Finding Hope & Community in Times of Despair: Resources for Support in Lebanon
Things are devastating right now. There is no need for me to recount the reasons why. Many people feel hopeless, and maybe you’re one of them. We’ve shared recently how in hard times, focusing on your breath, meditating, seeking out time in nature, connecting to loved ones, taking social media breaks, and growing food at home can be avenues for self-care and resilience. But sometimes those things are not enough. Not on their own. Sometimes you need the help of others, or need to help others, to really manage in times of crisis and see that a future is possible. As such, today, I want to focus on the available resources that offer hope in this moment, and if not hope, then support, community and connection. So here is the best list I could put together of organizations, groups, or resources you can seek out, participate in, donate to, receive help from, or coordinate help for others through.
Between the economic misery and the coronavirus restrictions, evidence suggests that as a country, we’ve entered a mental health crisis. Depression, anxiety, aggression, and suicide are on the rise. Pascale Tannoury, clinical psychologist and psychotherapist, told The National that “…I fear a mental health pandemic. I feel it around me. People can’t function normally. They can’t pay for sessions either…People lack incentive, lose their appetite, have trouble sleeping and difficulty in starting again the activities that they used to do before confinement”.
If you’re feeling this way, know someone who does, or want to help those who do, these resources are for you:
A non-profit organization focused on destigmatizing and raising awareness of mental health in Lebanon, Embrace’s most profound achievement is the Embrace Suicide Hotline you can reach on 1564. If you think you might hurt yourself, please call this line. For more information about them, check these links below:
The Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care has 35 years of mental health research, action and support in the region under its belt. They offer free trauma counseling and other mental health services. For more information about them, check these links below:
3. MIND Clinics
Using a multi-specialist approach that combines the expertise of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, and nurses with cutting edge research, MIND Clinics are well-equipped to provide support and interventions for mental health crises. They also offer 24/7 Emergency Psychiatric Care. For more information about them, check the link below:
4. Fashit Khele2
I discovered this gem through this Beirut.com article. Fashit Khele2 is an online support group started by AUB medical school graduate Sara Catherine Mourani, under the guidance of Dr. Nayla Karame Majdalani. With the difficulty experienced in Lebanon accessing mental health resources, this support group offers a moderated platform to anonymously vent with and receive support from peers. Sessions take place every Friday at 8pm, and you can sign up here.
For a list of 10 NGOs (8 of which are not mentioned here) that provide mental health support and interventions, with specific emphasis on marginalized populations, trauma survivors, and sexual abuse/ assault survivors, please check out this Beirut.com article.
If there are resources you know of that are missing from either this list, or the Beirut.com list, please let us know and we will keep them logged to share in upcoming blogs.
Food Aid & Food Security
Many articles, including this one by Nabila Rahal for Executive Magazine, highlight the ‘growing trend of individual or community planting in Lebanon’. This is seen as the result of rapidly increasing prices severely compromising food security in the country. Growing food, individually or as a group, especially in urban spaces, helps increase food sovereignty and thus overall community empowerment. The list below will highlight some food aid organizations, but mainly focus on groups that are building food security in communities within Lebanon (which you can participate in), those that help to encourage your own food growing at home, and those that give you access to food security in your community. The first initiative on this list is the one that created the video above too!
1. Ardi Ardak
This is an amazing food security initiative that ‘aims at reviving the food security sector by focusing on small-scale producers especially rural women, by offering urban consumers access to local healthy food and by promoting sustainable agriculture’. Just a couple of days ago, as part of an ongoing program, 8,800 seedlings and 765 seed bags were distributed across Lebanon, in collaboration with ESDU – AUB Lebanese League for Women in Business | LLWB Food Heritage Foundation and #ZicoHouse. They have a yearly membership program you can join, and other ways to be involved. For more information:
2. ESDU Beirut
A partner in Ardi Ardak, the Environment and Sustainable Development Unit is ‘an interdisciplinary Research and Development unit specialized in sustainable agriculture, at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at AUB’. They are an integral force in promoting and supporting food security in Lebanon, and have a number of initiatives you can get involved in. Their Facebook page offers resources to help you grow food at home, and they also currently have some job opportunities you or someone you know might be interested in! For more information, check out:
3. Akleh Community Kitchen
Another example of organizations woven together in support, Akleh collaborates with the Food Heritage Foundation and ESDU to provide traditional Lebanese cuisine made from produce that comes straight from small-scale producers and families in need across the country. The affordable meals are delivered to you, and they donate a free meal to a person in need with every 2 meals sold. To check out their membership deals and for more information on their initiatives:
4. Beit El Baraka
Focused particularly on struggling retirees, Beit El Baraka recently launched an Emergency Food Relief Campaign and has delivered 12,500 food boxes to assist ‘50,000 of the most fragile families of our society, elderly, physically challenged, mentally disabled, centres dealing with addiction, orphanages, hospitals…’. One of the most touching, inspiring, and empowering of their initiatives is their free supermarket, which retains the dignity of the elderly by offering quality products and service for those experiencing financial distress. They also offer free home revamping, free medical assistance, community care and love. These two videos will give you a profound sense of their impact, and the impact you can have by getting involved:
5. Farah Social Foundation
Another wonderful non-profit organization, also collaborating often with ESDU, which has been around since 1988. They focus on stimulating social and economic development, particularly in rural areas. To name just a handful of their initiatives, they promote youth engagement in community development, work to microfinance and empower small-scale farmers, and conduct gender-based violence awareness sessions. Their Facebook also provides videos and resources to help you grow food at home. For more information, check out:
6. Plant Lebanon
This is a nifty little local Facebook group that offers valuable info on sustainable urban agriculture and how to create your own small farm. Check it out right here:
Another growing-focused Facebook group started by a group of agricultural engineers who are trying to help people become more food-independent during this crisis and overall. They share eco-friendly agricultural practices, post tutorials and advice, and answer any questions you have. Check them out right here:
A ‘social solidarity movement around Agriculture’, Kon works with the local community in the Furn Al-Shebbak area to plant on rooftops and in empty spots. They collaborate with the Wael Yammine and SOILS Permaculture Association Lebanon, offering amazing tutorials on urban food growing.
For more information, check out:
A local hunger-relief and food security initiative that works with individuals, businesses and organizations to reduce hunger in Lebanon, FoodBlessed holds food drives, and ‘food rescue’ programs that save surplus food from restaurants and events. As their website states:
‘The community-based, volunteer-driven food rescue program provides an effective and efficient solution to hunger, while addressing the serious and growing problem of food waste in Lebanon.
We distribute free meals and FoodBlessed Food Assistance Packages (FAPs) to those in need, ask the community to be more mindful of the food they let go to waste by offering them with practical solutions to cut down on their food waste generation and providing them with the opportunity to serve food to those in need through volunteering via the concept of Social Responsibility including Individual Social Responsibility (IR) and Corporate Social Responsiblity (CSR).’
10. Lebanese Food Bank:
Last but not least, this organization is known for its focus on eradicating hunger through Feeding Programs and other initiatives, including supporting some of the organizations mentioned earlier in this blog:
‘At present, we provide food on a daily basis to families and individuals in need mainly through the collection of surplus food from partner restaurants, hotels, caterers, supermarkets and fruit and vegetables, food exporters/importers. Our main line of work is to provide food to a selected number of more than 70 Lebanese NGOs active in a variety of fields.’
For more information:
Other Material Support
Primarily a social sector organization focused on increasing work opportunities for marginalized youth, Bidayati has also launched a Community Kitchen Initiative and an Emergency Solidarity Fund in partnership with Tahaddi Lebanon. This Emergency fund provides cash assistance equalling 30% of the minimum wage to low-income workers who have lost their job as a result of the crisis, to try and compensate for the lack of social protection measures in place. For more information about them, or to contribute, check the links below:
2. Lebanon Needs
An expat-led fundraising initiative focused on helping the most vulnerable meet their survival needs, Lebanon Needs distributes donations to El Neiss la Ba3da (an organization providing financial support to those who cannot afford medicine) and Nazzalna el Shatawe (which helps people with winter essentials). For more information and to contribute, check the link below:
3. Lebanon Barter Group لبنان يقايض
While many items on here are offered for free, this Facebook group shows magnificent resourcefulness in revitalizing a barter economy where users swap goods to make sure needs are met and money saved as the currency continues to lose value. Check it out here:
LibranTroc is a Facebook and community group run by Hala Dahrouge and a network of volunteers that has a ‘No Cash Exchanges, Only Barter Deals’ policy in the online group itself- focusing on stimulating a barter economy to meet each other’s needs. In addition however, they have helped coordinate donations of money or resources from local and diaspora Lebanese, directly assisting countless individuals pay bills and gain access to food, shelter, clothes and medicine. For more information:
If there are resources you know of that are missing from this list, please let us know and we will keep them logged to share in upcoming blogs.
Aside from these resources that can support you or that you can engage in to support others, you may wish to check out some of these Lebanese Global Giving Fundraisers. If you have the capacity to do so (you know yourself and your situation best), you may also want to consider adopting or fostering a pet from, or donating to, BETA Lebanon and Animals Lebanon. I know pets may seem a luxury right now, but these animals are suffering from abandonment as people’s finances plummet, and the organizations are struggling to care for them. As we’ve discussed in blogs before, caring for a pet can be a therapeutic and healing process, and they will care for you back ten-fold.
That’s all for now. I hope these resources can offer some solace, support, or inspiration for you. As always, please let us know if you have any experiences, thoughts, or ideas to share.
It is in community we find resilience.