Let’s Help 30 Lebanese Children & Victims Of Abuse Get An Education!

In a study done by Kafa, in association with the Lebanese Ministry of Social Affairs, this is the situation of Lebanese children in Lebanon:

  • 885,000 children are victims of abuse,
  • Of those children, 738,000 are also victims of physical abuse,
  • 219,000 are victims of sexual abuse.

These numbers are staggering, especially when the country is only made up of 4 million people, give or take a few hundred thousands.

If there’s any entity that can really and fundamentally alter the fabrics of Lebanese society, it’s education. All of us are where we are today because our parents were lucky enough to be able to provide for us the best opportunities that they could provide, the best education that they could afford.

It’s not unusual that Lebanon’s hubs of radicalism and of conflict are its poorest areas where children don’t get proper education and where the government doesn’t even remotely care that it can allow itself not to properly pay for school properties so they close.

School Tebbaneh Lebanon Closed

The situation is horrible. For a country with the best universities and schools of the region, the levels of illiteracy we have, especially of females, is unacceptable.

So because the government is too busy with garbage than to care about other important facets of our life, a couple of guys named Rami & Rayan Rasamny decided to do something bold in order to raise $10,570, which will help the Lebanese NGO Himaya provide education for 30 Lebanese children who have been victims of abuse for the next scholastic years.

To do so, Rami and Rayan are going to climb the “Mont Blanc” peak in France in order to fundraise for this cause. The amount they’re hoping to raise will cover tuition fees, stationary and transportation for these 30 children.

If you’re a parent, think of how important you providing an education to your child is, and then try to give to those who are not as lucky.

Even if you’re not a parent, think of how luck you are to be where you are today because you went to school and then university and made a thing out of yourself.

There’s probably nothing as important as this. Check out the fundraising link here.

 

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A Love Story From The War-Torn Rooftops of Tripoli To Lebanon

Love and War on the Rooftop - a Tripolitan tale

Welcome to Lebanon’s Tripoli, the city most of the country loves to hate.

A few months ago, whenever Tripoli was mentioned in casual conversation, it would be surrounded by a spew of sectarian hate speech. That conversation you heard or maybe even pa
rticipated in probably lacked depth, was never in context, always judgmental and served to further deepen the chasm between this Northern city and the rest of the country.

There’s nothing in this country that’s a more heart-breaking story or tragedy than the current state of Tripoli. Boasting the country’s biggest old souks, richest people, most important architectural feats and second largest population, it is also the country’s poorest, least developed, least cared for and least acknowledged place.

A lot can be said about that city, and I have over, and over, and over again. One thing for sure, however, is that the potential that Tripoli has is gigantic, if only we can tap into it. Lebanon’s NGO March, which you’d know from the popular Stop Cultural Terrorism in Lebanon page, have done just that. 

Over the past 4 months, director Lucien Abou Rjeili gathered together 16 young men and women from Tripoli’s Bab el Tebbeneh, Ebbeh and Jabal Mohsen neighborhoods and embarked on a conflict resolution project with them, in order to build bridges and see what can come out of it.

Those men and women were, prior to those 4 months, on opposite sides of Syria Street, witnesses to the bullets and rockets being fired by people they perhaps know, convinced that the person across that green line was their enemy until Kingdom come. Well, kingdom came.

Through acting exercises with the likes of Nadine Labaki, Georges Khabbaz, Rafic Ali Ahmad, those 16 men and women found themselves not looking at each other as enemies, but as friends. Instead of being wary of going to the sessions, they became excited. They’d want to go, see their friend from Jabal Mohsen or Bab el Tebbaneh, and maybe even hang out with them afterwards.

In the midst of that, those 16 men and women got threats. What they were doing did not sit well with higher up forces who know that their true power can only be fed by hate being present all the time between Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbaneh: friendship, amicability and humanity should not be allowed.

Those young heroes stuck through it anyway. They knew what they were doing was more important than threats: they were setting an example, coming up with a beautiful story for their city and the country, a story that had to be told.

The result of those 4 months was a play called “Love and War on the Rooftop – A Tripolitan Tale,” featuring every single one of those 16 men and women in roles that tell the story, in satire, of their lives on the rooftops of their neighborhoods, as they try to be friends to the backdrop of bombs, snipers, death and inter-sectarian love.

Meet the cast:

In the play’s one hour duration, those young men and women, through their humor, their Northern accent, their interaction and the sheer passion with which they performed showed a jam-packed room a side of Tripoli that those people had probably never seen before: a city whose youth just want to have fun, be friends with each other, love each other and give you something to laugh at in the process.

This Tripolitan cast is not a bunch of professional actors, but they might as well have been. They gave it their all on stage, so much so that when the crowds gave them a standing ovation, many of them were in tears. They couldn’t believe what they were seeing, that there were people applauding them.

As the play ended, the main actor Khodor, who plays the play within a play’s director, had a few words to say. He probably meant what he said as a joke, but they resonated with me because his words were the embodiment of my deepest convictions about his city, and what the country fails to grasp.

He said: “I think I speak for all of us when I say we never dreamt, in our whole life, of watching a play. And now we’re acting in one.”

Behind the apparent joke that people cheered for is the true problem facing Tripoli. The problem is not just Sunni versus Alawite, Syria-lover versus Syria-hater. It’s a clash that stems from the lack of prospects and opportunities that the youth of Tebbaneh and Jabal Mohsen call every day life.

“After practice,” Khodor continued, “I’d feel a hollowness inside as I ached to see my new friends again, people I’d never dreamt of being friends with. My favorite guy of the bunch Ali (the main protagonist in the play within a play) became my best friend. I’d call him up, ask him where he was. He’d say he’s in Jabal and I’d visit and we’d go wasted. The following day he’d call me and ask me where I was. He’d visit me in Tebbaneh, and we’d get wasted too.”

Can you believe it? Those people that many in the country readily dismiss as neo-terrorists or extremists are people just like everyone else? Could it be?

Following the play, people went down to congratulate those “actors” on a job well done. Some gave them a hug. Others gave them a tap on the back to tell them how great they were. Khodor, Ali, Fatima and their friends were in tears. They never thought, not in a million years, that they’d be where they were that night, and that they’d have strangers coming to them to tell them how great, beautiful, bright and shining they all were.

Yesterday, as Lebanon’s Beirutis cheered, I felt happy that maybe, just maybe, they could finally see the Tripoli I see: a wonderful city, with kind-hearted people whose only fault in life was being born in a place that is forcibly forgotten, and ignored. But still they live, and tell stories and laugh at their own misery.

I congratulate March on a job truly well-done.

Today, those 16 young men and women are heroes we should all be talking about. Unlike everyone else in Lebanon, they rose beyond their sects, beyond their neighborhoods, beyond everything they know and took a leap.

If there’s anything that can make anyone hopeful in Lebanon today, it’s “Love and War on the Rooftop.” It’s the story of how yesterday’s enemies are today’s best friends, of how actually knowing someone you’ve been forcibly taught to hate can alter your entire perception towards that person, of how all the burned bridges in this country can be repaired if only we were open enough to the possibility, of how up north, in that forgotten land beyond the Madfoun checkpoint, is a city with a heart that’s still beating, still fighting, and only asking you to keep an open mind to it.

“Love and War on the Rooftop” will tour the country post Ramadan. The following are some pictures from the play:

 

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.

#ChristmasTweet – @Crepaway Giving Back This Christmas

#ChristmasTweet - Crepaway 1

I went with a couple of friends to Crepaway yesterday and figured their new sous-plat is worth sharing with you. For this year’s Christmas season, Crepaway is donating 500LL (33 cents for my International readers) for every tweet containing the hashtag #ChristmasTweet with the mention of Crepaway. All proceeds will go to the Lebanese Autism Society, a charity supporting a cause that many in Lebanon don’t speak about.

You can also order their Christmas Treat dessert which costs about 19,000 out of which 1,000 will be donated to charity.

I made the post’s title as the hashtag to be tweeted on purpose. Every time you share this article on twitter, you will be donating. Give back this Christmas season. All it takes is a click.

Lastly, I would like to thank Crepaway for the awesome gesture and I hope other restaurants follow suit in using Twitter and other platforms to spread awareness to certain causes and tangibly help them.

#ChristmasTweet - Crepaway 2