Thursday afternoon, we welcomed to our New York offices someone who has been a partner with CNEWA in Lebanon for several years: Serop Ohanian, Field Director for the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Corporation, an Armenian center for child welfare.
He was featured prominently in a 2013 story in ONE magazine, on Syrian Armenians seeking refuge in Lebanon:
Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated Armenian enclave, has seen its capacity stretched to bursting since the Syrian crisis began in March 2011…
…Plagued as they are by exile and upheaval, the Armenians’ shared experience of violence and displacement makes for a less precarious displacement today.
“There is a very strong relationship between the Syrian Armenians and the Lebanese Armenians,” says Serop Ohanian, Lebanon field director at the Howard Karagheusian Commemorative Cooperation, an Armenian organization for child welfare.
“It’s normal for us in a crisis to say: ‘Let’s go live with our relatives in Beirut and if they don’t have an apartment, they will know someone through the church who will. We will manage somehow.’ ”
Helping them manage is a host of organizations, including CNEWA, church aid groups such as Caritas as well as international agencies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Karagheusian Center has had to extend its operating hours by four hours per day, take on four new staffers and reduce the summer holiday from one month to two weeks to meet the demand for its services.
Since then, he told us yesterday, the needs and demands have only grown. The clinic in Bourj Hammoud was originally seeing about 500 patients a month; that number has skyrocketed to 5,000. About 3,000 of those, he told us, are Syrian refugees. A facility that once had three doctors now has extended hours with seven.
Serop described a litany of concerns his center is trying to address — including chronic health problems among the refugees (high blood pressure, diabetes and respiratory problems are paramount); stress and anxiety among children; and a rising rate of dropouts from high school. Through it all, his organization is doing an exceptional job under difficult circumstances. Lebanon, like so many places in the Middle East, has been overwhelmed by the influx of refugees. But the Karagheusian Center is providing some sense of stability and urgently needed care.
CNEWA is proud and privileged to work with them in this important mission. (You can read more about the Karagheusian association’s work here.) And check out A Refuge in Lebanon to discover how Syrians and Armenians are struggling to rebuild their lives in Lebanon.