Dan Slatter leads a church called Revelation in Chichester, West Sussex. He describes how over the last eighteen months it had become increasingly hard not to be moved by the stream of shocking images that have been a constant on our news feeds. Streams of refugees from Syria, pouring into the surrounding countries, and more recently arriving onto Europe’s doorstep.
“Like many people, we at Revelation Church we were moved as a community and felt the stirring to respond, but then very quickly hit the limit of our expertise as a local church leaders team. I had heard that Children on the Edge had connected with a church and associated NGO in Lebanon, so a coffee was booked to get advice”.
Children on the Edge is small organisation, also based in Chichester, but working with vulnerable children across the world. Over the last two years they have been working with local partners in Lebanon to establish ‘tent schools’ for Syrian refugee children, in many of the small camps that have sprung up in Bekaa Valley.
“When we heard about the combination of Children on the Edge development expertise, working alongside an indigenous Lebanese Church, we knew we had found the right channel for our response” says Dan. “We just wanted to know how we could help, but what emerged from this question is something that honestly took us all by surprise. We dared to dream what could happen if a whole group of different churches in Chichester responded together, to build and run a school in one of the most desperate places of need on the planet. So, the churches of the city took up the challenge together, pooled their resources and partnered with Children on the Edge. To date we have fully paid for one school build and yearly running costs and are now well on target towards a second school. A new vision emerged that day about how the church in Chichester could be together. Before we really knew what was going on we had six churches on board with enough money committed to fund almost two new school builds and the running costs for a year.”
Nuna, the Church Leader in Beirut says “I am so grateful to each one of you who are sowing into this work. It means we can be in the camps all the time with a constant presence with people on the ground. Without this we can only do small visits and are less effective.”
The schools supported by Children on the Edge are educating over 300 children, and the charity also ensures the supply of winter provisions through the colder months. Rachel Bentley, Executive Director at Children on the Edge says “It is an incredible privilege to be able to provide the opportunity to link the churches of Chichester to the Church in Lebanon to meet the needs of Syrian refugee children and their communities. We have been able to get alongside the NGO established by the church and help shape and develop their tented school programme, which provides safe places for children to learn and play in.
Crucially this also allows the church to have a permanent presence in every camp with a school enabling them to reach the needs of the community in a wider way, spiritually, emotionally and physically. We are very thankful for the support of Revelation and the Chichester churches for making this possible.” You can find out more about the work in Lebanon by going to www.childrenontheedge.org.