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)
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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

  • 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.


Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

Updated 18 January 2021

Egypt, UAE resume first Qatar flights since 2017

  • An EgyptAir flight took off from Doha to Cairo, making it the first commercial flight in three and a half years between both countries
  • It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE

DOHA: The first direct flights since 2017 between Qatar and its former rivals Egypt and the UAE took to the skies on Monday, following the end of a regional crisis.
Egypt and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joined Saudi Arabia and Bahrain in cutting ties with Qatar in June 2017, accusing it of being too close to Iran and of backing Islamic extremists, charges Doha denies.
The quartet agreed to heal the rift at a Gulf summit on January 5 in Saudi Arabia, after a flurry of diplomatic activity by outgoing US President Donald Trump’s administration.
The first commercial flight from Qatar to Egypt in three and a half years, an EgyptAir service to Cairo, took off from windswept Doha airport.
It was followed shortly after by the arrival of an Air Arabia flight from Sharjah in the UAE.
The resumption of flights from Doha to Cairo will simplify travel for the large contingent of Egyptians living in Qatar.
As many as 300,000 Egyptians call Qatar home, according to official statistics, but many were unable to travel home during the crisis.
In May 2020, frustrated Egyptians protested outside the compound housing Egypt’s then-empty embassy.
Following the demonstration, 18 repatriation flights operated via neutral Oman to comply with Cairo’s ban on direct air traffic.
A Qatar Airways plane was due to also make the trip to Cairo later Monday.
Flights between Doha and Saudi Arabia, which has also opened its land border to Qatar, resumed on January 11.
The row complicated regional travel, divided families and raised costs faced by Qatari businesses.
Mustafa Ahmed, 38, an Egyptian technical engineer, said he was “very happy.”
“With direct flights, life will be easier, especially for families and children, avoiding the torment of changing airports and planes and waiting for hours for transit flights,” he told AFP.
Egyptians in Qatar work in a number of sectors including education, health care and engineering.
Thousands of Qatar’s majority-expatriate workforce, however, have lost their jobs as a result of a downturn caused by the coronavirus epidemic.