The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Palestinian Refugees in Lebanon

11 June 2004


I have just returned from a trip to Lebanon and Syria leading a group of 18 people to meet with the Palestinian Refugees in both countries.  In Lebanon, they live worse than ever.  No wild animal would live under such conditions.  In the thirty five years that I have been visiting with the refugees, I have seen the conditions in the camps in Lebanon get worse and worse.  The Lebanese Government does not accept the responsibilities of International Humanitarian Laws towards the refugees.  There are no services, no right to expand housing in the camps to meet the increased population, no right to work in more than 70 categories of jobs, and UNRWA has decreased its budget and services.  In Syria, the refugees live so much better and are treated very, very well by the Syrian Government.  So I and the delegates who went to the area are focused on the refugees in Lebanon at the moment.

Our friend and colleague, Rania Matar (she was on the Syria part of the trip, but originally grew up in Lebanon, and has a photo gallery of refugees in the camps there) will be going with her family from Boston to Beirut at the end of July to visit with her paternal family.  She is willing to receive your donations and take them with her.  The particular programs to which I suggest you contribute are the following:

Arab Resource Center for the Popular Arts (ARCPA) directed by Moa’taz Dajani.
This center provides popular arts programs for the children in various camps, as well
as producing films about the children and their families.  The impact of the Center in the camps has been very positive.  The art work of 3 year olds and up have been displayed in Lebanon and Europe.  Most of the themes of the children are about
Palestine and their dreams of a better future.  Arcpa plays a cathartic role for the children.  Email:  They also do oral histories with the refugees.

Ghassan Kanafani Cultural Foundation, Habilitation School, in Mar Elias Camp, directed by the exceptionally talented and dedicated Nahla Ghandour.  The School provides a special learning environment for children (Palestinians and Lebanese) who have learning and/or physical disabilities. I have a special place in my heart for those children because you all know that Arab countries try to hide or ignore children with such disabilities.  These children have a right to the best life possible.  Nahla Ghandour, herself a victim of polio, has done an amazing job in educating the children and empowering them.  Nahla’s email is: if you wish to write to her.

Women’s Humanitarian Organization in Bourj Bourajneh Camp headed by Ms. Olfat Khalil Mahmoud.  Olfat is an amazing woman, strong, determined, compassionate, and brilliant in squeezing out from miniscule resources, ways to help women to deal with physical and mental health.  The camp life is horrible, and women carry the brunt of having to provide for their families and to deal with husbands frustrated by the blockage of the Lebanese government to allow them to find work and help their families.  Olfat is a truly humanitarian woman.  Her email is:

Chatila Camp, Children and Youth Centre.  Their are two people who head up programs for youth and/or adult programs:  Abu Moujahed (Mahmoud Abbas) and Nuhad Hamed, who works with Najdeh, a Women’s Welfare Organization providing
services and youth centers in the camps.  As you may all know, Sabre camp no longer exists after the massacres and the 1982 war.  In a sense, it was collapsed into Chatila where also a number of poor Lebanese live.  The conditions are absolutely miserable as in just about every camp in Lebanon.  You can reach Abu Moujahed at:  and Nuhad through Association Najdeh:  put her name in the subject, or a note directed at that address to Raida Hatoum and ask Raida to pass on your message to Nuhad.

There are so many other programs and people in the camps who need help, but I have focused on the above because they are all within the area of Beirut.  Please note:  Rania Matar will be in that area from end of July well into August.  You can send a check payable to Rania.  She will record your donation, cash the check, take the cash to whichever of the programs above you designate, and she will bring you back receipts.  Friends, cash is easier for the recipients than having to wait to cash checks made out to them.  Usually, the Lebanese banks will charge them for cashing any check you send.  So please send your donations to Rania in her name.  She is totally trustworthy.  You can speak with Rania if you like at the following number: 617 538 2256.  You can send your check to her at:  Rania Matar, 143 Tappan St., Brookline, MA 02445.  You can email her at:  RaniaMA [at]

Do not sent me any money.    Please make direct contact with Rania.  Your donation in whatever amount will be deeply appreciated by the refugees.  They need to know that they are not forgotten.  Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Elaine (Musallem) Hagopian