I was very impressed with the level of organization inside the URDA headquarters. The people I met who are a part of the leadership that include doctors, lawyers, marketing professionals, phycologists engineers and others who coordinate between those on the ground inside the camps as well as communicate to others outside of the organization and all over the world.
With bureaucracy being the way it is, getting foreign professionals like doctors and lawyers set up to work becomes a real problem as they are unable to practice inside of Lebanon unless they are working directly beneath a licensed Lebanese doctor or lawyer. Basically, there needs to be a Lebanese person in charge.
Once we were finished at the URDA offices, Ahmed and another man (whose name I can’t remember) drove us to a shelter closest to the office. The shelter was located about 30 minutes away from where I was staying in town, close to the airport. We drove down an unpaved street and arrived at a structure that essentially looked like a three-story apartment building. Ahmed told me that this place primarily housed women and people with special needs. Only a few men lived here with their families. For the first time in Lebanon, I was getting introduced to the problem firsthand.
At the shelter, we were greeted by a local Lebanese woman who worked as the manager of the camp. She has a family of her own but also works with the Syrian families in this housing complex everyday. She told us about some of the families who lived there and showed us how they supported themselves. This particular shelter had small businesses run by the refugees living inside. URDA helps to get these kinds of programs started and then advises them on how to run their businesses successfully. There was a room full of sewing equipment and clothing to be sold later. I saw a wedding dress being worked on and was even given knitted baby clothing as a gift. I kept trying to pay them for it, but they wouldn’t accept my money. I also saw where a few women were making bread for the families who lived there and then more of it to sell. I even gave bread-making a shot myself.