Flügen Rides: Kunhadi Trying To Save The Lives & Mentalities of Lebanese Youth Who Drink And Drive

KunhadiLogo.2010

The numbers are staggering.

In 2015, Lebanon had 4300 car accidents leading to more than 500 casualties, most of which (around 34%) were in the 15 – 29 age bracket. Most of those car accidents were not because of malfunctions but because those driving did not respect the rules.

A recent report on French TV M6 showed the extent to which Lebanese drivers just couldn’t care. It’s a sign of “strength” to disregard traffic laws (or any law for that matter), build cars that are a safety hazard for anyone involved, flex driving muscles with with utter disregard to any other person around you or even with you in the car. As they note, the rate of deaths from car accidents in the country if extrapolated to France’s population would be around 15,500 deaths per year.

I noticed this firsthand when I drove extensively in the United States recently. It may come as a surprise to many, but we actually have a lot of the same regulations as they do: yielding on certain exits or when entering roundabouts, stop signs, lanes meant to turn left only or go straight only, etc… The difference is in the United States you’d get into so much trouble if you don’t respect those laws while Lebanon empowers your law breaking capacities.

One of the bigger driving problems, further exacerbated by the fact laws are not applied and our driving mentalities are as rotten as they come, is drunk driving. Alcohol driving limits are never enforced. Driving under the influence is never taken seriously. Assigning a designated driver to your parties is seen as a sign of weakness. In summary, it’s the norm to drink beyond the point of getting wasted and then (attempt to) drive home.

Over the past few years, Kunhadi has been doing what the Lebanese government isn’t and that is try, to the best of their capacities, to enforce some form of traffic law in the country. This is why they are among my favorite NGOs in this country and I tend to support them as often as I can. The number of lives they’ve saved over the past decade by making sure the youth they encounter become aware of their driving shortcomings are astounding.

To that effect, with the holidays coming up, Kunhadi is launching another step in trying to prevent Lebanese youth from drinking and driving and that is through an app they’re calling Flügen Rides. The app is not an uber-like service, but rather an aggregate of different taxi companies and drivers who were trained by Kunhadi.

 

For 3 weekends starting December 16, Flügen cabs will be parked inside Jounieh pubs street, and will be available for free there. To those who came using their own cars but choose to go back home with Flügen so as not to risk their lives with driving under the influence of alcohol or fatigue, Kunhadi will offer a free ride back to pick up cars the next day.

Flügen Rides will also offer special wheelchair-equipped vehicles and is the first service in Lebanon to do so. The drivers and companies offering services in the app will also be periodically monitored by Kunhadi to make sure they’re up to the required qualifications.

Kudos to Kunhadi for being so proactive in trying to fix as much as they can fix in a system that is becoming, daily, broken beyond repair. It’s just heartbreaking, to be honest, than an NGO has to revert to such extraordinary measures to try and get Lebanese youth to actually care about their lives, and the repercussions those have on their loved ones, in the first place. I wonder, what does that say about us and the culture we perpetuate by not caring about any rules and about ourselves to begin with?

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Lebanese Mothers Who Make Lebanon Proud Today

Like every year, when Mother’s Day turns up, your social media channels get flooded with pictures of your friends with their mothers, Facebook statuses to announce unending love and gratitude (before they go piss off their mother the following day), and endless messaging among siblings to find that perfect gift.

I’ve written many of those posts on this blog before. You can check those here and here in case you feel like it. This year around, however, I figured the best way to increase the relevance of Mother’s Day is to highlight Lebanese mothers who have shaped the country as we know it today.

The list is not extensive nor is it exhaustive.  The following women are from different domains and are on this list for different reasons, but they all share something in common: they’ve proven that motherhood serves to add, not define who women are, especially in a region that tells them the former is all they’ll amount to be.

Joumana Haddad

Joumana Haddad

Around these parts of the world, it is usually believed that a woman getting married and having children signals the beginning of the end of her productivity as a person. That’s what social norms say, but not if you follow the Gospel according to Joumana Haddad. One of Lebanon’s leading women when it comes to public opinion, she never shied away from controversy. She defends the sexual liberation of women, their right to do whatever they want, sleep with whoever they want whenever they want. She defends the role of women in societies. She abhors the effect that religious establishments have on women rights in our societies. She was very recently considered by Bahrain to be worse than terrorists as they banned her entry for being an atheist. And for that, she can’t not be on the list.

Lena Gebrane

Lena Gebrane

She may not be a household name, but the NGO that she founded certainly is. Following the death of her son Hady in 2006 at the tender age of 18, Lena Gebrane turned her grief into action and pioneered the way to create one of Lebanon’s most prominent NGOs “Kunhadi,” which has worked tirelessly since its creation to create awareness over road safety in Lebanon, especially among its youth. Her goal is to not let any Lebanese mother feel what she has felt. Sadly enough, many still do. But how many mothers today owe their family’s wholeness to Lena Gebrane’s sleepless nights? She has shown that being a mother extends beyond just having a child.

Dima Sadek


Dima Sadek

Dima Sadek is the kind of women who make it look all too easy. She manages to host LBC’s news, arguably the country’s most watched. She also has her own daytime political talk show where she has never shied away from talking tough stances and getting her guests to listen to a healthy dose of truth, even if it means them storming out. Good riddance. She has also managed to become a fashion role model for many women across the country in the very brief time since she became a household name, all while being a great role model to the young girl she’s raising.

Mona Abou Hamzeh

Mona Abou Hamzeh.

She hosts one of Lebanon’s most watched primetime shows. It is as such not because of its “light” nature, but because of her. She made “Talk of the Town” into what it is today, a viable competitor to the veteran show “Kalam Ennas” at the same time-slot on a different TV station. A woman running a TV show solely on primetime is not a rare thing in these parts of the world, but to have a show as successful as Abou Hamzeh’s is. Her demeanor, charm and presentation skills aren’t the only reasons she’s great. The bravery with which she handled her husband’s falling from grace over the past year as well as the support she provided her family while their entire status changed showed how strong Mona Abou Hamzeh is as a woman and as a mother. She didn’t succumb to the scandal that caught her off guard, like society usually asks of women here, but braced through it and emerged victorious.

Nancy Ajram

Nancy Ajram

She sells out arenas, conjures one chart-topping hit after the next, produces one music video after the next, churns out super-selling albums every other year, and still finds time to support the Lebanese army, women and children across the region through various charities, be the regional ambassador for several brands, judge on Arab Idol and be the Arab artist with the most video views on YouTube, ever. Long gone are the days of Nancy Ajram being synonymous with sultry. Many wondered if Ajram’s motherhood would stop her upward trajectory of fame. She proved them wrong by continuing to be one of the region’s most influential and well-known singers, as well as a full time mom to two gorgeous young girls.

The Mothers of Lebanon’s Kidnapped Soldiers

I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must be for a mother to lose a son, but to have her son’s life be stuck in the balance of a political game for months now and still manage to get up in the morning to tend to the rest of her family must be a whole other level of achievement. They’re not famous. I don’t even know their names. But I know they’ve been working tirelessly to try and get their children to safety, to get our government to do something, anything, even as news kept becoming more and more dismal. And for that, Mother’s Day cannot pass without saluting those mothers too.

Your Mother, Too

This can’t end without a section about your mother as well. Once a year, the country stands to salute our mothers, which is something it should do every day. By being proud of us in spite of our faults, they push us to be better and strive for better. By raising us the best way they can, they are the catalyst towards a, hopefully, better future for the country and for ourselves. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough food at the table, would rather you eat while she goes to bed hungry. She’s the one who, when there isn’t enough money, would rather you get new clothes than replace her worn out shoes. She’s the one who, despite being incapacitated beyond belief through one illness or the next, would still get out of bed to prepare you lunch. She’s the one you call “weinik/ak” on your phone, the one who’s always first to comment on your picture with “to2borne/to2brine nchallah,” who gushes with joy whenever she thinks about you and whom you won’t be able to repay.

Yes, this is to your mother, too.

Kunhadi’s New Year’s Eve Ads

For those who like to party hard on NYE and then drive back home, Lebanon’s NGO Kunhadi has an ad right for you – and it is simply great.

The campaign has two components: a video and a poster, both of which are making the viral rounds because of their very sincere message and the simplicity with which they were made.

The posters:

Kunhadi - NYE Poster

For non-Lebanese readers, the ad says: your parents are staying up on New Year’s Eve for you to come back. Don’t drink and drive.

The YouTube video to accompany this poster is:

You have to give it to Kunhadi. Their ads are always poignant and emotional. I also remember their Mother’s Day ad was brilliant as well.

And on another note, is it just me or is the Lebanese marketing scene becoming way more creative than it used to be? First there was the Lebanese Brew ad, then there was the Nadine Labaki Johnnie Walker one, followed by Fransabank and then MAD Beirut. 

But no matter… hopefully the message in this video comes across. And what’s more important is for those who are going to parties to be aware not to get into cars with drunk stubborn friends who refuse to take a cab.

On Mothers’ Day…

It is the vernal equinox. And it is also Mothers’ Day in Lebanon.

So naturally, everyone starts saying how their mom is the best. Well, all moms are the best. The idea of a superlative comparison when it comes to motherhood becomes void. Why? because of all the creatures that walk this Earth, your parents, and specifically your mother, make you who you are. And they do so by giving it their all.

Mothers are your mentors, friends, guides, your light. They put up with you in situations when no one should – or no one can. They know you sometimes better than you even know yourself. And even though you bring them down on way too many occasions, they still look up at you smiling, embracing you because you are the light that shines in their lives.

I was not going to post anything for this occasion. But a combination of Marcel Khalife’s lyrics and a mental image of my mother drove my fingers on the keyboard. The lyrics of that song describe a man who misses his mom, her coffee, her bread…. He adores his life because he’d be ashamed, in case he passes away, of every tear that trickles down on his mother’s cheeks. He asks her to cover him with grass that was made holy by the sole of her feet. I can only imagine the day when I’m going to be abroad, on Mothers’ Day, thinking I’d rather be for a few hours in my hometown, with my mom.

Yes, we all have mothers. And we will never forget our mothers. So today, let me say to my mom that you are the most amazing my eyes have seen. You are the light that shines in my days and mom, I adore you.

And speaking of Mothers’ Day, check out this great Kunhadi ad with a great message.

And for those interested, this is Marcel Khalife’s song: