Project Overview

In August 2013 there were more than 680,000 Syrian refugees in Lebanon, a result of the Syrian Civil War. The majority of them were in the Beqaa Valley, a farming region about 20 miles east of Beirut, which in the winter drops to bitingly cold temperatures. According to our friends in Beirut, the refugee camps were spartan, harsh, in desperate need of clean water. When my longtime friends Jon Rose and Christian Troy invited me join them on a trip to there to distribute water filters, I did not hesitate. It wasn't my first Waves 4 Water mission. Earlier in 2013 Christian and I traveled to Cartagena, Colombia. With the help of some local hosts, we took boats to rural slums and distributed filters. It was a wonderful experience. The filters are simple yet miraculous. The demonstrations, which Christian gave with charm and aplomb, transcended language. There were a lot of happy people who were getting something literally life-saving. It was a gratifying experience. Lebanon was like this and nothing like this. We arrived into Beirut a few days after a car bombing in a posh neighborhood. There were barricades preventing cars from driving into storefronts. There were armed guards in front of government buildings. The city is full of bullet holes and bombed-out buildings from the Lebanese Civil War, which went from 1975 to 1990. We drove up to the Beqaa Valley on an early fall morning. It was cloudy and cool. The closer we got to our destination, the more we could feel the impending winter cold. The refugee camps were pretty much what I'd expected—tents arranged in a square, a single portable bathroom for a few dozen families to share. The surprising thing was watching all the kids. They were playful and curious. I was reminded of the film "Life Is Beautiful," in which the father (played by Roberto Benigni) hides the truth from his son, tells him that the concentration camp is a game. These Syrian children seemed oblivious to what was happening in their home country. They laughed easily. They played soccer between tents. Jon and Christian were a joy to work with. They've been doing this since 2009, and though will tell you that every trip is different, they've developed a certain cool and poise. With the help of a translator, they showed how the filters work. The parents were impressed. The kids fought each other to sample the newly-clean water. We visited the Shatila refugee camp in Beirut, originally set up for Palestinian refugees in 1949. It's a square kilometer packed with 22,000 people. Our hosts took us for a walk around the place. "If anyone asks where you are from, do not say America," they advised us. Living conditions in Shatila are tough. The smell of sewage is pervasive. We met extended families living in small rooms. No electricity. My indelible image from the trip comes from the Beqaa Valley. We'd just done a water filter demonstration to a refugee camp full of smiling Syrians. Their spirits transcended the squalor that surrounded us. A mother and her son waited in line to get a water filter and bucket. The kid was humming a song that sounded like it could have from FM radio in Southern California. When they got to the front of the line Jon handed the bucket to the kid. He wrapped his arms around it and delivered a "Thank you" in perfect English. His proud mother kissed him on the head.

Statistics & Progress

Destination Lebanon

Funds Raised
$22,375 of $22,000

Impact 22,000+