Al-Jarrah refugee camp, a little distance away from the Bekaa Valley, holds about 800 Syrian residents with 130 tents. The residents call it "the camp of the deprived." Refugees of Al-Jarrah settlement are reportedly paying several hundreds of dollars a year for renting that piece of land. The money they brought with them while leaving Syria has shrunk. They are struggling to find whatever odd jobs they can to pay the rent. Moreover, mismanagement and inefficiency of UNICEF, UNHCR and various Lebanese authorities are only making life harder for the refugees. It takes them forever to get themselves registered, running from pillar to post. Even to obtain something as simple as a water filter installed within the premises of a refugee camp takes weeks. If the filter fails to work, it could take months to have it repaired or replaced. The Lebanese government appears to be taking no interest at all in the welfare of Syrian refugees.
The local volunteers comprising of both Syrians and Lebanese are helping a great deal more than the bureaucracy and the international organizations. A group of Syrian volunteers named Sawa4Syria recently got an oven for baking fresh bread and placed it at the corner of Al-Jarrah camp. Commonplace as it may sound, it was a luxury for the residents considering their living conditions. Sawa has also been distributing products and commodities of daily use. Additionally, it's setting up educational programs for refugee children and counseling for emotionally traumatized women.
Sawa4Syria consists of the earliest Syrian refugees to Lebanon who arrived soon after Syria was invaded in the spring of 2011. Most of them are young university students. But now the group consists of Lebanese and Palestinian volunteers as well, a total of 50 members helping several thousand Syrian refugees within Lebanon. Though hardly the time for such an attitude, the UN workers have virtually been looking upon Sawa volunteers as competitors or rivals. Camp residents trust the local volunteers far more. However, with the number of refugees proliferating on a daily basis, despite its inefficiency, the UNHCR needs to stay around and assist otherwise it could get too overwhelming for Sawa. It's a dire situation and every bit of help is needed.