- April 29, 2021
As a civil society organization working in Lebanon since 2009, and focused on providing healthy, structured after-school sports programs for Palestinian girls and boys living in refugee camps and marginalized and vulnerable areas, our task has always been clear and straightforward. While not without its many challenges, we always ran in a paced-out, easy to plan rhythm; we tried to foresee challenges and planned accordingly. Needless to say, the past year has brought on an exceptional number of unforeseen challenges and has forced us to change our mode of operation and our focus.
When the pandemic first broke out and all of our sports programs were suspended, Lebanon was already struggling with economic, social and political turmoil. The pandemic and, later on, the August 4 th explosion in the port of Beirut only took matters from grave to hopeless. On the field, more and more people are needed, and continue to need help within our direct PACES community and beyond.
The biggest achievement for PACES during this period has been the ability to reinvent itself and shift, and reach our direct beneficiaries and respond to their needs during the health crisis and from there, being able to reallocate our resources to provide a broader reach of support to communities, institutions and individuals facing various kinds of monumental struggles. We launched our COVID-19 Emergency Response Initiative distributing food and health packages, including personal protective equipment, to communities all over Lebanon made vulnerable by the health crisis. This was done with the aid of multiple civil society partner organizations.
We then moved on to launch our Beirut Response initiative focused on supporting various local efforts from employment (partnering with Sanad Hospice, Matbakh El Kell), and education (in partnership with AUB and MySchoolPulse), to post explosion building rehabilitation (in partnership with Nusaned), healthcare, hearing aid (in collaboration with Bassma), food insecurity, and women’s economic security.
A key contributing factor to the success of these achievements has been PACES’ ability to find similarly aligned civil society partners to collaborate with on initiatives that were already rolling in order to pick up on their momentum and provide support on a wider scale. One of the most practical challenges we faced during this period (aside from the instability and uncertainty) is the restriction on money movement and transfer within the country.
We’ve found that to help overcome all the various challenges faced during this period, the most valuable tools have been adaptability, flexibility in operations, and collaborative work efforts. Working without predictability of the future, our biggest asset as an organization is keeping the end goal clearly in sight, while at the same time making sure that everything on that path is adaptable to change. We have also been fortunate to find the right partner organizations to help achieve these goals, without whom our mission would have been much narrower in reach. It is up to organized community efforts to help Lebanon overcome this storm.
South of Global Health is a blog of the Global Health Institute at the American University of Beirut which tackles the Global South’s most pressing health issues across multiple intersectional themes. The blog intends to serve as an outlet for health-related issues affecting and originating from the most vulnerable regions of the developing world.
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