Beirut and Beyond
My name is Suzann Mollner, I am the executive director of Beirut and Beyond. I have been serving Palestinian refugees in refugee camps in Lebanon and Jordan for the past 1 years. Six years ago, I started a non-profit to benefit Palestinian refugee communities called Beirut and Beyond.
I first walked into Bourj El Barajneh Palestinian refugee camp on the outskirts of Beirut in 2004. I was someone who had done humanitarian aid work around the globe but had no idea of the conditions for Palestinian refugees or the longevity of the problems. I saw the need and I saw the injustice, so within a year I moved to Beirut to serve them. Since, I have dedicated my life to serving them and advocating for them.
Currently, there are 5.4 million Palestinian refugees registered with the U.N. in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank, and Gaza. And yet, in the United States, the diaspora of Palestinian refugees in Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan are rarely talked about or advocated for. In actuality, the Israel/Palestine conflict stretches out across the Middle East and the 58 Palestinian refugee camps located in those four countries.
Palestinians have had refugee status for 70 years. Currently, I work with 3rd and 4th generation refugees. When you are stateless, you do not fall under the protection of any country. The basic human rights that you and I enjoy are not accessible including healthcare, employment, and education. They also do not participate in the social, economic, or political make-up of these counties. They are guests, unwelcome at that, living in limbo. Which makes travel, ownership of property, work, or education virtually impossible.
Last year, the Trump administration announced an end to all funding to UNRWA. UNRWA is the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, they have been providing aid (education, healthcare, employment) to Palestinians since 1949. The effect of this funding cut could be apocalyptic. 1.5 million Palestinian children attend UNRWA schools, in many cases, it is their only option for an education. 3.5 million people access UNRWA health clinics, and UNRWA employs over 30,000 Palestinian refugees, again in many cases, this is the only form of legal employment available.
I started Beirut and Beyond as a way to partner with others in the Middle East and in America. The problems facing Palestinian refugees are too great. I believe partnership is the only way forward. In the Middle East, I partner with national organizations-Palestinian run, Palestinian led. We come alongside to assist them by what they request of us, be it projects or finances or manpower. For example, our partner in Jordan, Hopes for Women in Education, requested a library for their Women's Center in Gaza Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan and we were able to provide it.
Our focus is not political, it is to serve and benefit Palestinian refugee communities who are in need. It is to share Palestinian refugee stories so they are known. It is important for us not to create more barriers in a complicated, painful conflict. But to build bridges so others can experience this community as I have. So, you too can see the beauty and dignity of Palestinian culture.