Category Archives: Society

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

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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.


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?

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

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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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


The Lebanese Social Pyramid

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pyramid1 Done by Samer B. Saleh

The religions are on top, followed by politicians, political security forces and political media, then there’s the wozz, the armed wozz, the businessman, the singer, the mafiozo and the Arab investors. On the lowest level, you have the baby, the maid, the grandfather, the graduate, the mother, the botox neighor and the “blackberry teenager” (Replace with iPhone teenager) and last but not least the social activist holding a banner that says “We can create Facebook events”. Let’s not forget the yogi floating somewhere in between the 3rd and 4th level and the emo who doesn’t fit anywhere.

I hope this gives you an idea on how difficult it is for social activists to do anything in this country, and why the whole political class is so worried about the #YouStink movement.

pyramid2 Done by Samer B. Saleh

You can check the high-res version [here].

Thanks Rami!

#BuyPens Campaign: $175,000+ Collected For Syrian Refugee Family In Beirut

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beggar3 via Al Jazeera

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. Attar was photographed by an Icelandic journalist and activist called Gissur Simonarson who shared on Twitter two pictures of the Syrian refugee selling pens while holding his sleeping daughter. After receiving tons of requests to help the man, Gissi was able to locate the man and start a fundraising campaign with the help of CaptainMaj, Jessy El Murr from Sky News Arabia annd Carol Malouf who runs an aid organization Lebanese4Refugees.

The campaign went viral and the 35-year-old single father of two from Syria received almost $175,000 in donations in only 6 days. The original goal set for the crowdfunding campaign was only $5000 so this is quite amazing especially that there are still 9 days left. Attar used to earn $35 on a good day but now his life has changed dramatically.

When asked what he wants to do with the money, Abdul said:

“I want to use the money to help Syrians. I don’t want to be the only one being helped; there are thousands of children on the streets. There are people who are worse off than I am,” he said passionately. “Syria is my country; these are my people. In Syria, we used to welcome everyone and help them.

“I am lucky because at least I have a roof over my head and somewhere to sleep,” he added. “There are many who are barely living. I hope this campaign grows to help all Syrians. I hope other Syrians get a campaign the way I got a campaign, and people can see the conditions they are in.”

Until Attar gets his money, Carol Malouf has been helping him get food, paid for his rent this month and has been working on getting his paperwork in order to establish him in Lebanon.

All in all, 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.




Let’s Help Out Achrafieh’s Street Musician

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Update: His name is Maroun Nachef and is known as The Seller of Songs. Here’s an old article with more details about Maroun. Thank you Alexis!

I was once told about an old man who sits on Sassine Square and plays the Oud but I never really met him until today. He was sitting in the middle of the square with a hat in front of him to collect tips and a banner on his right that basically says that he’s unemployed, he’s playing the Oud and singing to earn few bucks and he’s willing to attend parties and events. I think this is the first time I meet a street musician in Beirut and I thought of a way to help him out:

– If anyone is getting married or planning an outdoor event this summer, invite this old man to play at the event and earn few bucks. It’s a pretty cool and original idea and it would help him earn few bucks. I will share this post with all the agencies that I usually work with and I hope they will consider my request.

Until then, make sure you leave a good tip if you spot him on Sassine Square.



Thanks Cynthia!

Al Saadah (Happiness) Snack: A Free Restaurant For The Poor And Needy In Beirut

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“Bonheur du ciel” is a newly open snack in Bourj Hammoud that opens from Monday till Friday and serves food for free to the poor and needy families. The food is provided by a renowned restaurant in Beirut and the snack can welcome up to 80 customers every day. Food is served by volunteers who welcome people from all races, sects and areas. Whenever the food is not enough, nearby snacks and restaurants rush to offer free meals as well.

I love this initiative and I hope that all popular restaurants in Lebanon will figure out a way to offer free food to the needy instead of throwing it away.


Check out this nice report by Nawal Berry:


Celebrating Eid In Tripoli: Crowded Souks, Great Food, Clowns For A Cause, Flying Lanterns & Happy Children

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Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, is a very special time of the year for Muslims worldwide. Every country has its own traditions and in Lebanon, every city celebrates it in its own way. This year, I decided to head to Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city and one of its poorest, to share their traditions and join Tripolitans in their celebrations.


My first stop was at Furn el Saadeh, a popular oven located in Al Tall area that sells Ch3aybiyyet, Kafta and Lahm Baajine. The place was tiny yet packed and we ended up standing outside and having our breakfast on one of the parked cars’ hood but it was quite amazing and totally worth it.


Tripoli may be a poor city, but it’s rich in diversity and is a beautiful city to explore. There are always new places to visit and new things to do and a sense of community in the city. Locals come up with new initiatives every year to help out those in need and put a smile on their faces. Here are some of them:

Flying Lanterns (نور دربن) on Maarad Street:
Lanterns2 Flying lanterns

This year marked the third edition of this event, where Tripolitans welcome the holidays by lightening Tripoli’s ski with lanterns and collecting money to put less fortunate children back in school. The atmosphere is quite amazing as more and more people are joining the event every year to light up Tripoli skies and brighten up a child’s future.

Clowns for a cause:

Eid is an occasion for children to celebrate and reunite with their loved ones but unfortunately that’s not the case in Tripoli where a lot of children have to work to provide for their families. The number of children aged between 7 and 15 and already working is quite staggering in Tripoli and they are easily noticeable especially in Bab el Tebbaneh. Fighting child labor is a long process but a lot of NGOs and locals organize small gatherings in the old souks and deprived areas and invite clowns to entertain the children and celebrate Eid.


One of these events was organized by the Old Souk Development Committee in the old souks right underneath Tripoli’s citadel where they had set up inflatable games and brought clowns and cartoon characters. Another event was being held in the streets of Abi Samra by The Lebanese Center for active citizenship and a third one in Jabal Mohsen’s neighborhood. Children were dancing, playing, singing and having a great time just like they should be on Eid. Sadly though, I spotted at every event a couple of kids working and selling stuff to the audience while trying to enjoy the show.


Haret el Tanak – (Tin Neighborhood)
In addition to these events, a friend of mine brought my attention to clown flash-mob performed in one of the most underprivileged parts of Tripoli, which has little-to-no infrastructure and is known as Haret el Tanak (Tin neighborhood). Journalists, engineers, students and activists came from all over Lebanon, dressed up as clowns and spent the whole day celebrating Eid with families there.

clowns Picture via Natheer Halawani

I ended the day by touring Tripoli’s citadel and taking panoramic shots from the highest point in the city.


#LoveWins In Lebanon Too?

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gay via Mahmoud Ghazayel

The picture above was taken in Lebanon back in 2006, however it’s not a gay parade but an anti-government demonstration led by the opposition back then. Needless to say, the parties who were organizing this demonstration (and those against them for that sake) probably had no clue what these colors stood for and would have never considered demonstrating in favor of same sex marriages.

In fact, we still live in a country where people from different religions cannot marry that easily, where civil marriage is almost considered a crime, where anal exams are used to charge men with homosexuality, where women are still being abused and tortured by their husbands, where homosexuality is portrayed as being a trend or an illness and where you are mistaken for a devil worshiper (whatever that means) for holding Friday the 13th parties.

We are still a long way from achieving equality in Lebanon but we will get there eventually as progression is inevitable. We need more awareness campaigns and further action to change our obsolete laws and achieve equality for women and for the LGBT community among other things. I’m sharing once again a Lebanese TV campaign against homophobia, probably the first of its kind in the Arab World.

#Lovewins always.


white-house-rainbow The White House is illuminated in rainbow colors after today’s historic Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage in Washington – via Newsweek