Lebanon News

With holidays around the corner, locals come together to help

Lebanese Food Bank volunteers arrange donated food in boxes in Beirut, Dec. 6, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: “The government is not helping us, so we want to help each other,” Missua Missi said. Missi has organized “The Donation Booth” in Beirut, which gathers clothes, books, toys and food in order to help those in need. This is one of the many initiatives that have been set up recently, aiming to help locals amid a dire economic and political situation in the country.

A separate campaign, “Lebanon Emergency Solidarity Fund,” was launched around a week ago, with the goal of helping those who were laid off and dismissed from their jobs in recent weeks.

This campaign also aims to help most of those who are receiving less than 70 percent of their worth their salaries said Ghia, one of the founders of the campaign.

“We cover 30 percent of a minimum wage salary and interview people to see if they are eligible,” Ghia told The Daily Star, which is 30 percent of LL675,000 minimum monthly wage, ‘for three months,’ Ghia told The Daily Star.’”

According to Ghia, the fund works primarily with the NGO “Tahaddi,” based in south Lebanon, and helps many of their beneficiaries who already live in dire conditions.

“We are creating a wider campaign called the crisis solidarity fund and will be working with more NGOs to reach people in other areas as well,” Ghia said.

Separately, the Lebanese Food Bank has a truck parked in Martyrs’ Square Fridays and Saturdays, where volunteers gather donations of dry food.

In the 10 years since it was founded, the Lebanese Food Bank has been responsible for 6,000 families said Wed Labban, one of its organizers.

“We are currently gathering dry food to send to families in Arsal ... and because it is winter, we are also collecting blankets,” she said.

Many families have been struggling to make ends meet and other citizens, in return, have been trying to help using social media as a tool.

“It happened randomly ... I was watching a TV program that was highlighting the poor conditions some families are living in,” said Rawan Hijazi, when asked what motivated her to make a post on Instagram calling for donations to help families in need.

Another campaign called “La Ndaffi Diyaana,” or “To warm our villages,” was launched to help those vulnerable to the harsh winter weather ahead who may not have means to keep warm.

Dima, from the campaign that hopes to gather 5,000 blankets to distribute to various villages across Lebanon, including Chouf and Bekaa said the campaign has set up a tent in Martyr’s Square, where people can donate.

Other initiatives also focused on homeless people living on the streets.

Ghida Kanaan said she and her friends had come up with a campaign, which translates into “warm others, you will warm your heart.”

The campaign’s organizers have set up a tent in the Azarieh Parking Lot in Downtown Beirut on Sundays, to collect food and blankets for those who are homeless.

“Campaigns are usually directed at poor homes, and those on the streets don’t get their share of campaigns,” said Ghida, who had noticed many homeless people when she participated in demonstrations.

Friday, Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil Friday signed off on allocations to be released to the national program to combat the country’s poorest families.

The allocations are valued at over LL4.5 billion ($2.97 million), according to a statement on the state-run National News Agency.

The campaign called “Hamlet Mahabbe,” or “Love Campaign,” aims at collecting food and clothing aimed at being distributed to families in Sidon, “especially blankets for the cold weather,” Hijazi said.

Restaurants have also pitched in, like the “Ajineh Restaurant” in Sidon that started distributing food to poor families in the city earlier in the week, according to an employee there. Meanwhile, initiatives are being launched for the upcoming holiday season.

Francoise Nehme and a group of five others came up with the campaign called “Santa Yantafed.” Yantafed comes from the Arabic word intifada, or uprising.

“Some parents are out of jobs or money and won’t be able to buy gifts for their children,” Nehme told The Daily Star.

The campaign hopes to gather donations of gifts and toys, which will be distributed in Martyrs’ Square on Dec. 22.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 07, 2019, on page 2.

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