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.


Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
Updated 16 January 2021

Security Council members approve choice of new UN envoy to Libya

Jan Kubis, the recently appointed UN special envoy to Libya. (Reuters file photo)
  • Veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis will be secretary-general Antonio Guterres’s representative to the country
  • Glimmers of hope for Libyans as progress reported at first meeting of Libyan Political Dialogue Forum’s advisory committee

NEW YORK: Security Council members on Friday approved the appointment of veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as the UN’s special envoy to Libya.

It came as UN officials said significant progress has been made in Geneva this week during the inaugural meeting of the advisory committee for the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF).

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres nominated Kubis to be his envoy, a position that has been vacant since early March last year, when Ghassan Salameh resigned due to stress after less than three years in the job.

A number of replacements were suggested but members of the Security Council failed to agree on one. In December they overcame their differences and approved the choice of Bulgarian diplomat Nikolai Mladenov — only for him to surprise everyone by turning down the offer for “personal and family reasons.”

Kubis is currently the UN’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon. He previously held similar positions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Meanwhile Guterres’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric hailed what the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) described as significant progress during the first meeting of the LPDF’s advisory committee, which began in Geneva on Jan. 13 and concludes on Jan. 16.

“The mission hopes shortly they will be able to narrow down the major differences and reach near consensus on many of the contentious issues concerning the selection-mechanism proposals,” Dujarric said.

The formation of the advisory committee was announced on Jan. 3. Its 18 members, including women, young people and cultural figures, were chosen to reflect the country’s wide geographical and political diversity.

The secretary-general’s acting special representative for Libya, Stephanie Williams, had indicated that the main task for the committee would be to deliberate on the contentious issues that have plagued the selection of a unified executive authority. The aim is to develop solid recommendations the LPDF can consider in line with the political roadmap agreed by its 75 members during their first round of talks in Tunis last year.

This roadmap represents a rights-based process designed to culminate in democratic and inclusive national elections Dec. 24 this year. The date is also that of Libya’s 70th Independence Day. The elections will mark the end of the transitional phase for the country and chart a new way forward.

“This unwavering achievement, this date to return the sovereign decision to its rightful owners, is our top priority,” said Williams in her opening remarks at the advisory committee meeting in Geneva this week.

She also rejected claims that UNSMIL will have any say in the selection of the new executive authority. “This is a Libyan-Libyan decision,” Williams said, adding that the interim authority is intended to “shoulder the responsibility in a participatory manner and not on the basis of power-sharing, as some believed.”

She added: “We want a participatory formula where there is no victor, no vanquished; a formula for coexistence for Libyans of various origins for a specific period of time until we pass on the torch.

UNSMIL spokesman Jean Alam said the Geneva talks have already overcome some major hurdles. This builds on the political accomplishments since the Tunis meeting at which a consensus was reached on the political roadmap, the eligibility criteria for positions in the unified executive authority, and the authority’s most important prerogative: setting a date for the elections.

He also reported “very encouraging progress” in military matters since the signing of a ceasefire agreement in October by the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), the members of which include five senior officers selected by the Government of National Accord and five selected by the Libyan National Army.

“This includes the recent exchanges of detainees conducted under the JMC’s supervision, as part of wider confidence-building measures; the resumption of flights to all parts of Libya; the full resumption of oil production and export; as well as the proposed unification and restructuring of the Petroleum Facilities Guards, in addition to the ongoing serious talks on the opening of the coastal road between Misrata and Sirte, which we hope will take place very soon,” said Alam.

He also hailed “promising developments” relating to the economy, including the recent unification of the exchange rate by the Central Bank of Libya, a step that requires the formation of a new authority for it to be implemented.

“The recent meeting between the ministries of finance was an important effort to unify the budget and allocate sufficient funding to improve services and rebuild Libya’s deteriorating infrastructure, particularly the electrical grid,” Alam said.

“All of these reforms are steps that will bring national institutions together to work in establishing a more durable and equitable economic arrangement.”

Williams added that without a unified executive authority, it would difficult to implement these steps.