Meet David! David and his family live in Beirut, Lebanon where he serves as the IDEAS Lebanon Project Operations Director and as the coordinator for a community center that works with disadvantaged youth. Learn about his work and family in the latest blog post: Life in Lebanon.
David, tell me about yourself !
I am originally from Colombia. I moved to the U.S. when I was in teenager and went to college in the U.S. as well. My background is in international development that focuses on the marginalized and underserved. My wife, Carla, is from Nicaragua. She moved to the U.S. as a teenager and studied psychology in college. She works in the home raising our three children. We have a very lively, very multi-cultural home!
What do you love about Lebanon?
We love Lebanon! We have enjoyed getting to know the culture and people. They are so hospitable and welcoming. And the food is delicious! We love to visit the cedars in the mountains and enjoy the beautiful coastline from Beirut. Lebanon is a diverse country and I love being able to work with Lebanese and foreigners alike.
What do you wish people knew about Lebanon?
It is a fairly safe and stable country, more so than it is portrayed in the news. It is particularly welcoming to tourists and has a lot of ancient sites with layers of history. The Lebanese open their arms and welcome people from other places. English is fairly widespread and is used often.
What projects are you currently working on?
Currently, I am working with a in-country organization that is establishing a community center that is focused on serving marginalized youth of Lebanon. These youth are Lebanese, Syrian, Muslim, Christian and all with a variety of economic backgrounds. Our goals for this center is for it to be a place of reconciliation, a safe environment to play, ask questions and build relationships, a community where they can build vocational skills and training, and where they can learn more about their faith in God. As an IDEAS leader, I help develop new partnerships and grow existing ones.
Can you tell us a recent story of impact or transformation?
During the first three years we were in Lebanon, we worked primarily with refugees. I met Alaa, a 13 year-old refugee boy from Syria. He and his family lived in a refugee camp and they struggled to find ways to make ends meet. Alaa wasn’t able to go school so he hung out in the camp, trying to find ways to occupy his time. A year later he had the opportunity to go to school which gave him a renewed sense of hope and purpose. I discovered that 95% of refugee children do not have access to education; 45% of Syrian refugee youth do not feel safe and so that often leads to thoughts of suicide. To have programs like the community center allows children to dream again, a place that is safe to learn, grow and make friends. And it is a place to find a place of transformational hope. There is nothing better than hope.
Stay tuned for future opportunities to volunteer in Lebanon!