The Complex Web of Greed~ Lebanon

Lady on her balcony in the area of Borj Hammoud, Beirut

Lady on her balcony in the area of Borj Hammoud, Beirut

I left my native Lebanon to New York City back in 1987. The war was still raging and the political and economic situations were highly unstable if not volatile. Today, almost 27 years later, the Lebanese struggle with rationed electricity, unstable economic and political situations, living on the brink of another war, receiving a flood of refugees from another neighbor and the only difference from then to now is how much thicker the pockets of our political leaders are getting. Corruption is their religion and money their God. How will the web of greed be ever dismantled?

Life course interrupted~ Syrian refugee

Syrian refugee in North Lebanon

Syrian refugee in North Lebanon

As the west prepares to launch a missile attack on Syria in the coming days, the innocent children find themselves caught in the games of warring adults having no say as to where their life will be taking them next. More than 4000 Syrians are seeking refuge daily in Lebanon, where they make a staggering 35% of the Lebanese population today. A ticking bomb in a fragile zone, heart breaking and unfair in so many ways. If the children are the hope for our future, why are we endangering that chance?

The beautiful enigma that is Lebanon

Symbols of the two major religions stand side by side in downtown Beirut

Part of working on a current project about Lebanon, I was caused to rediscover my home country. So during a period of 4 weeks, I travelled the small country from North to South and East to West and I managed to fall passionately in love with it all over again.

Passion lives in Lebanon, it lives in its people, in its rich history, in its food, its music, its villages, its cities and even in its politics.

I call Lebanon an enigma because it absolutely makes no sense. Why would you love a country that is always on the verge of war, where the politicians are mostly corrupt, where electricity is still a part time luxury, where the citizens litter on a daily basis, where people think me first, me last, me, me, me…

I love it because there is something else there that is much deeper than all of the shortcomings that plague Lebanon.

Lebanon is breathtaking landscape. Lebanon is passionate people. Lebanon is deep religious beliefs. Lebanon is unparalleled generosity and hospitality. Lebanon is strong family values despite the recent breakdowns in family structure. Lebanon is so special that I know no one who visited it and did not fall in love with it and dream of going back.

I was sometimes standing in random places, on a shop counter, a fishing boat, a street at night, with an old man selling gardenias, with a child in an alley; and I felt this strong sense of bliss and was surprised to feel a very wide smile on my face that spread happiness down to my very core. And then to look over to the person in front of me each time and see that same smile on their face right there, for no special reason, just the peace that comes with existing, with living, with feeling passion.

I will be dedicating my blog to Lebanon for the next few weeks. It deserves no less.

Statue of the martyrs in downtown Beirut, still filled with bullet holes from recent clashes

When inspired children inspire

Demobilized child soldiers dancing in Goma, October 2009

Before the trip of “by art we live” to the Democratic Republic of Congo, an open line of communication and collaboration was opened with Jody Kennedy who teaches Middle School students in White Plains Public Schools, NY. Ms. Kennedy currently serves as a virtual trainer and consultant with the Center for Interactive Learning and Collaboration in Cleveland Ohio. She is the founder of the Global Ambassadors program and the Global Run project which is highlighted on the United Nations’ UN WORKS For People and the Planet website. Connecting with over 26 countries, Jody provides a virtual stage for youth to share ideas, art, music, and poetry-she has pioneered live videoconferencing to promote a global, borderless classroom. Jody’s expertise in interactive technology brings young people all over the planet face to face, in real time, to celebrate culture and art and a collaborative vision of humanity.

The Global Ambassadors, who are a very inspired and inspiring group of children, were very moved to launch an Art Drive to raise awareness and raise funds for the purpose of assisting demobilized child soldiers in Congo.

After several video conferences that I was invited to by Ms.Kennedy and the Global Ambassadors, a video was produced as well as a drive to collect art supplies and materials for sending to the Congo.

Quoted from Ms. Kennedy: “These are some examples of what the students who learned about the Congo from you created in order to help teach our community about Child Soldiers! Hannah created the T shirt design,Daniella and Sophia had the idea of selling pencils for $1 to raise funds to buy more art supplies. Daniella created the drawing . Hannah is an accomplished artist for her age. She herself has said that art has taken her through some hard times in life. I think that is why she feels so connected to this project.”

The GLobal Ambassadors' pencil design

What is better than children helping children? So inspiring! Thank you to Jody Kennedy and her Global Ambassadors who are always doing so much. I am so honored to work with you.

What gets into a humans to make them do something like this?

On the first day of my trip to Cambodia I took a morning trip to visit The Killing Fields also known as Choeung Ek, where large numbers of people were killed and buried by the Khmer Rouge regime, during its rule of the country from 1975 to 1979, immediately after the end of the Vietnam War.

About 2.2 million out of 7 million were killed during the Khmer Rouge rule under big brother number 1, Pol Pot .

The facts are there to be read and retold, but the feeling and registrations you get while there are impossible to forget. It was so overwhelming to think of all the children and women killed in this execution center which is only one of thousands that sprung around Cambodia at the time.

To try and push away the thought of babies smashed on trees to save bullets, and women raped and then killed in cold blood is a task I will never be able to achieve.

And yet I wanted to see this. I wanted to know what my fellow humans did, what possessed them to do this.

And it keeps going on all over the world atrocities, cruelty, genocide.. and so many of us just turn around and pretend that we don’t see.

I suppose I had to go through this day before I went on to see the beauty, spirituality and charm of Cambodia. Our human history taints us and is an integral part of who we are.

Cambodians are now happy  to have peace since the year 2000, and they are content. Because of the extreme cruelty they had to endure, they are happy to simply enjoy their lives and their families in peace.

Much to learn here…