Two geezers from Tromsø went to Lebanon; a woman went to a Syrian refugee camp in Jordan

We all choose our causes, and generally, whatever efforts you can volunteer into a charitable cause, are inherently good things. But sometimes you wonder about the motivations.

Here is a story from NRK, of two geezers who felt compelled by their consciences. At first I thought they had volunteered for Syrian refugees, as they are fleeing their country in droves and are deeply traumatized by their experiences. But no, they went to a Palestinian refugee camp, apparently without stopping to consider that the main reason they are “refugees” is because Arab countries without exception have refused to give Palestinians citizenship – Jordan is an exception to this rule in a manner of speaking, whose native population is mainly composed of Palestinians, but to correct that aberration, the Hashemite kingdom just adopted a measure to cancel such citizenships in an effort to block concentration of democratic power in Palestinian hands. The measure could affect a whopping 1,6 million Jordanians. Notwithstanding… two geezers from Tromsø went to Lebanon to help Palestinian “refugees”, after having been rigorously ‘trained’ by the PalCom in Tromsø.

Volunteering Tromsø youth in Lebanon

Two young men from Tromsø, both 21 years old have gone to Lebanon to do voluntary work for disabled children and youth in a refugee camp in Lebanon.

By Sylvi Inez Liljegren and Torill Ustad Stav

During the next three months the men from Tromsø are going to work with Palestinian refugee children in the refugee camp Rashedieh in southern Lebanon.

The meeting with the Committee for Palestine came about after Magnus came back from a year as exchange student in the US. He became interested in politics there, and on his return back to Tromsø the PalCom had started a youth group in the town.

Magnus participated in rallies in Tromsø and became more and more engaged with the Middle East.

Bad conscience

During a study trip to Palestine he was able to visit the Balata refugee camp. There he could work along with youth living in the camp on a mural.

I got very bad conscience observing their plight and thought, there must be something else I can do.

Through Astrid Eriksen of the PalCom he was informed that there is more he could do for young refugees in Lebanon.

The interview process took almost a year. The boys had to go through long interviews.

In order to even be considered, we had to sit through an insanely long interview, at least 4 hours, Magnus says.

It is important to find people who are willing to stay for the entire 3 months stay. And the two 21 year olds are absolutely certain they will stay.

English and football.

The boys went to Lebanon on April 7, and they have now started their jobs at the Abu Jihad Wazir center located in the camp. The center caters to youth with mental and physical disabilities.

The boys write on their blog that they work as English teachers for the local youths and arrange football practice and other sports for them as well.

The Palestinians must be some of the most hospitable people in the world, so it is not difficult to feel at home here, they write on their blog after the first few days.

Magnus and Brage are also going to continue working on the project “eyes of children”. This photo project aims to give children and youth in Rashedieh an opportunity to express themselves through photography.

The Palestinian refugees in Lebanon live in permanent refugee camps. They suffer high unemployment rates and have reduced civil rights.

We are going to transmit what we experience to others – not only now, but also for the future. We are going to be eyewitnesses. It is important to not forget the conditions the Palestinian refugees live under, also in Lebanon, Magnus tells NRK

Wow! Where to start? With the obvious manipulation and careful selection of very impressionable boys by the PalCom? 4 hours long interviews? Either the PalCom is very inexperienced if not to say incompetent in the matter of human resources recruiting – or, ominously, they are looking for specific behavioral traits that give away brains that are easily washed. The excuse that they are looking for youth who are committed to stay the entire 3 months of the program is thin as umbrella juice, Norwegian youth are among the most adventurous in the world and very few would say no to a 90 day holiday where ticket and board has been fully paid!

And what about the obvious racism in the statement: The Palestinians must be the most hospitable people in the world? What on earth did our Tromsø lads expect? That Palestinians are unfriendly? Uncouth? That somehow the squalor Lebanon has imposed on them, should take away from the Palestinian their humanity, warmth, beauty, intellect, humor, dignity, in short, their human essence? That, since they are “refugees”, they are therefore inferior as humans, someone we should expect less of?

This statement makes me question the ulterior motivation of these guys. The best kind of aid is to give a person a tool and a trade so that he or she may become independent and masters of their own destiny. So here we have two Norwegian geezers who go to Lebanon to do volunteering work, which is laudable. But they are not petitioning the Lebanese authorities to give the “refugees” full civil rights including citizenship – they have to their credit written about this situation on their blog, but where is the action vz the Lebanese embassy in Norway? It is good that they teach English and football, but where is their criticism of the PA and their publicly stated policy of not allowing Palestinian “refugees” to settle in Palestine, whenever this state comes into existence?

These guys are merely applying mascara on a corpse, failing to address the real causes, but simply acting to satisfy their own ego – “we have done something”. I wonder if they ever will realize that they are participating in the perpetuation of victimhood. They do this for their own egotistic motives, not for the Palestinians.

Skip-jumping to Jordan. VG tells a story of the despairing situation for Syrian refugees there. The contrast to the Tromsø geezers could not be sharper:

Save the Children met refugees on the border to Syria – the stories are despairing.

(VG Nett) Syrian refugees tell Norwegian aid workers about children who have been brutally slaughtered and of utterly demolished homes.

By Julie Lundgren

A 4 year old girl told us that she had witnessed her 15 year old cousin be shot in the head, and a woman told me she had seen a 6 months old infant be slaughtered, the Secretary General of Save the Children, Tove R. Wang, told VG.

She is currently in Jordan, and visited refugees in the town of Ramtha, north in Jordan, on Sunday.

The town lies a few kilometers from the border with Syria, and receive on a daily basis between 3/400 to 1000 refugees from the war ravaged country. Those who cross the border into Jordan are mainly women and children; the men are either killed or are being held back.

Ceasefire not holding

Many of the women we have spoken to, have lost their husbands. Others did not know of their husband’s whereabouts. Jordan receives all those who come, but they have no official status as refugees and Syrian authorities hold some people back at border crossings. Land mines are said to have been placed on the Syrian side of the border, Wang says.

Many hoped the situation in the country would calm down after the ceasefire, which was supposed to have come into effect on April 12. However, reports about new killings and unrest are received on a daily basis.

It is very clear that they ceasefire does not hold. People tell us that is has been calmer in some periods, but then it flares up again, Wang says.

According to activists, at least 13 persons were killed in Syria on Sunday and Syrians in Homs begged the UN observers to not leave them when they came to town on Saturday. While the observers were in town on Saturday it was quiet, but during the course of Sunday, violence picked up again.

I was told that the soldiers come into peoples’ homes and look for men, whom they then kill indoors. Also children, especially boys, are being killed, Wang says.

Traumatized and desperate

The general secretary of Save the Children was told gruesome stories about how soldiers in the country commit violent acts against the civilian population when she met a group of women at one of the organizations aid centers on Sunday.

Everybody has lost somebody and several have witnessed from a close hold, how family members have been killed. They are clearly traumatized and desperate, many have had their homes destroyed, and they have nothing to return to, Wang says.

The refugees tell about bombs and shooting after the ceasefire, and that they want more observers to come to Syria.

On Saturday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously for expanding the number of observers to 300 persons, but it is not clear when they will arrive.

Are you hoping to be let into Syria in the near future?

We are hoping to be granted access on humanitarian grounds shortly, but it is impossible to tell when this would be, and how long we in such a case, would be granted permission to stay. We have started to purchase goods and are preparing to transport it to Syria at the earliest opportunity. Save the Children hopes to be able to help 3000 – 5000 homes who need everything, such as food, hygiene- and household sundries

Difficult without a man

Wang says that the refugees from Syria are being well received by their Jordanian neighbors, but that there are no organized refugee camps or aid apparatus.

Most people rent a room from locals, where they live in difficult conditions, often in 1 room only. For the women it is obviously very difficult to earn money to pay for them selves.

They need an income, but culturally is can be very difficult for the women to live in Jordan without a man. One woman told us that her host had let her live in his home for free, but the people in Ramtha are not wealthy and there is a limit for how long he can let her stay there.

Play grounds and learning areas

For Save the Children, it is important to offer the women and children who come to Jordan a place where they can meet, talk and play.

To get the children into a more child friendly situation is very important. We are working to prepare safe playgrounds and areas for learning where the kids can stay several hours per day. There, they can draw and talk about their experiences, play with each other and process their experiences together with professional staff. The women can meet for a chat and mutual support.

There are also ongoing efforts to offer education to the many kids and youth who have passed the border.