For poor families who are unable to buy gifts for their children, Christmas can be a difficult time. In Lebanon an ACN-funded project, to provide gifts for poor families, bring joy and hope to families.
For Farha and Nidaa, two widows from the Lebanese village of Qaa on the Syrian border, the Christmas presents initiative is especially important. In 2016 both women lost their husbands in an ISIS suicide attack. Farha was left to care for her three children, and Nidaa with her four little ones. Both men were the family breadwinners, but now their widows receive only 100 dollars a month from the army – a fraction of what they need for their daily lives, not to mention psychological help for their traumatised children.
Amid Lebanon’s shattered economy, the fight for daily survival has long since become normal. For many parents, that means forgoing anything that is not absolutely essential. Lots of things fall by the wayside, including healthy nutrition, but also money for presents, which is particularly painful at Christmas.
Sister Raymonda’s eyes shine. Last year, with the help of more than 100 volunteers and the financial support of the pontifical foundation Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), the sister was able to match many children’s wish for Christmas gifts with their urgent need for winter clothing. The team collected the requests of more than 10,000 children from all over the country, had the garments made in Lebanon, and distributed them.
“We sensed that this project was a call from God,” says the nun from the Congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Lyons.
“It was like a beehive around here: helpers were swarming everywhere. Even mothers who didn’t have much time came, to give at least an hour wrapping presents. They were determined to contribute to giving children joy at Christmas.”
In Qaa, Farha and Nidaa’s village, temperatures can fall to around two degrees even in autumn and spring. The new winter clothing for their children is therefore a real godsend. After the death of her husband Nidaa felt abandoned by everyone. Actions like ACN’s Christmas initiative show her that she is not forgotten.
“We want to stand with needy families, particularly children,” says Sister Raymonda. Even in southern Lebanon, despite the war and the difficult situation, around 500 children will be receiving presents. Compared to their daily needs a piece of new clothing may seem like only a small thing, but it means a lot to them. “With simple means we can give joy and hope, witness to the Incarnation of Emmanuel, the presence of God among us, and fashion a new world.”