MAF announced that it had raised $2.5 million to support Palestinian refugees at refugee camps in Lebanon. The announcement came in MAF’s “Here and there; we are all Palestinians” official celebration in Ramallah.
President Mahmoud Abbas said, “Only by education we can reach our goal and our independent Palestinian state whose capital is East Jerusalem.” President Abbas asked MAF to include people from Al-Yarmouk refugee camp who had migrated to Lebanon and other places. They must have share in education and aid and support. President Abbas added “About five years ago, MAF was just an idea. Today, there are substantial results. You have helped our children to move on and you took on their responsibility; they would have never been able to have education otherwise due to their difficult situations. You have helped more than 2,500 students to get education and after graduation, they start new lives, which they would have never been able to enjoy without the support you have given to them.” The President added, “As you know, the idea of MAF started because our people in Lebanon do not have the opportunities of university education, not even secondary education. It was necessary to think of how to help and assist our people. The only way was to establish a foundation to help them get education. There are two conditions: First, Those who obtain secondary education receive [further] education regardless of their affiliation as long as they are Palestinians needing education. Second: They need not repay expenses spent on them; however, I believe it would be good of them, once they have jobs and become businesspeople, to help others the way they were helped, to get education. Then we moved on to another successful idea; small businesses. Family Takaful [program] moved on slowly and was not as successful as the university education [program]. It should have been easier since family Takaful, through MAF facilitation, links families who develop direct relations; this is family Takaful (solidarity). We could; therefore, prove that we are people standing by each other through humanitarian and family friendly relations helping families in difficult situations. I hope that this program will take more effective steps so that people, especially those in dire conditions, would know about it.”
The President stated that, “There are many people who live in dire conditions. The talk was first about the [Palestinian refugee] camps in Lebanon. Now it is Syria’s [Palestinian refugee] camps especially Al-Yarmouk refugee camp, which had a population of one million including Palestinians and Syrians and others. There were 200,000 Palestinians in this camp. Now it is deserted. Everyone has gone somewhere else in order to escape ISIS, Al-Nusra and other extremist organizations.” President Mahmoud Abbas added, “What had happened to us in Syria was a disaster because the anti-government organizations fought each other and the population of the camp paid a heavy price. ISIS had recently moved on to the camp and fought against the government and its supporters. Our people had been the victims of the fight. The camp was bombarded devastating lives. We do not know what will happen to other [refugee] camps. We decided to help as much as we could and people gave donations from their salaries and otherwise. The aid is now on its way to our people in Al-Yarmouk.”
The President also stated that another problem was the refugee camps in Gaza where people suffered a lot due to a series of wars, which devastated everything they had built. Everyone knows why. “We want our people to have decent lives. We do not want wars, we say no to wars. I do not want wars to happen here and there. I shall not be subjected to extortions. We want our people to live in safety and stability. What happened had happened and we need to move on,” said the President.
Dr. Mohammad Mustafa, Chairman of MAF’s Board of Directors, said that the main objective of the celebration had been to express gratitude and appreciation to the supporters of MAF’s programs and initiatives. Dr. Mustafa added that MAF was created “As a result of the harsh conditions of our people at the refugee camps in Lebanon and to contribute to enhancing their situation.” He said that thanks to the support MAF had received, it was able in less than five years to make great achievements in accomplishing its mission to improve the social and economic situations of our people at the refugee camps in Lebanon. Dr. Mustafa promised that MAF would continue to operate despite the lack of resources and to widen its activities in the near future. Dr. Mustafa also stated that the general framework of MAF function is to support “The continuation of the historic resilience of the Palestinian people wherever they are despite the attempts to obliterate or weaken such resilience.” After 68 years of the Nakba, our people still shock the world with their resilience and determination to achieve their high goals, according to Dr. Mustafa. Our people at home pave their way steadily with resolve to establish the independent Palestinian state. Our people in the 1948 land also pave a promising way to achieve the justice and equality they deserve. Our people in diaspora have beaten alienation. They have become educated and worked creatively, safeguarded their national identity, and transferred the feeling of injustice to hope in the future, said Dr. Mustafa.
The circumstances of our people everywhere are not ideal and a lot is missing. The situation of our people at the refugee camps in Lebanon is, by far, the worst. Dr. Mustafa described the circumstances of the Palestinian refugees at Al-Yarmouk refugee camp by saying, “I am sorry to see the deteriorated situation at Al-Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria and the daily suffering of our people there. The leadership, under daily supervision of the President, works to deal with the challenges of the situation.”
Dr. Mustafa expressed appreciation to the President for his constant support for MAF and care and attention to improve the situations of our people regardless of where they are. Dr. Mustafa also thanked the Palestinian ambassador to Lebanon Ashraf Daboor for his efforts and support for MAF as well as the private sector representatives for their support for MAF.
MAF’s Acting Executive Chairman Mr. Jamal Haddad described the most prominent achievements and initiatives of MAF since it was established before five years. Mr. Haddad stated that MAF aimed to improve the humanitarian, economic, and cultural situations of the Palestinians at refugee camps in diaspora. Mr. Haddad also stated that the focus of MAF at this point in time was due to the harsh conditions of our people there.
The total amount of financial support and donations, which MAF received between 2010 and 2014, was 24 million dollars. Giving support to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon was through two key programs; the Students’ Program and the Family Takaful Program, according to Mr. Haddad. Students presently benefiting from the Students’ Program are more than 2,000 at 30 universities and institutes. The number of graduates through the Students’ Program is more than 500. Moreover, MAF is giving grants for the first time to approximately 70 students attending courses at vocational programs, says Mr. Haddad.
The total amount of money transferred in education aid through the Students’ Program was approximately 11 million dollars. Grants are directly transferred to universities’ bank accounts. Grants are awarded in accordance with standards and measures, which MAF had developed. Grants cover 30% to 70% of students’ tuition fees, according to M. Haddad.
Mr. Haddad said that the Family Takaful Program was four years old and the number of families benefiting from the Program was about 1,000. The total amount of money transferred through this Program has so far registered about 1 million dollars. The amount of aid per family is 50 to 100 dollars a month.
MAF strategy, according to Mr. Haddad, is to support education for employment, guide students to vocational training and areas of study that would ensure better chances of employment for them, safeguarding the continuation of MAF, serving the largest possible number of students, review students’ lending program along with grants, set up new mechanisms to realize the meaning of family takaful, partnership with similar institutions to coordinate efforts, and to serve the largest possible number of our people in diaspora.
A number of students, who benefited from the MAF grants in Lebanon, who arrived yesterday in Palestine, attended the celebration. Two female students explained the way through which they contacted MAF and the grant they received and how they graduated as high achievers from university.