Lebanon’s ‘hunger heroes’ bring food to people in need

Lebanon’s ‘hunger heroes’ bring food to people in need
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Growing numbers of Lebanese rely on emergency aid as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the country’s economic woes. (AFP)
Lebanon’s ‘hunger heroes’ bring food to people in need
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nese rely on emergency aid as the coronavirus pandemic adds to the country’s economic woes. (AFP)
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Updated 05 December 2020

Lebanon’s ‘hunger heroes’ bring food to people in need

Lebanon’s ‘hunger heroes’ bring food to people in need
  • Maya Terro’s FoodBlessed promotes positive change by nourishing individuals, communities and public institutions
  • Terro’s volunteers offer meals to those left vulnerable by Lebanon’s banking crisis and the coronavirus pandemic

DUBAI: Preparing over a million meals is no mean feat, but it is an even more extraordinary endeavor when achieved solely through the power of volunteers, donations and the salvaging of over 200 tons of food waste.

Since it was established eight years ago after Maya Terro and her team won a competition, the Beirut-based social enterprise FoodBlessed has grown steadily and organically.

“I was able to turn my passion for food and my pursuit of empowering others into a humanitarian mission that nourishes individuals, communities, and public institutions to promote positive change in their country — one meal at a time,” said Terro, executive director of FoodBlessed.

After raising $2,600 through a fundraising initiative during the holy month of Ramadan, the company began to divert food from landfills, feed hungry people throughout Lebanon, and use food to “build communities and tackle loneliness.”

“We believe that food is an act of love, for the planet and its people,” Terro said. “In the long term, we strive to create a cultural shift fueled by mindful consumption. It is only when people see and appreciate the value of food that they will they stop wasting it and start sharing it.”

As a community-based and volunteer-driven initiative, FoodBlessed relies heavily on the help and generosity of volunteers and monetary and in-kind donations.




Maya Terro 

The coronavirus pandemic has naturally had a negative effect on the country’s economy and, subsequently, access to food. Over 3,000 community volunteers (otherwise known as “hunger heroes”) have signed up to be part of the solution.

“The current broken Lebanese economy will probably need a minimum of five years to recover,” said Terro. “In this period, we will be diligently working on providing food assistance to Lebanese families across the whole of Lebanon on a weekly basis, be it through a meal or a food parcel.

“One food parcel costs us $19 and is enough to provide food sustenance to a family of four for between three to four weeks. To date, we have successfully distributed 5,000 food parcels across the whole of Lebanon.”

Human compassion is at the forefront of FoodBlessed’s values. Alongside its work with food, the organization aims to help vulnerable communities, including refugees, domestic migrant workers and single mothers — all made possible thanks to its extended network of NGOs, partners, and community members.

IN NUMBERS

  • 5,000 Food parcels distributed in Lebanon by FoodBlessed.
  • $19 Cost to FoodBlessed of one food parcel.

FoodBlessed also works on rebuilding the dignity of those in need in the way they deliver the food. Terro said: “Instead of lining up for food, like in most humanitarian relief settings, our guests are invited to sit down at our table and made to feel at home.”

However, FoodBlessed’s success has not come without its challenges. Within the first year of starting up, both of Terro’s teammates left, leaving her to manage the company on her own.

“The key to success is self-belief and being true to oneself. Turning rejections into motivations, and embracing one’s difference and uniqueness is the only way to make it in the world,” she said.

“Sadly, the majority of people, including sometimes the people closest to you, will judge you and often mistaken your diligent determination for ego or for aggressiveness. Nevertheless, I urge you to never lose hope.”

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This report is being published by Arab News as a partner of the Middle East Exchange, which was launched by the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region.


Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
Updated 27 min 25 sec ago

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
  • The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide
  • The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Friday announced dates for the first Palestinian elections in more than 15 years, setting legislative polls for May 22 and a July 31 presidential vote.
Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the Palestinian Authority based in the occupied West Bank, and the Hamas group, who hold power in Gaza, have for years expressed interest in taking Palestinians back to the polls.
A long-standing rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions was seen as a leading factor in stalling progress toward a new vote.
But Fatah and Hamas have lately been engaged in unity talks, reaching an agreement in principle in September to hold elections in 2021.
Hamas on Friday welcomed Abbas’s announcement.
“In recent months, we have worked to overcome obstacles in order to reach this day,” it said in a statement.
It added that it looked to “free elections in which voters can express themselves without pressure and without restrictions, in all fairness and transparency.”
A statement on the official Palestinian Wafa news agency said Abbas has signed “a presidential decree concerning elections,” specifying the May and July dates.
“This announcement was eagerly awaited,” Palestinian analyst Arif Jaffal, head of the Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor, told AFP.
“It is a very important step,” he said.
The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat.
There has been no indication from Fatah as to whether the 85-year-old Abbas intends to seek re-election.
A rare poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research carried out last year said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Abbas in a presidential election.

The statement from Abbas said he expects polls will be held “in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War but is considered occupied territory.
Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem, and there was no indication the Jewish state would allow a Palestinian vote within the city.
Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces his own re-election contest in March, describes Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said his government “was ready to get things going to facilitate the electoral process, in total transparency, while waiting for pluralism.”
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, while the densely populated Gaza Strip is home to two million.
The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide.
The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed and in 2007, bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.
Numerous attempts at reconciliation, including a prisoner exchange agreement in 2012 and a short-lived coalition government two years later, have failed to close the rift.
But experts have said intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks have taken on greater urgency following a series of US-brokered normalization agreements signed between Israel and four Arab states.
The deals to normalize ties with Israel signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan were condemned across the Palestinian political spectrum.
They also broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognition of Israel until it reached an agreement to end the Palestinian conflict that included the creation of Palestinian state, with a capital in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders have also voiced hope that the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden will lead to renewed diplomacy on the Palestinian cause.
The PA cut ties with President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing it of egregious bias toward Israel.