News 10 Jul 2023

ACN increases aid for children and young people in crisis countries

This summer ACN will support almost 400 camps and gatherings. Most of this financial assistance will go to Lebanon and Syria.

Tens of thousands of children and youths from countries in crisis, such as Syria, Egypt, Armenia, Ukraine and Lebanon, will be taking part in camps and summer courses funded by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) this year. 

Over half of these courses are taking place in Syria. After more than a decade of war, which has led to a dramatic economic situation, ACN will be helping 45,574 young people, mostly children and youths, to participate in 273 summer camps held between June and September, which are aimed especially at recovering stamina and healing wounds. The participants are Christians from different churches from dioceses in Homs, Aleppo, Lattakia, Tartous, Jazeera, Hama and Damascus, among others. Through these projects, the local churches hope to strengthen the spirit, body and soul of participants, especially those who have suffered the worst effects of years of violence and war.

This year, ACN has released additional funds for summer camps in regions where children were affected by the recent earthquake, including Lattakia, Hama, and Aleppo.

The summer camps often take place as part of Christian scouting groups; other groups whose activities are supported include spiritual fraternities, catechesis groups, and Christian youth clubs.

The second country with most participants and camps is Lebanon. ACN has massively increased its assistance to this country over the past three years, since the devastating explosion in the Port of Beirut, in August 2020. A total of 106 ACN funded summer camps will be taking place all over the country, for the benefit of 18,855 Lebanese children and youths. 

“During the last meeting of Reunion of Aid Agencies for the Oriental Churches (ROACO) the Holy Father thanked us for supporting the youths of the Eastern Churches. He encouraged us to listen to the dreams they carry in their hearts, saying that young people want to be protagonists of the common good, which should be the ‘compass’ of social action”, said Marco Mencaglia, director of projects for Aid to the Church in Need International. 

“The Pope has asked the youths to be sentinels of peace for everyone, prophets who dream and proclaim a world that is different and no longer divided. At ACN we have massively increased our commitment to the young people in these countries. We want to be an active part of this future”, Mencaglia added. 

Some of the support programmes for summer camps and courses have a long tradition among ACN assistance projects, such as the camps for Christians in the Holy Land, including Jordan, Palestine and Israel. 

This year ACN will also be supporting four initiatives in Egypt: three organised by the Coptic Catholic Patriarchate, including one for orphans, and young people with special needs and their parents, and one for Sudanese and Egyptian children and young people, which is organised by the Salesian-run Youth and Refugee Centre.

These summer courses are also important to many children and youths outside of the Middle East, such as in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Cuba, Lithuania, and Armenia, where ACN is also funding several initiatives. 

The sad reality of the situation in Eastern Europe, caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, also merits special attention. ACN will be supporting five “Holidays with God” camps in Ukraine, as well as summer camps for young Ukrainian refugees in Hungary and Estonia.

ACN is contributing over 1.6 million AUD to support 66 projects in 13 countries, resulting in over 400 summer courses and camps, between June and September. 

- By María Lozano 

Featured Image: Summer Camp for Youth held in Lebanon in 2022. Copyright: Aid to the Church in Need. 

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