O Holy Night - Syrian Refugee Children of Tyre

This interpretation of the Christmas classic “O Holy Night” has been released by Roisin O’Reilly to raise funds to support the education of Syrian refugee children in Tyre, Lebanon through a local school run by Fr William Stuart , originally from Clontarf, Dublin.

The Story Behind the Recording.

Several years ago I was introduced to Fr William Stuart’s work in Tyre, south Lebanon when he founded this school for Syrian refugee children displaced by  the Syrian war.

He returns every summer to Dublin and speaks with passion and humility of the work that he undertakes with the Syrian refugee children in one of the most poverty-stricken areas of south Lebanon.

These children are known as “street children” -  they work on the streets, from 8am every day selling anything from hair clips to chewing gum to anyone who will buy. The children are "managed" on the streets by organized criminal gangs and are exploited by them getting $1 for their days work. 

They don't have access to a normal school education because of the severe economic collapse in Lebanon where the state schools are full to capacity with students who before would have been educated privately. This has resulted in almost no places for the Syrian refugees.

William's school provides these children with their only opportunity for an education. The cost of running the school is five thousand euro per month, with costs rising due to the growing number of students - 60 students last year to 135 students this year. Covid has added its own complications.

With the generosity of Irish people so far the school has a dedicated team of four teachers and a social worker running a morning and an afternoon school of three classes and a kindergarten. They teach Arabic, English and Maths and provide the children with a meal and bus to and from school. 

While the school is now up and running it needs further funding in order to continue the education it provides. Fr William is in deep gratitude to Irish people for the support they have given him but needs a continued source of funding.

Fr William Stuart said;

THE HOPE

“My hope has been that we get a number of girls and boys of the street and also a number of young kids who are not able, for whatever reason, to access main stream education, to get them into some form of learning. My hope now is to consolidate what we have, that we can make a commitment to the 135 kids we have at the moment, to continue to provide what we are providing at the moment over the next two to three years and I think that is really important because coming in as a flash in the pan accomplishes nothing. These people have had agencies and organisations and governments and international NGO’s come and go and promise so much but deliver very little. I want to be able to say to the kids in our school and to their families that we are here with you,  to give you what we can in terms of basic education, to support you at an emotional level but also at a practical level in terms of food supplements and sometimes rent supplements."


THE DREAM

"The dream is to be able to increase that number with funding from 135 to 250 kids because there are a lot of kids on the street.  At the moment we just can’t take them because we don’t have the funding. The Euro5k we spend per month on rent, on teachers salaries, on transport, on food for the kids meets the demand for the135 kids in the school but if we had more funding coming in and if we are able to guarantee that for at least a year to three years then we would be in a position to take a lot more kids that are currently on the streets. I see them every day and it breaks my heart in that we are not able to take in more because we don’t have the funding, we don’t have enough for sandwiches for their lunch, we don’t have enough for transport costs. I can’t afford to take on another teacher at the moment. I don’t want to start stretching things out to the point that what we are actually providing is nothing. What I want to do is to make a difference in their lives. This is no big dream, it is  just a very simple dream to lift the lives of these kids in the smallest way possible over the coming years."


O Holy Night
This song choice, O Holy Night, seemed an obvious one for me as the holy family themselves were refugees after the time Jesus was born. They fled Bethlehem  in what’s known as “The Flight into Egypt” after King Herod ordered the slaughter of every boy under the age of two on hearing of the birth of Jesus.


The government announced another lockdown on Monday 19th October - I rang Ewan Cowley,  the talented guitarist (whom I had been working with) straight away and two days later, on the day of the last six week lockdown, we recorded this version of "O Holy Night". I remember  the evening after the recording I had  a good feeling about  it -  there was an energy about this that was far bigger than any 'plan' I had. I felt it.


After that session there was no going back for fixes or retakes. All our mixing was done remotely which I have never done before with a song. During that time I contacted a friend and a brilliant visual artist Mihai Cucu who is from Romania and lives in Bucharest. Mihai had done a video for me for a  show  so I knew he was the person to do the visual for the children and for the song. With his usual generous heart and creative mind he immediately agreed.

Fundraising

To make a donation – however large or small – to help support the children of Tyre please follow the instructions on this site.

All of the funds raised on this Go Fund Me page will go directly to the running of the school.

Appreciation

I have been amazed at the generosity of people, both friends, and strangers who have offered their talent and support to get this song out to listening hearts for Christmas 2020, a year that has challenged people worldwide in many different ways. 

A special thanks to Ewan Cowley for his beautiful playing and work on the song. Mihai Cucu for his creative mind and generous heart in creating this video, James McGowan for giving his time and photography, Donal Hanrahan Jnr for his assistance with radio PR and Donal Hanrahan Snr for his technical expertise and guidance on the 'Go Fund Me' page. Without any of those mentioned, I could not have got this song and video released. 

And my sincere thanks to Fr William Stuart who provided me all the pictures and information I needed but mostly for his full-hearted commitment to the education of the Syrian refugee children of Tyre. We thank you. 


Roisin x

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Donations

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Organizer

Róisín O'Reilly 
Organizer
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