Dispatches from the Field: The Beirut explosion defined the word "disaster'

28 October 2020
© 2020 UNRWA Photo by Heba Al-Akasheh

For my family and me, and for the people of Lebanon, fear is now embedded in our hearts. We fear for the lives of our family and loved ones, for the future of this beautiful country. 

As a seventeen-year-old student working to achieve his dreams, the explosion shattered my hope and destroyed my morale. The mosques and churches were destroyed, and many schools were reduced to rubble. Children now live in fear – when they hear fireworks, they start crying, thinking they will die. 

My name is Mohammad and I’m a Palestine refugee living in Lebanon. 

My dream is to represent the people of Palestine in order to raise awareness on the importance of holding on to the Palestinian identity. I would also love to be a journalist and to help raise the voices of oppressed people through journalism. However, because journalism is not an option for me as a Palestine refugee in Lebanon, I have settled on Human Resource Management as a career path. 

Despite our hardships, we Palestine refugees stand with the Lebanese people through this crisis. Thank God, we are working to fix much of the destruction. Slowly, Beirut is returning to the city we all remember and love. 

© 2020 UNRWA Photo by Mohammad Najami
© 2020 UNRWA Photo by Mohammad Najami

I am the president of the student parliament in my school and also a member of the UNRWA Agency-wide Student Parliament, which represents the voices of over half a million Palestine refugee students. The student parliament has equipped me with the tools for negotiation, and it has shown me the importance of contributing to my society and practicing good citizenship.  

My volunteer efforts started five years ago with the Muslim Scouts Association of Lebanon. Volunteering is very important to me and so I have tried to do it with so many different organizations. Soon I will be volunteering with the emergency medical services. 

UNRWA will continue to support 250,000 Palestine refugees in Lebanon with cash assistance as the economic impact of this crisis continues. You can still make a difference. Help Palestine refugees in Lebanon today.

It was only natural that the scouts and I decided to help after the explosion rocked Beirut. There were scouts from the south, some from the west and a group from the north. All the troupes sent their people. I was volunteering with the Beirut troupe alongside scouts from all over Lebanon. 

We worked on the mosques, on the churches and the schools, passed out provisions and cleaned the houses. Then we removed the damaged infrastructure, helped with traffic regulation and secured broken windows with nylon. 

Some people have asked me: "Why did you do this? Why did you choose to volunteer in the aftermath of such a catastrophe?" The answer is simple to me. My blood may be Palestinian, but my heart is Lebanese. Lebanon has been my home for 17 years. It is my promise to this society as someone living here. 

Lebanon is beautiful and, "indeed, God is beautiful and He loves beauty". Why did I volunteer to help Beirut? For my family and my brothers and sisters who are in Beirut.  If I were in a similar situation, I know that the Lebanese people would do the same for me. 

I know that I am just one person, but I believe that I am making a difference, and a big difference at that. 

I am trying to prove to myself each day that I am up to this enormous task. I have highlighted to the scouts who are younger than I the importance of this work. They now want to come along with us on these volunteer missions. I have shown the world who Palestine refugees are. I have shown what it means to work together, hand in hand. 

Feeling inspired by Mohammed's work? It is easy to get your community involved in helping Palestine refugees. Organize your own fundraiser today!

To be a Palestine refugee in Lebanon often means to be deprived access to some professions and to the right to own property. I live in these unfair conditions. However, this has not stopped me from helping my Lebanese brothers and sisters. 

We must always be a unified front, supporting each other and standing by one another in times of hardship and in times of ease. That’s who the Palestinian people are. 

With respect, 

Mohammad Najami 

UNRWA Agency-Wide Student Parliament Member 

Feeling inspired by Mohammed's work? It is easy to get your community involved in helping Palestine refugees. Organize your own fundraiser today!