It is sad to say that Lebanon has changed in recent years as we come to see around heartbreaking scenes of seniors stranded in the streets. An old man selling gums, an old woman selling tissue packs, or a depleted senior wrapped up in a corner at night, and similar.
From early morning to late at night, these scenes have become unacceptably familiar to us. In a culture that is so family-oriented like ours, this is indeed dramatic. We often pass them by wondering what we can do…
A young Lebanese woman by the name of Yara Bou Aoun decided that, for her, ‘unacceptable’ means taking action and seeing to a solution, at least in her area. Her solution, which became her purpose with a group of volunteers, is simple: These elders should not remain homeless.
In order to try compensating them for the harsh homeless days they were enduring on the streets, Yara started a project called “بيت جدودنا” (Our Grandparents’ Home), materializing as probably one of the best initiatives taking place in Lebanon this year.
She took to the streets, convincing the homeless elders to stay in a shelter away from the dangers of the street, and arranged for them an old house with stone walls to accommodate them, and duly commemorate their lifetime.
This is their home where they are free to do whatever they please without restrictions or rules. According to her interview with Al-Jazeera, she calls it “home” because the word shelter negatively impacts the elderly.
Like most Lebanese people, Yara considers grandparents a blessing to the family. “My love for the elderly and my interest in them was my first push to launch the project. I don’t like to see them live in the streets,” she stated to Al-Jazeera.
With the help of donors, volunteers, and the community of the village of Beit Mery in Mount Lebanon, the elders are being provided with food, medicine, and also money.
Yara and her mother, with the help of the village, prepare the meals for them and organize and clean the house, ensuring a decent and comfy dwelling where the elders are properly cared for. Medical care is also being provided to them.
Yara has also ensured that the elders enjoy their time “at home” with leisure activities. She has secured farming equipment, drawing materials, card games, crossword puzzles, and books, for the elders to enjoy them as they please and whenever they want.
Help comes in many forms and all of them matters, not just financial. At this stage of their lives, it matters most for them to feel valued, welcomed, respected, and loved. And this is how they feel at their “grandparents’ home.”
Taking a few moments out of one’s busy schedule to sit with them can leave a remarkable impact a hundred times greater than money ever can. “The home of our grandparents is a window of hope for us,” an 81-year-old woman living in the house told Al-Jazeera.
“Here I feel that I am not in a shelter, but in my own home, where I found a new family, and here I felt safe and affection,” she said and went on adding: “I live with them in the last days of my life after I was homeless.”
Yara, who’s 31 years old, is seeking to develop a new project in the future called “Beit Siti” (my grandma’s home) for elderly women. This young remarkable woman hopes that this project spreads to all governorates around Lebanon so that no elderly remain homeless.