I grew up in Beirut in the 1960s when Lebanon was called “Switzerland of the East” and Beirut “Paris of the East.” Our home was near the orphanage “Dar Al Aytam,” and I would frequently pass by its main gate while walking in the neighborhood or on my way to school.
The children at Dar Al Aytam received the best of educations and went on to successful professions given the high literacy rate and thriving economy in Lebanon at that time. I remember one graduate became a famous actor who starred in movies and television shows that depicted the glorious past of Arab and Islamic society. We were so proud of Dar Al Aytam.
Today, as the country’s economic crisis continues to worsen, children in Lebanese orphanages face severe hunger and lack of education. Orphanages and foster homes are receiving fewer donations, putting nearly 11,000 children at risk. The children at these orphanages are increasingly aware of their dire situation and worry about whether they will continue to receive an education, enough food to eat, or even a roof over their heads.
God bless GiveLight for taking on the sponsorship of 50 children at Dar Al Aytam. As part of the sponsorship, every child sent in his or her bio (photo, name and future aspiration). It is heartening to see the goals of these ambitious young children who want to become doctors, managers, teachers, and architects. One six-year-old, however, brought tears to my eyes when he announced that his aspiration was to become an “emigrant” so that he might leave Lebanon’s stark economic, financial, and political situation behind. His sentiment sadly sums up the mood of all young adults in Lebanon.
The current economic crisis is the worst to hit Lebanon since Dar Al Aytam was first established in 1917 during the First World War over 105 years ago. The Lebanese lira has now lost 98 per cent of its value since the start of Lebanon’s economic meltdown. Food has become increasingly hard to come by, with meat drastically increasing in price – the price of beef has risenfrom $7/lb. to $15-$20/lb. depending on quality. Not just food but maintaining the facilities and other necessities (fuel, electricity, etc.) has also become a challenge. The cost of supporting one child today is now equal to the cost of supporting ten children before resources became so scant.
With the worsening situation, the children at Dar Al Aytam are anxious about what will happen to them. The staff has taken great pains to explain the situation to the children in a positive light so that they might keep up their morale. The administration has also put a plan in place to maintain its services despite the economic crisis, first by looking for new sources of revenue and second by minimizing expenses as much as possible. The goal is to be able to continue operations regardless of the economic situation.
While the future remains uncertain, Dar Al Aytam Al Islamiya is hopeful that they will continue to find people who are willing to help their cause, and they insist their doors will not close – no matter how bad things get.
I look forward to visiting this home for orphaned children in Lebanon soon, God willing.
When we arrived at the GiveLight home, the clock was nearing midnight. The home stood as a tan, two-story building, distinct from some nearby structures