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Global partner works to eradicate systemic poverty by stabilizing families

The hope offered by the Compassion Protestant Society is ‘tangible, practical and empowering’

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

The Compassion Protestant Society team includes, from left to right, Fadi Riachi, Joyce Sakr, Jackeline Saad, Boushra Sayah, Randa Gabriel and Khalil Haddad. (Contributed photo)

LOUISVILLE — Like many global partners of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, the Compassion Protestant Society (CPS), the diaconal arm of the National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon (NESSL), is working to cultivate thriving lives for vulnerable families. In 2021 alone, CPS assisted nearly 2,000 families.

According to Fadi Riachi, CPS executive director, reports indicate that 80% of Lebanese and 99% of Syrian families who are refugees in Lebanon are unable to provide enough food for their families.

In a recent letter to supporters, mission co-workers the Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker wrote about Bchara (last name withheld), one of the individuals helped by CPS programs.

His family is among the thousands who lost their homes during the Beirut port blast in August 2020. It has been called the biggest non-nuclear explosion ever recorded, killing more than 200 people, injuring 7,000 and causing an estimated $4.6 billion in damage.

The impacts of that day also shattered an already fragile economy and pushed more than half of the population below the poverty line.

He told the Parkers that his health and the health of his wife and son have deteriorated. He alone has undergone five heart surgeries since the explosion.

Bchara used to work as an electrician with a salary of $5,000 a month. In 2019, the Lebanese economy collapsed, further exacerbated by the global pandemic. He now works as a security guard bringing home $60 a month. With that money the family must navigate Lebanon’s record year-on-year inflation rate of 224.39% (December 2021). He collects plastic bottles to sell per kilo for some extra money.

Basic food items like rice and milk cost more than 10 times what they did in 2019. The cost of basic medicines, including insulin, aspirin and penicillin, has increased more than five times in the same time period. The World Bank says that Lebanon’s economic collapse is “likely to rank among the world’s worst financial crisis episodes since the mid-19th century.”

CPS provided Bchara’s family with an $800 debit card, allowing them to purchase essential medication, food and other supplies. CPS also provides supermarket vouchers. Earlier this month, CPS began distributing up to 1,000 vouchers a day through the seven schools overseen by the NESSL across Lebanon.

Fruit trees await disbursement to members of the community. (Contributed photo)

The Parkers report that three times a year, CPS distributes “Agro Baskets.” The winter basket contains tree seedlings like mango, avocado, almond, walnut, lemon, cherry, pear or peach. The spring basket contains vegetable seeds and seedlings to nourish the basics of a Lebanese diet— tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, bell peppers, basil, mint, parsley and zucchini. The fall basket contains seeds and seedlings for cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, spinach, potatoes, garlic and onions. Their goal is to encourage families to once again plant gardens, whether on balconies or in small yards.

Through its work, CPS learned that elderly adults are especially vulnerable in Lebanon. Many have remained in Lebanon, their homeland, when adult children have moved to other countries to find work. They lost their entire savings in the banking crisis. To address food insecurity among retirees, CPS is developing its version of Meals on Wheels. Through four kitchens in various parts of Lebanon, CPS plans to provide up to 2,000 meals a day. Organizers are still trying to raise the funds to fully implement the program.

Consistent with PMA’s Matthew 25 focus, CPS is doing more than attempting to meet the immediate need of families. It aims to combat the root causes of systemic poverty. Through its Family Stabilization Support Program, it is working to build capacity in economically vulnerable communities and to generate job creation and income generation.

“We intend to generate lasting local economic expansion through governance reform from the ground up,” said Riachi.  “We’ll do this through developing democratic committees whose members will include grassroots leaders from the various economic, social and local authorities of each community. Our implementation teams will impart to these committees the skills to work across social, religious and political barriers to manage community economic agendas in a democratic, accountable fashion.”

A CPS team member coordinates food vouchers with a member of the community. (Contributed photo)

“It’s a pretty amazing initiative, and other partners who have utilized this model have been quite successful at community-level transformation,” said Elmarie Parker. “As a Lebanese NGO with a Syrian and regional outreach, CPS has, in the relatively short period since its inception, attained a reputation for quick response and effective engagement in disastrous situations — Syrian refugees, the Beirut blast and COVID. The organization is now led by principal members who have joined CPS specifically to chart and accelerate the advancement of economic opportunities and education advancement through decentralized and functional democratic processes.”

Parker said CPS offers hope.

“False hope harms,” she said. “But the hope CPS offers is tangible, practical and empowering.”

For more information about the way CPS is working to eradicate systemic poverty, contact Parker at

To support the ministry of Revs. Scott and Elmarie Parker, a gift can be made in their honor. Click here to give to mission personnel support. Mission co-workers are notified when a gift is made in their honor.

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