By Korea and Tunisia Relief Team (Originally in Korean and Arabic)
Due to unsafe conditions in their home countries, many refugees have fled to Lebanon, where there are now over one million registered refugees from Syria. Most of them cannot afford to travel anywhere else, and have lived in dire conditions for several years.
Following Master’s loving instruction to help refugees in need around the world, four of our Association members; three from Korea and one from Tunisia who speaks Arabic, traveled to Lebanon to help the refugees and those less fortunate there. Our Association members from Formosa, the United States and Korea contributed toward the fund for the following relief efforts.
Visiting Refugee Camps in Zahlé, Lebanon – March 1, 2016
On March 1, 2016, we drove from Beirut to the city of Zahlé, located in the high mountains bordering Syria, to visit the refugee camps. Our friend and guide, Mr. Yousef Abou Farah, a staff member of the Red Cross, also accompanied us. The area alone has over 370,000 Syrian refugees. For many of them, their homes for the past five years have been just temporary shelters made of wood and plastic covers. They also pay US$100 a month for land use. Most of them are jobless and get by with the support of NGOs. Some do farming around the camps, but the farmland is also rented, and their earnings are never enough to cover living expenses. The children have little opportunity to receive a good education and they also do not have nice toys to play with. After the visit, we decided to start our relief work by providing vegan food and cooking oil for the camps most in need.
Click to watch video: Refugee Camps in Zahlé
Assisting Refugees at The Village of Man Center, Maaysra, Lebanon – March 2, 2016
The next day, we visited The Village of Man Center, the headquarters of a Christian organization called Bonheur du Ciel (Heaven’s Joy), in Maaysra, a mountainous area. Here they conduct rehabilitation efforts to help people with drug addictions naturally overcome them through faith and other various activities.
Afterwards, we went to Bonheur Du Ciel’s operation site in Beirut known as the “Supermarket of Love,” where they give assistance to refugees. We helped distribute clothes, toys and other items to refugees from Syria and Iraq, which the organization does every Wednesday. They issue coupons to the refugees that can be exchanged for food and other items. This way, people can retrieve goods like a normal supermarket. We were touched by their consideration and by the respect they have shown for the refugees.
Preparing and Distributing Vegan Food Packages to Refugee Camps in Zahlé, Lebanon – March 3 to 4, 2016
In the early morning of March 3, our relief team went to a warehouse in Zahlé, which stores relief items for refugees. Together with Red Cross staff member Mr. Yousef Abou Farah and other volunteers, we prepared vegan food packages containing rice, lentils, pasta, cooking oil, canned corn and tomato paste for the refugees. It took more time than expected, so Mr. Abou Farah went to a refugee camp and brought back a few Syrian friends. With their help, we were able to complete packing the next morning. Everyone worked so sincerely.
Afterwards we distributed the food packages to 440 households in six camps, which will sustain a total of 3,600 people for a month. Mr. Abou Farah spontaneously made coupons for the refugees to be exchanged for the vegan food packages. They were very happy to see us and the distribution went smoothly. It felt so rewarding to see big smiles and laughs from the refugees, which brought happiness to the atmosphere. Some children immediately opened the cans and began to eat the corn.
We felt it was a miracle that with just seven or eight of us, we packed 6.1 tons of items in one and a half days. It would not be possible without the help from Mr. Abou Farah and the young Syrian volunteers. Mr. Abou Farah commented that everything goes very smoothly when he works with our group, and it is all thanks to Master’s blessing.
Click to watch video: Preparing Vegan Food packages for 440 Households
Distributing Fruits and Vegetables at the “Supermarket of Love” in Beirut, Lebanon – March 9, 2016
On March 9, our relief team revisited the “Supermarket of Love” in Beirut run by the Bonheur du Ciel (Heaven’s Joy) organization. In addition to the fruit, vegetables, grain etc. that was there for distribution to the refugees, we purchased 69 kilograms of tomatoes, 44 kilograms of cabbage, 24 kilograms of eggplants, six boxes of apples and two boxes of lettuce for the market. These foods are favorites among the refugees.
Together with the Bonheur du Ciel volunteers, we received coupons from the refugees in exchange for the various vegetables and fruits. The refugees loved the fresh fruits and vegetables so much, that the supplies were quickly gone. Each person took two handfuls of vegetables and fruits and went home.
We prayed that they would enjoy a delicious dinner with their friends and family.
Providing a Vegan Lunch with Bonheur du Ciel for Refugees and Those in Need, Beirut, Lebanon – March 10, 2016
March 10 was the first day our relief team in Lebanon prepared a vegan lunch for the refugees and those in need at the operation site of the Christian volunteer organization, Bonheur du Ciel (Heaven’s Joy) in Beirut. Thanks to God’s arrangement, one of our Korean team members was a former chef for a Loving Hut restaurant. With her leading in the kitchen, as well as the helping hands of the local volunteers, we prepared rice, vegan goulash and fruit salad by noon.
About 30 to 50 people arrived, most of whom were elderly. During the prayer before the meal, the lead volunteer at Bonheur Du Ciel kindly mentioned our relief team, saying, “They have come a long way to share their love with us.” Although our cuisine was unfamiliar to most guests, they enjoyed the food and gave lovely compliments. After the meal, we shared some reasons to adopt a vegan diet, such as expanding compassion for other living beings and the benefits it has for our health. The guests were very open and enthusiastic about the idea, giving applause. They returned home with “Alternative Living” and “Those Who Have Love Are Nearest to God” flyers in their hands. We promised more delicious vegan food again for the following day.
Providing Another Vegan Meal at Bonheur du Ciel, Beirut, Lebanon – March 11, 2016
On Friday, in the early morning of March 11, 2016, our relief team in Lebanon returned to the Bonheur du Ciel (Heaven’s Joy) kitchen to prepare another vegan lunch. We decided to add soy meat to the meal. While preparing the food, other volunteers took an interest in the soy meat, so we showed them many kinds of vegan dishes that could be made with it through online recipes.
Approximately 40 to 50 people came to eat. Every Friday, some of the Christians of this area also adopt a vegetarian diet, so many of them, and the other guests that joined us showed positive responses to the vegan meal. They told us that the food was amazing and even better than yesterday’s meal! We were very pleased to hear that and very grateful to Bonheur du Ciel for allowing us to use their kitchen facilities, plates, and dining tables etc., so that the refugees could enjoy vegan meals in comfortable surroundings.
On the way home while waiting at a traffic light, we spotted a 12-year-old girl who introduced herself at the church yesterday; she was begging. We stopped to ask her why she did not come to eat lunch. She said that she goes there every Monday and Thursday, but on Friday she has to work for her family. We asked her to come by next Monday for lunch and gave her some money, which she accepted shyly with a smile. This girl is just one of many children begging on the streets of Beirut. We pray that the day of peace will come soon, so that no child will ever have to face situations such as these again.
Serving Another Vegan Lunch at Bonheur du Ciel, Beirut, Lebanon – March 12 to 13, 2016
On March 12, our relief team in Lebanon purchased groceries, and spent the rest of the day peeling and chopping vegetables in preparation to serve a vegan lunch for 200 people. The following day at dawn, we brought all the food and supplies to Bonheur du Ciel’s (Heaven’s Joy) church.
We moved all the food down to the kitchen in the basement, and began cooking spaghetti and preparing a fruit and vegetable salad. While we were there, many of Bonheur du Ciel’s personnel and some members of the church came to help. Most of them were immigrants from Egypt, and were very kind and fun-loving. They liked cameras and often wished to take pictures with us.
We served a portion of spaghetti and salad on each plate. The children who were eagerly waiting were served first. Between mid-March to early May, the members of the church fast for approximately 50 days, during which they also keep a vegetarian diet. They asked us what the meat-like ingredient in the meal was. We explained to them that it was a mock-meat made from soybeans. Some remarked positively and asked where they could purchase it.
Watching all the people enjoy their meals, we were thankful for the opportunity to introduce vegan food. After lunch, we distributed “Alternative Living” and “Those Who Have Love Are Nearest to God” flyers, and we were constantly met with happy and appreciative smiles. An elderly man thanked us and said that he would pray to God for us to be here again next week. Feeling the sunshine all around, we returned to our lodging.
Seeing the Love and Kindness in People at Bonheur du Ciel, Lebanon – March 14, 2016
Our relief team in Lebanon returned to Bonheur du Ciel’s (Heaven’s Joy) church to prepare another vegan lunch. We served vegan pasta, vegetable salad and fruit salad with help from other volunteers.
At lunchtime, many people came to eat after attending church, and some of the guests even took home second portions of the meal. Mr. Abou Farah, a staff member of the Red Cross, told us that many people in Lebanon are in need, so a lot of them came to eat the vegan food, as well. Bonheur du Ciel gives food and necessities to all who come regardless of their religion, race or nationality. Alongside their many charitable efforts, the church also provides working opportunities and assistance to the refugees and Lebanese locals in need. May Heaven bless these humble and kind-hearted people.
Providing Gifts for Children in Zahlé, Lebanon – March 15, 2016
On March 15, our Lebanon relief team again traveled to the Zahlé region and encountered rain, snow and hail on the way. After reaching Zahlé, we confirmed with the Red Cross staff member, Mr. Abou Farah, our plan of distributing small presents to 2,000 Syrian refugee children. We were assisted by five Syrian boys and girls to package 2,000 gift bags. Thanks to their help, the job was swiftly done. Each bag was filled with an “Alternative Living” flyer, a pack of fruit juice, vegan biscuits, a local sweet made of peanuts, sesame and coconut, colored pencils and a coloring book including adorable stickers. We looked forward to seeing the happy faces of children with gifts in their hands the following day.
Mr. Abou Farah informed us that due to a sudden fall in temperature, blankets had been distributed to the refugees during the past few days, with other organizations lending a helping hand.
Distributing Gifts to Children in Zahlé, Lebanon – March 16, 2016
The rain continued today. As we headed towards Zahlé, we prayed that the rain would cease when we distributed the 2,000 gifts to refugee children. Our prayers were heard and the rain stopped as we arrived at the refugee camps in Zahlé. With Mr. Abou Farah from the Red Cross guiding us, we met with the parents and children who were already eagerly waiting. Lining up the children was impossible as they were so enthusiastic, but with the help of Mr. Abou Farah and his friends, everything went smoothly. The majority of the fund for these gifts were contributed by our Chinese Association members (US$5,000). Further relief funds were contributed by our International Association members from the United Kingdom.
The children were extremely happy. Some of them also brought their parents or siblings to receive gifts. Many of the children opened their packages right away and ate the vegan snacks. Others opened the coloring book inside and laughed at the pictures. Even though the presents were small, the children were very delighted. We felt sorry that we were not able to give them more. After Mr. Abou Farah told us that we were the first group to give gifts to the children, we understood why they loved them so much. We also distributed a total of 420 vegan chocolates to larger families, which were greatly appreciated.
As we were finishing up and planning to leave, a little girl came up to us and said that she had something to say. She told us her name was Hanedi and with a bright smile said, “Thank you, Master!”
Later meeting Mr. Abou Farah in his office for a farewell, we gifted him with Master’s book From Crisis to Peace – The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer. We expressed our heartfelt thanks to Mr. Abou Farah for assisting us on many occasions with love and sincerity. People like him, who silently and unconditionally help others, make this world a better place.
Many of the children here at the refugee camps are without access to an education, so young girls and boys end up marrying and starting a family early. We pray peace soon comes to all, and that these children will be able to receive an education in a safe and wonderful environment.
Serving Another Vegan Meal at Bonheur du Ciel in Beirut, Lebanon – March 17, 2016
We now start the day by moving ingredients and tools to Bonheur du Ciel’s (Heaven’s Joy) kitchen as soon as we can in the morning. We had more soy protein we brought from Korea, so we cooked vegan soy Bulgogi, a version of a popular Korean dish, again like last week. As soon as we put the special seasoning in, the whole building smelled nice.
Since the vegan soy Bulgogi was the most popular item on the menu, we made a lot. Most people came back for seconds, so it was quickly finished. We felt glad that they liked it and were taking some home.
We asked the other volunteers if they would like to join us and share the leftovers. They specially made a traditional Lebanese dish for us. Even though we could not converse well with each other because of language differences, we learned a lot of things from spending time together. We are deeply grateful for Master’s arrangement to enable us to come here, and are very thankful that many people taught us to help and love others.
Serving Our Last Vegan Meal at Bonheur du Ciel and Visiting Rehabilitation Residents at The Village of Man Center, Lebanon – March 18, 2016
Early in the morning, we went to Bonheur du Ciel’s (Heaven’s Joy) supermarket to prepare our last vegan meal there. Knowing that today was our final day of service at the church, our Association members sincerely prepared a hearty meal. The menu we planned for today was stir-fried udon, a popular Korean noodle dish.
Today being Friday, a larger number of people showed up. While they enjoyed the meal, we showed them the cover page of Master’s book From Crisis to Peace – The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer, and briefly introduced our Association. Afterwards we bid a tender farewell to the fellow volunteers.
Just as we were about to board our car, three children approached us. It was the 12-year-old girl that we met begging on the street a few days ago, along with her sisters. We greeted them and had the chance to listen to their story. The three sisters told us that every day, they leave home in the early morning to come to Bonheur du Ciel supermarket. They told us that they live close to the Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport. Later, we looked it up on the map and found that they had to walk about 10 kilometers just to come to the supermarket. They also walk this distance every day to beg, and only satiate their hunger on days meals are served at Bonheur du Ciel. The children had fled here four years ago from Syria, and only the eldest of the three sisters was able to attend school for three years.
It touched our hearts to hear their story. “Be kind and take care of each other” were the only words of consolation we could offer them. Though it was a short affinity, we gave our vegan snacks to the girls, and bid a caring farewell to them, too.
In the afternoon, we went to Bonheur du Ciel’s rehabilitation facility in Maaysra at The Village of Man Center, the organization’s headquarters. Earlier in the month, when we delivered vegan chocolate and daily necessities, such as detergent and cooking oil, to the residents there, they gave us a wish list of books. We returned today with their requested books, ranging from specialty publications in photography to other various novels, and also gave them eight copies of the Arabic version of Master’s book From Crisis to Peace – The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer.
One of the residents joyfully picked up From Crisis to Peace – The Organic Vegan Way is the Answer and said he would read it immediately. The residents told us that reading greatly helped in rehabilitation. We wished them a quick recovery and return to normal life.
On our way out, we had a brief meeting with girl scouts who were visiting the center to have dinner and pray with the residents. The girls arrived to bring a variety of food and to cheer up and pray for the residents suffering from drug addiction. The beauty of the young girl scouts’ hearts moved us deeply.
Visiting an Orphanage in Deraaoun, Lebanon – March 19, 2016
Early in the morning, we headed to the small town of Deraaoun with Matthieu, a volunteer from Bonheur du Ciel (Heaven’s Joy) Matthieu led us to a building with excellent ocean and city views. Within this five-story residence lived orphans and women unable to raise their children on their own.
On the top floor, which was a playroom as well as a kitchen, we started working on the preparations for vegan soy-Bulgogi. In one corner, children were having a happy time with a group of Swedish volunteers. Music was turned on and a young child started dancing to its tune, making the atmosphere all the more merrier. Matthieu and the volunteers from Sweden distributed the biscuits and gifts they brought with them. We also distributed vegan snacks, various play balls, coloring books, crayons and baby diapers.
The children, who were shy around us in the beginning, slowly opened their hearts to us. Although it was brief, we played with them and had good time. The children went down to attend the church service while we finished preparing the Bulgogi. Later, 20 children gathered to enjoy the vegan meal, and the volunteers joined after the children were done eating.
During our short stay in Lebanon, we have visited various places in the country and have witnessed much unconditional love provided to those who need it. Like these many compassionate people we met along the way, we too tried to share much love, thanks to Master’s grace and blessing. We are ever grateful to Master to have had this opportunity to provide assistance to refugees and those in need in Lebanon.
Expenditures by The Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association for Refugee Relief Work in Lebanon, March 1 to 19, 2016
|Food (rice, lentils, pasta, cooking oil, canned corn and tomato paste)||10,621.00||A|
|Plastic bags for packing||128.80||B|
|Transportation and labor costs for those who helped with food packaging||100.00||C|
|Food for refugees (tomatoes, cabbage, eggplants, lettuce, rice, bread, apples etc.) and kitchen supplies (dishes, spoons, forks etc.)||440.66||D|
|Vegetables, fruits, tomatoes, lemons, lettuce, vegan chocolate, gifts for 2,000 Syrian refugee children (cookies, sweets, juice, coloring books and coloring pencils), propane gas for cooking, plastic bags, payment for workers and transportation of relief items||7,980.36||E|