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Longview business owner headed to help Syrian refugees

By Clare McCarthy
Feb. 17, 2017 at 11 p.m.

Dean Waskowiak speaks about his upcoming mission trip to Lebanon, on Friday February 17, 2017, at Encore Multimedia. (Michael Cavazos/News-Journal Photo)

A Longview business owner is headed on a mission trip to Lebanon this weekend to help Syrian refugees.

Dean Waskowiak, founder and owner of Encore Multimedia, is going on the trip with WorldVision, an international Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with communities around the world to overcome poverty and injustice.

"I was really excited to go," Waskowiak said Friday. "I have a real empathy for people who are in situations that are just terrible. And there's a good chance that these refugees will be there for decades and not ever really have a home like they had."

The organization provides food and water assistance, emergency supplies, health care services, education and child protection interventions to children and families in need. According to the organization's website, WorldVision has helped more than 2.37 million refugees from around the world since 2011.

Waskowiak said he is not afraid of traveling to dangerous places to help people. He said he and the other missionaries will have security guards with them at all times, and although they have to be careful, he does not feel unsafe.

"I'm a Christian, and that motivates everything I do," he said. "My goal in life is to love God and love others, and I find myself drawn to people that are in difficult situations and wanting to help them."

Waskowiak said he has supported WorldVision since 1980 when he and his wife moved to Longview and heard about the organization. The two are active donors to WorldVision and have helped feed and clothe children through their donations as well as help fund new water wells in various countries.

WorldVision contacted Waskowiak and asked him to join the trip to Lebanon as a temporary missionary. The trip aims to help minister to the 1.5 million refugees who have come from Syria, he said.

WorldVision has a Syrian Crisis Response team that provides aid to people in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Turkey and Syria. In 2015, the team reached approximately 1.1 million people, including more than 630,000 children.

Waskowiak's group will assist with WorldVision's ongoing work in Lebanon, learning about the Syrian refugee crisis and reaching out to care for suffering people.

"WorldVision has area development projects," Waskowiak said. "They come in and they first help get people as safe as they can, and then they provide them with water and food and shelter. And then in the long term, they start giving education projects and economic development projects … then eventually, WorldVision pulls away, and it's a self-sustaining community.

Waskowiak is the only Longview resident going on the trip. Seven others are joining him from Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma and elsewhere in Texas.

The group is set to leave Sunday and return Feb. 25.

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