Earlier this summer, Global Team member, Anna Currie, went on a 6-week trip to Lebanon to become familiar with the region and explore the possibility of establishing a Boy with a Ball team in Lebanon that will implement local work as well as launch various teams throughout the region. The trip served as a great opportunity for Anna to get a sense of what it would be to move and live there long-term. She mentioned that during her trip to Lebanon she was able to spend time with different people, ministries, and organizations learning about what is happening with young people in Lebanon, what is being done to help, and where there are needs.
She remembers a day she spent in Tripoli, where she was invited by a Lebanese girl she met previously to walk the streets of Lebanon and point out specific neighborhoods. Eventually, her family joined and shared their experiences, stories, and history in the area they had grown up in. Anna was welcomed into their culture and hospitality. Anna recalls it as one of her favorite days during her trip, and a day where she could see the future of Boy With a Ball in Lebanon
When asked about why Lebanon specifically, Anna explains that the idea first came through a friend, Keith Curlee, who brought it up to the global team back in 2013. He expressed that the Lord had been speaking to him about Boy with the Ball being in Lebanon. During this time, BWAB was having conversations with the U.S. State Department, where they agreed that implementing programs in Lebanon would be great. At the time, the Syrian War had just started, and many Syrians were fleeing into Lebanon, not only in refugee camps but neighborhoods.
These two occurrences together sparked the initial interest of Lebanon. However, the global team at the time was still growing and needed time to figure out their best approach to expansion. The spark returned once again in the Fall of 2021 and is now coming to fruition.
“One of the things that makes me excited about this new venture is getting to walk with young people in discovering their purpose and their development into knowing Jesus,” Anna explained.
At this moment, the Middle East is facing a crisis, and Anna mentions that this only fuels the fire within her heart for what it would be to have an impact on young people and their development as well as their families, communities, and ultimately their country.
Lebanon is being affected by crises at various levels that have taken a toll on the economic prosperity, educational system, and livelihood of its citizens. Inflation in Lebanon has been steadily increasing but recently has peaked where the Lebanese pound has lost 98 percent of its value. Teachers who were once compensated fairly now only make about 50 dollars a month, a significant drop. Over the last year, there have also been teacher strikes against the government asking for better compensation and funding for education. This has led to young people’s education being disrupted. Anna mentions that Lebanon is a well-educated country where many people learn and practice various languages such as English, French, and Arabic fluently.
“There's a lot of pride in their education system so for them to face a disruption is quite significant,” explained Anna.
In August 2020, Lebanon also faced a port explosion right in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led to a weakened government where families are not getting their necessary resources and living wages. Anna mentions that 80 percent of Lebanon is living under the poverty line therefore changing the family dynamics, where young people are responsible for being breadwinners.
While there has been various humanitarian aid because of the natural crisis Lebanon is facing there is a lack in systems of development for young people.
From Anna’s experience with Boy with a Ball she says, “BWAB has been very good at getting into rough areas and providing the care and relationship building to offer hope and opportunity.” She continues to explain that when you are alongside young people and get to know what each young person specifically is facing, it is then that you overcome those barriers into those individuals thriving and living a life of purpose.
The goal in the long term for Anna is to help mobilize and impact young people within neighborhoods in cities across the country, where you end up effectively transforming them over a long period of time. In October of this year, Anna officially moved to launch the first Middle Eastern Boy With a Ball Team.
Anna explains, “The hope would be to not only transform one city but many across Lebanon. To equip youth as future leaders within their families, communities, and ultimately lead the transformation of their country.”