The first time I heard about Ajialouna was when they launched with ABC Verdun the Ramadan Festival few weeks ago, and when ABC donated over 10,000 pieces samples of clothes to Ajialouna to distribute them to families during Eid. Since I wasn’t able to make it to the event in Verdun, I thought I pay Ajialouna a visit and see what they do, specially after reading that it’s been around for 20 years now, and that it’s not only a charity organisation, but also offers public, medical, educational and health services for orphans, widows, underprivileged families and individuals.
I headed to Ajialouna’s head office in Tallet Khayyat and met with their marketing manager Zeina, who briefed me a bit on the organization’s history and introduced me to the staff before showing me around. We started the tour at the ground floor where needy families come to shop for clothes (for free) and get food supplies to satisfy their daily needs.
The clothes are all brand new and are donated all year long by different companies and clothing stores. As for the food, they prepare on a daily basis grocery bags for hundreds of families that include cans, frozen goods, ingredients for a Fattoush salad, meat and chicken and desserts as well. Unlike the clothes, Ajialouna buys most of the food and distribute them for free of course.
Aside from food and clothes, Ajialouna also provides social, educational and medical help for all families. Any family can apply for help, as long as they register and fill in all the needed information. Before the final approval, Ajialouna’s social committee will study the application and visit the household of the applicant to decide on the authenticity of the case and the budget needed to assist. Once approved, Ajialouna will try to find a sponsor for the applicant. Ajialouna currently has over 825 sponsors in Beirut and 16 in Tripoli where their second office is located.
In addition to the social support, Ajialouna has a women empowerment program that provides basic education and training for underprivileged women. It’s also a free program that is aimed at empowering women in the Lebanese society and giving them the opportunity to acquire a job in different fields, such as cooking, hair dressing, makeup etc …
More than 100 women have already graduated ever since the program was launched in 2010, and I met some of them who work in the kitchen and the atelier, which are both located within the Ajialouna building. The products from the Atelier are all high quality ones and sold at a permanent exhibition at Ajialouna and several exhibitions in and outside Lebanon like the Garden Show Festival. As for the kitchen which is run by 25 needy women and widows, they cover all the catering requests all week long and I’ve tasted some of the stuff they prepare and it’s really good.
Last but not least, Ajialouna has a whole floor dedicated to health care. It’s technically a medical center equipped with the latest medical equipment and clinics, and operated by some of the best doctors in Beirut, and everything is free of charge. There’s even a small gym and a physiotherapy room, as well as a pharmacy that distributes meds for free. Added to that, Ajialouna has a program called Life Petals aimed at helping children with cancer.
They’ve also started back in 2004 a great initiative aimed at helping the elderly, and assist them in covering the outstanding fees surgery and treatment beyond the coverage of the Ministry of Public Health. This is really important as a lot of needy families struggle to cover the expenses of their sick parents sometimes and the normal insurance only covers up to a certain age.
I am sure I’ve missed a lot of services and programs that Ajialouna offers, but I have to say I was really blown away by the services provided by this non-profit organization, and by how structured and organized they are. They have a food shop and clothing store, they have clinics, a gym, their own kitchen and atelier, and they train and employ needy women all based on donations and sponsors. They even provide free medical examinations to over 200 public schools in Beirut and treat the students that have medical issues in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.
The work they’re pulling is quite amazing and it feels great to know about such non-profit organizations in Lebanon. If you wish to know more about Ajialouna, check out their facebook page [Here] and their website [Here].