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Integral Members Coordinating for the Syrian Refugee Crisis

As Syria descended into civil war, Integral Members launched a joint Disaster Response in May 2013 to respond to the mass displacement of Syrians across the region. As insecurity and civil war have spread across the Middle East, Integral has been coordinating the work of its Members in Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Turkey and Yemen, hosting calls to share information, needs, media resources and funding …

© Helen Manson 2017; ‘Urban Beirut’, where Merath/LSESD are based.

Integral Members have met in the region and developed a number of joint and complementary programmes.  Close cooperation across the alliance has allowed Members with no operational presence to launch fundraising campaigns, in order to raise funds for where they are most needed. A total of fifteen Integral Members are involved in responding to the increasing needs across the Middle East, through their direct working, work with partners, and fundraising.

This protracted regional crisis presents many challenges, with increasingly complex and insecure operating environments, as well as countries hosting refugees experiencing a huge swell in population. Lebanon, previously a country of 4.5 million people, now has 6 million inhabitants due to Syrians seeking refuge from war. Syrians now make up 21 per cent of Jordan’s 6.7 million inhabitants.  It is estimated that 5.1 million Syrians have fled their country, with a further 6.6 million being displaced inside Syria.

Merath/LSESD partners with nine Integral Members. They work with churches and other community organisations to provide relief to refugee and internally displaced families in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. In order to reduce the burden of relating to multiple organisations, Integral Members coordinate as closely as possible with one another on their support of Merath/ LSESD. Here the Director of Merath/LSESD, shares with us about his experience of working with Integral from his offices in Beirut, Lebanon.

What is the benefit to you of working through Integral?
We see big benefits working through Integral. We love Integral! We’ve appreciated their efforts and the investment in relationship over time and through partnership. I think it’s amazing that they can bring together so many different organisations with the same heart and get them all focused around supporting one organisation like ours. To me that’s unheard of. We also appreciate their specific, intentional efforts to pray for us. We feel like we are not alone.

Over the years we’ve worked with nine Integral Members on a joint response and we highly value the vast experience they bring to this ministry. We also appreciate the efficiency of materials and visits to the field being shared. This then enables us to concentrate on doing what we do best. It’s also good to have ideas to bounce around to those we can trust. Because different integral Members have histories in this region, we get a well-rounded multi-faceted perspective. Integral Members are willing to listen and we feel they genuinely care about us.

In addition, there is a range of compliance measures in place that push up to develop our systems to be better while taking a fresh look at things.  Also, because we are working through the churches in a protracted crisis there are ongoing, complex issues in which a lot of learnings are being made. We are able to draw on the history Integral Members have had in different environments.

What are some results? Any stories or case studies?
I think a lot of the programmes Integral Members are involved in are very complementary. World Renew’s food programme builds on a Tearfund UK’s winter programme, which complements a ZOA child-friendly space. All come together to present a holistic package. We also really like how Integral Members talk to each other and coordinate their visits and programme cycles. Recently, Integral was here in Lebanon, meeting with us for four days and we found that mutually beneficial. 

What is the main challenge?
One of our main challenges is that each organisation seems to have a different fiscal year, funding cycle, needs and requirements. Another challenge is that this is a protracted crisis. What does this look like in terms of ongoing funding? Will people continue giving? The situation is only getting worse but can our partners at Integral maintain that interest and keep telling that story to have people continue to help?  The needs are vast – the churches we know have enough resources to give 50 families a food voucher but 500 families are knocking at their door. There is no such thing as office hours for a pastor. They come to their door. That’s a lot of pressure for the churches we work with.

What is your hope for the future with this coordinated way of working with Integral Members?
We hope for continued engagement in a complementary and unified way. We recognise that not everyone can predict what funds they can raise through our engagement. We know there will be ebbs and flows but we want to continue our work in a dedicated, purposeful way.

This is a long haul crisis and we hope there is a commitment to learning. We are dealing daily with the tension between the demands of best practice humanitarian standards seeking perfection versus what it actually looks like to work with a dedicated church partner in a long term crisis. I’d love to get some real learning out of that. 

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