Category Archives: Society

The Good Note: A Smart Initiative To Help Street Children & Child Beggars

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goodnote

What can we do to help street children? How can we help them when money is clearly not the answer? How can we make sure that the money we donate to these children is being used properly?

The sad truth is that we cannot help these children most of the time and the money that we are offering them is going to organized mobs that are recruiting and exploiting them most of the time. Moreover, our government has been neglecting this issue for a long time even though begging and child labor are both illegal in Lebanon and the only organization in Lebanon that offers a refuge to both Lebanese and non-Lebanese street children (Home of Hope) is not receiving enough funds to do its job.

These children need to be taken out of the street and put back in school, but things are easier said and the Syrian crisis has unfortunately made things even worse. Hundreds if not thousands of families are living in the streets of Beirut and you cannot go anywhere without spotting child beggars these days.

So What Can Be Done?

As I’ve stated in a previous post, we need a new strategy to cope with this ever-growing problem and the work that the ministry of social affairs has been doing is less than pathetic. We need new ideas and initiatives to help and I think “The Good Note” is a good way to start.

What is The Good Note?
“The Good Note” is an initiative kicked off by Bou Khalil supermarkets to give children on the streets the things they need, without the risk of funding any unsavory trade or perpetuating an unfortunate cycle. Good Notes are worth the same amount as the 1000 Lebanese pound bill but can only be spent at Bou Khalil Supermarkets on necessities such as food, water, household supplies, personal hygiene items and small treats. Bou Khalil Supermarket also tied up with Pharmalife pharmacy in Hazmieh so that Good Notes can also be used to buy medicine to those in need.

You can buy these good notes in bonds of five at all 11 Bou khalil supermarket branches across Lebanon and Pharmalife pharmacy in Hazmieh. Dar Bistro in Hamra is also selling them.

Will It Work?
“The Good Note” will not bring these children back to school or out of the street, but it will encourage more people to help them and provide them indirectly with the things they need. I love the initiative and what would make it even better is if these notes are used and shared by other supermarkets and corporate and non-corporate entities. We need a large network of supermarkets and shops to join Bou Khalil because these children are unfortunately everywhere. For example, if you wish to give good notes to street children in Achrafieh, they will have to go all the way to Kraytem to claim these notes so it’s not very practical.

Nevertheless, thumbs up to Bou Khalil for coming up with this nice idea! You can read more about it [here].

#PositiveTouch – Helping NGOs That Matter This Christmas

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vote

Christmas is a time for giving but it’s always important to give to the right organizations & NGOs that are really making a difference in our Lebanese society. Unfortunately, we have more NGOs than people in need in Lebanon (not really but you get my point) and very few of them are truly worth supporting. Among these very few, Brave Heart Fund, Association for Forests Development and Conservation (AFDC) & the Nawaya Network are NGOs that I highly respect and admire and that I’ve been supporting for years. I love what they stand for, how they are positively impacting our society and I applaud Touch for kicking off this initiative and selecting all three of them to support during Christmas.

About the NGOS:
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AFDC: This is one of the oldest and most active NGOs in Lebanon that deal with the environment and work on achieving a sustainable conservation of natural resources, as well as raising awareness and building capacities to contribute to the national efforts for better environmental management. They’ve been lobbying for years for changes in environmental and sustainable development policies and preventing harm to the environment despite all the difficulties.

Brave Heart Fund: “No child should die from heart disease because of a lack of funds”. That’s what this NGO has been trying to achieve for years by collecting funds to help treat babies diagnosed with heart diseases at birth. 100% of all donations are used to cover medical expenses and they’ve been able to save a lot of children since 2003.

The Nawaya Network: I’ve been supporting and following up on this NGO since day 1 and their award-winning online platform has been helping connect promising disadvantaged youth with mentors, businesses, and institutions since 2013.

How Can You Help?
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The #PositiveTouch campaign is aimed at raising awareness on these NGOs but will also result in supporting one of them financially with $15,000. People will get to vote for their favorite NGO by using the #PositiveTouch and #(NameofNGO) (#‎Nawaya‬, #‪‎AFDCLebanon‬ or ‪#‎BraveHeartFund‬) on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and Touch will reward the people’s choice by the end of the campaign on December 27 at midnight.

What matters the most is that all three NGOs will gain a substantial exposure and that people will get to engage in a socially responsible discussion for a change and help trend hashtags that actually make sense and that can leave a positive impact on our society.

So let’s start voting and raising awareness on important causes and a Merry Christmas to you all!

Amal Clooney Launches Scholarship To Support Bright And Talented Lebanese Women

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100 lives via Hello Mag

Amal Clooney is a successful British-Lebanese lawyer and activist known for leading numerous high-profile human rights cases. She recently represented Armenia in a genocide trial and was ranked the second most powerful Arab woman last year.

Clooney is quite an exceptional woman, an inspirational role model for young women around the world, a hard worker and she’s doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. In fact, Amal just launched her new annual scholarship which will fund secondary schooling for one girl from her home country Lebanon. The scholarship is in partnership with 100 Lives and will “send one female student from Lebanon to United World College in Dilijan, Armenia, each year to enroll in a two-year international baccalaureate program”.

“This scholarship will give young women from Lebanon the opportunity of a lifetime,” the British barrister said in a statement. “Cross-cultural learning and studying abroad can be transformative. I am grateful to 100 Lives for helping to open doors for these bright and talented young women.” Participants will be chosen each year “based on their exemplary academic performance and demonstrable interest in the promotion of human rights and international issues,” the statement said.

The scholarship’s first recipient is Lebanese student Pamela Tebchrany, who graduated at the top of her class and is fluent in Arabic, French and English. She’s planning on pursuing her interests in human rights and women’s equality.

A great initiative coming from an exceptional woman! We need more women like Amal in Lebanon and the world.

Syrian Father Who Used To Sell Pens In Beirut Streets Now Owns Three Businesses!

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Syria-Lebanon2 Attar is running 3 businesses now – via HUSSEIN MALLA/ASSOCIATED PRESS

We frequently hear terrible stories from Syria or related to Syrian refugees, but there are also inspiring stories that will restore your faith in humanity. Abdul Halim Attar is a Palestinian-Syrian who fled to Lebanon three years ago with his two children and has been selling pens in the streets of Beirut to make ends meet.

A journalist shared his picture on Twitter and within hours, his story went viral and a crowdfunding campaign was kicked off. Over $190,000 were collected online and two months later, Abdul Halim al-Attar started three businesses and is employing 16 other Syrian refugees.

More importantly, he moved with his two kids to a two-bedroom apartment and put back his 9-year old Abdullah went back to school after three years of absence. He also gave around $25,000 to friends and relatives in Syria.

All in all and as I stated previously, if this story proves anything, it’s that people are more than willing to help when they are given the opportunity and that small initiatives like this one can help change someone’s life positively.

Does anyone know where his restaurant is located? I want to visit soon.

Check out the full story on [Telegraph] and [Mashable].

BuyPens

Lebanese React To An Old Man Marrying a 12 Year Old Girl

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wedd1

Child marriage is still a huge problem in Lebanon and is simply wrong. There are no official stats on child marriage in Lebanon but girls are generally more impacted than boys. These girls are not physically nor emotionally ready to become wives and mothers, and they are at greater risk of experiencing dangerous complications and suffering domestic violence. [Source]

I loved KAFA’s initiative to tackle this issue and it’s good to see people reacting the way they did, however civil authorities have no role to play here because of the religious tribunals and therefore the law protects this man.

Sickening but true …

[YouTube]

How Syrian Child Refugees Survive Beirut’s Streets

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guardian

Childhood has been put on hold for tens of thousands of refugee children who work long hours in detrimental conditions and sleep on the street to provide for their families. This catastrophic lifestyle poses serious risks on their physical and mental well-being and they need every help they could get, but unfortunately we all know Lebanon is incapable of handling the situation.

What we can do as Lebanese though is treat them nicely, offer food, work with NGOs to get them out of the street, enroll them in schools since they are for free this year etc …

Check out the full Guardian report [here].

That’s Bilal, he’s been here for four years. His father is dead, he lives with his mother and sisters. If he doesn’t get money, his sisters will beat him.

Moussa, he’s 14 years old. He works to get money for his father.

Bambi and Khaled. They work for themselves, nobody takes money from them. They sleep on the streets, they are homeless. They don’t have anyone to take care of them.

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UNICEF #BackToSchool Campaign: Free Education For All Lebanese & Non-Lebanese Children

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unicef

All Lebanese and non-Lebanese children (aged 4 to 16) will be able to attend public schools for free this year. We are talking about 367,000 children, out of which 200,000 Syrians. The #BackToSchool (#كلنا_عالمدرسة) campaign was launched by UNICEF Lebanon and the Ministry of Education after they managed to collect $94 million from international donors and organizations.

I think this is very good news because any form of education is better than no education especially for refugee children. I know our public schools are not the best but they will provide a safe environment for all these children, a chance to socialise with each other and stay away from the street. More importantly, education is the best weapon against extremism and terrorism.

PS: If you already registered your child and paid the tuition, follow the below guidelines and you will be reimbursed.

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How To Help Baby Ali & Other Refugee Children

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baby ali via Lama

As soon as I heard about the 8-month old baby, that was originally tweeted by Jad, living under the Charles Helou bridge yesterday, I shared the story and talked to a couple of friends and NGOs to see how we can help. After making few calls, I was introduced to Lama Beydoun (Thank you Sarah) who was apparently among the first to spot the baby and has been helping him since Day1 along with Rachelle Ismail who took him yesterday to see a doctor on her own expenses. I also talked to Rana who has offered to relocate the baby and his grandpa and has been helping as well to get some feedback on the family. I finally decided to meet with Carol Maalouf and members of the Leb4refugees NGO at Charles Helou station as they have been dealing with refugees for several years now.

What’s The Story?

Ali is an 8-month old baby who lives with his mother, her sisters and brothers, his step-dad and his grand father somewhere in Ouzai. His dad is Lebanese from the South but has apparently abandoned his family for some reason. The grandpa was taking care of the baby most of the time from what he told us and he decided to move him out of the apartment because it was in a very bad condition (too dirty and too hot). To be honest, I don’t think any place can be worse than living under the Charles Helou bridge and we couldn’t really figure out why the grand father took the baby and moved out but what’s for sure is that he’s taking good care of his grandson and other members of the family are helping as well.

To cut the story short, we told the father that the baby should no longer sleep under the bridge and that he should sleep at the Ouzai house (if there is one) till we find a new shelter. He agreed and the baby spent the night at home yesterday and we made sure with the police that he didn’t keep him under the bridge.

How To Help?
living

Ever since the story broke up, a lot of people have offered to help and several of them showed up and offered the grand father money, food and baby supplies. Everyone wants to help but it needs to be done properly in order to get Ali off the street and into a decent shelter. First things first, we need to find them a new apartment and cover the rent for at least 6 months, then get the baby and grand father the food and supplies they need.

– Alfa Telecom were among the first to offer help and Alfa’s CEO messaged me directly and told me they will cover the rent for 6 months which is awesome news!
– As far as online donations are concerned, I decided to team up with my friends at LiveLoveBeirut and Leb4refugees to start a crowdfunding campaign. Since there are a lot of children in need, the funds donated here will go to Lebanese 4 Refugees to help find Ali get a new life at first and then help other refugee children because there are thousands of babies like Ali in Lebanon unfortunately.

For those who are in Lebanon and can directly donate (cash, food, supplies etc ..), contact Leb4refugees offices at +961 4 546 077 (or +961 3 315500) or email them info@lebanese4refugees.com.

For those who are in Lebanon abroad and wish to help online, you can donate [Here].

I really hope this works out and we can get Ali a new shelter and a new life. No baby deserves to be sleeping under a bridge. No one deserves living under such conditions.

Update1: I just passed by this morning and Carol told me they found an apartment in Nabaa for $350 a month and that they will probably move today as soon as the funds are secured.

How Can We Help The 8-Month Old Baby Living Under The Charles Helou Bridge?

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child

I’m glad that MTV shed the light on this 8-month Syrian baby living with his grandfather under the Charles Helou bridge but something needs to be done quickly to pull them out of this horrible place. I’m already talking to a couple of NGOs to see if we can raise money and move them somewhere safe the soonest. The baby and his grandpa have been on the street for over 20 days now.

Three weeks ago, a 35-year-old single father of two from Syria received almost $175,000 in donations in only 6 days after his picture was shared by a foreign journalist in Beirut and I’m sure that a lot of people are more than willing to help Ali and help change his life positively.

Ever since I watched the report, I can’t help but wonder how do they sleep at night? How did they survive the sandstorm? How is the baby coping with all this heat and noise around? This is just terrible!

If anyone has any ideas on how to help, please share them. I’m going to pass by this afternoon see if they are still there.

ali granpa

[YouTube]