter winds.
It is often the aftermath of the storm that people fear the most: snow melts, inundating shelters with freezing water. The tarpaulin shelter Noura and her family lived in was no match for the thrashing winds and rains, and her home quickly began to flood.
One of the ways the UN Refugee Agency steps in to support families with emergency winter aid is through cash assistance. This gives families the flexibility to buy exactly what they need. For Noura, it meant she could purchase a heater and fuel for the first time—which has been crucial in helping the family dry out their soaked clothes and blankets.
“They say that the most important thing in winter is warmth. Truly, I made my children warm,” she said.
With the extra help, Noura could also pay off some of her medical bills and avoid a dangerous spiral of debt. “It came as a savior in a time of hardship.”
This year the family is scared they won’t be able to cover the costs of basic essentials to keep their children warm and safe. But with the support of compassionate USA for UNHCR donors, we can ensure families receive the lifesaving care they need to stay warm and healthy again this winter.
Thank you for helping us spread kindness to refugees this #GivingTuesday.