At the moment, both the #Lebanon and #Cyprus offices of #Cedar Rose are sitting under an enormous dust cloud, reported to have blown over from #Syria. Both countries are used to the occasional red dust storms that drift across the deserts of #Egypt and the #Gulf but this one is different and unprecedented â€“ but not surprising. Lebanon is next to Syria and Cyprus is 100 km (60 miles) away from the Syrian coastline. Major parts of Syria have been reduced to rubble and millions of people have fled for their lives whether from militant groups or government forces. The summer has been extremely hot and dry - in the 40s many days including this week - and there are no housewives to sweep the dust from the balconies â€“ the balconies have gone and the housewives too. There are no farmers left to water the crops and keep the soil moist. Even the tallest buildings are full of holes and the dust just blows through. It is extremely uncomfortable to live and work with this heat and this amount of dust in the air â€“ I can feel the dust in my mouth as I type - and we are inside sturdy buildings with electricity, air conditioning and running water. I dread to think how the people that are living in camps or on the street are coping â€“ it is seriously hard to breathe out there. And this morning I have read that the #UNHCR and #UNICEF are struggling to cope financially to feed, clothe, medicate and house the millions of refugees in camps and even the World Health Organisation is stretched to its limits. The refugee crisis particularly touches my heart for three main reasons.
- Firstly, because I have many friends I met in Greece 24 years ago who had to flee their homeland as teenagers because their entire childhoods had been spent during a violent war and they felt there was no hope for them in their own country â€“ Lebanon - at that time. One of them is my husband and the Managing Director of Cedar Rose â€“ Antoun Massaad.
- Secondly, I have contacts who until very recently had successful businesses in Syria but have had to flee to other countries to survive and I know that they had to leave everything that they had behind â€“ including their businesses, their homes, their cars, all their possessions, their pets and even their families.
- Thirdly, because in 2006, Antoun and I were forced to face a terrifying decision to flee from our home in Lebanon to Cyprus via Syria with our children whilst Lebanon came under an intensive Israeli bombardment. The day before, we had been sitting on the beach with friends. We were lucky that our home was not damaged, our car was left in Syria and we were eventually reunited with all of our possessions, and our pet dog Tasha (who had to be left behind with family) two months later. But that frightening two-day journey to Cyprus and the two months living out of one suitcase between four people - relying on the goodness of others to provide us with clothing and furniture - was extremely humbling. Those two months were stressful to say the least because our friends and family, our business and our colleagues were trapped inside Lebanon and neither fuel nor food was getting in. And that was mild compared to what the Syrian people are going through now.
The Lebanese refugees I met 24 years ago in Greece all went on to become successful European citizens. Antoun created Cedar Rose â€“ a company which has offices in Cyprus and Lebanon providing #credit reports, due diligence reports and #data verification services on businesses throughout MENA - currently employing 30 people. One of the guys now owns several shops in the north of England and has bought houses which he rents out. Another works in a steelworks in Finland, one more owns a car painting workshop in Germany. They all have families and none of them has spent any long period of time unemployed. Most of them created businesses and therefore jobs in the countries where they settled. This group of young men started with less than nothing because they didn`t even have basic human rights â€“ but they all succeeded in their own ways and I am very proud to know them all.
Refugees are not some kind of underclass; they are normal, often well educated, experienced people whose lives have been turned upside down - sometimes in an instant. Imagine yourself in their dust-covered shoes today. I know I can. If you are able to help to fund the UNICEF or Save the Children, which all rely on donations please do so. In many countries, charitable donations are a tax deductible expense for businesses and every donation will help, however small. Donate to Unicef Save The Children
P.S. To see the normal view from our offices in Limassol (as pictured today above), see my post entitled "Serving East and West from In Between