Text: Teun van der Velden
Photo's: Marcus Ganzevles
They had to do something after the explosion in Beirut, Lebanon.
The UNIFIL veterans agreed on that.
A foundation to set up relief actions was created by Bert Kleine Schaars from Deventer.
And the first projects have now been completed.
See at the bottom of this article the television broadcast
For example, a school in the capital Beirut now has internet, thanks to the veterans. Under the guidance of veteran and installer Siem Kersten, the internet connection has been restored. "Due to the large explosion in Beirut (summer 2020, ed.) the facilities such as the internet in large parts of the city have been destroyed. With the foundation, we are now building a completely new network at the school, so that they can get back to work properly."
The UNIFIL veterans were sent on a mission to Lebanon between 1979 and 1985. In a United Nations mission, the military had to keep the peace in a conflict between the Palestinians in Lebanon and Israel.
Cable with duct tape
And that network is more reliable than the one that was there before. "They had one cable here, which was connected with duct tape. In addition, the network was not properly secured. We have now also set that up well," Kersten continues.
It is one of the projects that the foundation 'Veterans for Lebanon' has set up. "We also regularly send containers with stuff in that direction," explains initiator Bert Kleine Schaars. "Stuff that the population there says they need. Think of school supplies, computers and, for example, things for a local physiotherapist."
Six months after the disaster, Kleine Schaars visited the port of Beirut himself. "We were allowed to enter the site and stood next to a crater of one hundred meters wide and eighty meters deep. You can imagine how big the damage is here in the city. And the contradictions here are so great. Sometimes a Lamborghini drives by, but most of the people are poor here."
And that is also the reason that a container is not just sent. "Unfortunately, corruption is high here. That is why we have contacts who take care of the proper distribution of all items. And because we regularly travel to Beirut ourselves, we can check whether everything is going well and make an inventory of what is still needed."
Veteran Bert Kleine Schaars from Deventer, at the site of the explosion in Beirut
"We have done an awful lot of work here in a week's time," says Siem Kersten proudly. "The teachers at the school are proud and happy with our arrival. That's what you end up doing it for. And of course we are far from finished, because we want to continue with the relief actions in the coming period."
And that is exactly what the Dutch ambassador to Lebanon is happy with. "We are in a severe economic crisis here. Due to the explosion, corona and gigantic inflation, many residents are having a hard time. The help of the foundation is therefore of great importance and we are very happy with that."