Pre-Order Maamoul for a Cause This Easter

Date Maamoul

Maamoul is the traditional dessert we all lover serving. It’s especially the case during Easter, when many Christian families serve the delicacy to their guests wishing them a Happy Easter.

This year, Little Helps is making sure every little piece of yumminess helps those in need, regardless of who they are and where they come from. So, don’t buy pre-packaged maamoul from big chains, but buy these ones, made with love and care and help someone in need. Wanna bake some yourself to help? Sure! Just get in touch.

Email or call littlehelpslebanon@gmail.com 03450390 – 03240073

And a Happy Easter to you all!

#NoLawNoVote: Go Down to Parliament This Morning, Please

unnamed

All of you have jobs, and school. Maybe you just think you have something better to do. You don’t. Nothing is more important that this.

Far too many women have died, far too many have lived in fear and depression. This is the perfect way to pressure our disgusting MPs into doing the right thing.

Take your lunch break early, and go down to parliament. Please. I beg you. I feel so tormented I am not there myself physically, but I know I can count on all of you.

The law to protect women against domestic violence’s time was decades ago. Let’s not wait a single day more.

RSVP and SHARE!

Nahr El Kalb Alarming Pollution Levels

1418170_644090602304687_1848563859_n 10013796_644090462304701_465170147_nPhotos by Haig Melikian

Lebanon’s rivers are famous for being toxic waste dumps and cesspools of repulsive odors and disease. Just to give you an idea of how bad, an animal rights advocate who was helping in the attempted capture of the Beirut River crocodile, got some river water splashed into his eyes, and could not see for 10 days…

The heavily polluted rivers were the Beirut River and the aptly named Nahr El Mot (river of death). Nahr El Kalb’s main feature has been being virtually dried up all the time, but somewhat swimmable, or at least not lethally toxic for people with their dogs.

In recent weeks though, the river has been severely polluted by a new brick factory upstream. The water is opaque, and any animal or plant life in the river’s ecosystem is probably long gone by now…

Nahr El Kalb is a river people still actually go and sit next to, in restaurants and wedding venues and even water theme parks on its banks. To see it become this disgusting, industrial sludge is just sad, especially since reports are confirming that the new brick factory is owned by locals, who the municipality is turning a blind eye to.

It’s sad that good relations with the municipality trumps the environmental cost of a careless industrial venture. A venture so close to Nahr El Kalb’s historic bridges, homes and the sometimes painful reminders scattered in the valley left by all the armies that have conquered Lebanon throughout history.

Another Victory for Lebanon’s LGBT Community

941360_10151375011291491_417815943_n

Judge Naji Dahdah has become the second Lebanese judge to interpret Lebanon’s notorious Article 534 in the Lebanese penal code which states “sexual acts against nature” can be punished by up to a year in prison, in the right way.

As a biologist, the fact that homosexuality is natural is a no-brainer. Virtually every animal species exhibits homosexual behavior in individuals of both genders. So, it is not in fact “against nature” and thus, judges that are fair and were born after the First World War will rule accordingly.

The first such victory in court was in Batroun a couple of years back, and Lebanon has the Beirut-based, pan-Arab NGO Legal Agenda to thank for this feat, which comes after a string of victories in the civil rights movement for Lebanon’s LGBT community. First, with the ban of the absurd “anal virginity tests” after a recommendation from the syndicates of both lawyers and medical doctors in Lebanon. Second, with the Batroun not guilty verdict setting a precedent. And third, with the Lebanese Psychiatric Society reiterating that homosexuality is not a disease.

Judge Dahdah dismissed a case filed against a transgender woman, accusing her of “having same sex relationships with another man”

To everyone still not ok with all of this, please, just remember, who the fuck are you to have a say in other people’s lives when it doesn’t affect you? Mind your own business and stop worrying what gays, lesbians, transgender and other gender minorities do with their lives, their bodies and who they choose to love.

Also, massive as this step is, Lebanon still has a long way to go. Judge Dahdah might have been a reasonable man, but as we all know, many if not most of Lebanon’s judges are inept and corrupt. And unfortunately, our outdated judiciary system doesn’t take legal precedents into account, and handles issues case-by-case. So, next time a similar case is filed, the judge might choose to rule differently, regardless of the two brilliant legal precedents set in Batroun and Jdeideh.

From Downtown Beirut to Aarsal: Tales of Compassion and Hardship

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 2.38.32 PM

The past weekend I was off the grid. Ditched my meetings, sleep and all the usual stuff I do in the weekend. Instead, I joined hundreds and thousands of Lebanese people come together to fill the gaps the government and the rest of the world couldn’t.

On Saturday, what I was seeing in the I AM NOT A TOURIST initiative was mind-blowing. Person after person, family after family, walked in with huge bags and carts full of blankets, shoes, warm clothes, toys and other basic necessities that the hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugee families were severely lacking. It was amazing and indescribable seeing so many people, with their children and friends and colleagues, come all the way to Downtown Beirut and donate everything they could spare or buy. Coming together to fill a gap that makes us human and humane. In total, twenty five trucks in total were donated, and donors who saw that the volunteers needed help, just donned the yellow vests and went right in and started helping us with the sorting and packing and loading. Just, wow.

It was Sunday though, that really moved me. The Lebanese for Syrian Refugees initiative which gathered thousands of dollars in donations, from around the world, as well as a ton of medication, clothes and blankets, set out from Monot Street in Gemmayzeh to go all the way up to Aarsal’s hinterlands between Lebanon and Syria.

This place is a legit no-mans-land where neither the Lebanese or Syrian governments have jurisdiction, and where international aid NGOs cannot operate. There are hundreds of families there though, and they are surviving on barely anything in below-freezing temperatures, inadequate shelter and basically no food.

I’ve been to many field missions over the past two years, both on my own and with UN agencies like the UNHCR and WFP. However, the conditions in Aarsal were by far the toughest. It was very cold, very dangerous and very remote. The basics agencies like the UNHCR provide were unattainable, and not even the road was accessible save for a well-prepared 4×4 vehicles.

Photos courtesy of Jad Ghorayeb and Gino Raidy

What sank my heart, is perhaps the most random thing you would expect to see in Aarsal’s hinterlands: a derelict theme park. A ferris wheel and other rides designed to draw a smile on a kid’s face in better times, had become a make-shift shelter for a few families there, their soaked clothes hanging to dry from the rides’ carriages, make-shift tents created by draping plastic covers over a merry-go-round giving them the only shelter in the -2C, snow-covered area.

As always, it was the kids that impact you the most. Their faces serious as they maneuver through the ice and snow between their tents. As kids, snow was the ultimate fun. The second it snowed, we’d all run outside and have snowball fights and build snowmen. But, for these kids, snow was a potential killer. What is a source of joy for most, is a source of bone-crushing pain for the 40 families we visited. Wearing nothing but flip-flops, the kids would run over to the volunteers, who were distributing games, boots, clothes and blankets that lit up their dirty, rash-stricken, tiny faces with a smile as wide as I’ve ever seen.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 2.38.21 PM

After a few hours, all the aid we’d brought was evenly distributed, and that’s when the real help in my opinion was provided: diesel fuel oil to power their heaters. In a place where no electricity or plumbing exists, the only way to stay warm is by lighting a fire. But, what little trees Aarsal had were already chopped down, and in the frozen desert up there, mazoot was the only way to stay warm. Thousands of liters of mazoot coupons were distributed, but that wasn’t nearly enough. It’d last each family the week, tops, and that’s as vital as possible in the below-freezing temperatures with just a tent to shield you from the frost-bite level cold.

What Lebanese for Syrian Refugees did was magnificent, and I am extremely proud to have been able to help. But, it wasn’t enough, and we have a lot more to do. We’re going up next week as well, and we’re following up with the locals up there to make sure we can provide anything urgent they might need. Next week, we’re going up with a fully-equipped mobile clinic that’ll provide all the medical assistance and preventive medicine we can muster, and we’ll need your help. Go to our Facebook page, no matter where you are in the world, to find out how you can help.

I AM NOT A TOURIST: Donate Clothes and Blankets This Christmas

WCHOn these blog’s pages, I’ve chronicled or tried to chronicle what it’s like to be a Syrian refugee in Lebanon. I tried to cover the uplifting stories, since all the news is heartbreaking, horrifying and tragic. I went on field missions with the UNHCR [link] and the WFP [link], and despite the great work these UN agencies and all their international and local partners are doing, the sheer scale of the crisis makes it impossible to guarantee even the basics to the hundreds of thousands of Syrians who sought refuge in Lebanon.

One beautiful thing that happened when I published these articles, was the storm of private messages and emails asking me how people can help, which sort of restored some faith in humanity, especially with the racist reactions that get so much attention in the media…

Khadija and Amjad are refugees from @Aleppo, #Syria. Living as refugees in #Lebanon's #Bekaa Valley now and trying to make the best of a terrible storm. Built a snow man

Anyway, it’s Christmas now, and there’s a wonderful initiative THIS SATURDAY to gather blankets and clothes for Syrian refugees in the Bekaa and Akkar. Temperatures in the Northern part of Lebanon and in the Bekaa Valley dip below freezing regularly for months, and with little more than a tent or unheated humble abode, the refugees need a lot of warm clothing and blankets.

We all have an extra sweatshirt, a pair of pants that doesn’t fit us well, a scarf or two, warm socks, hats, and blankets. And I’m sure we can all afford to get a brand new blanket or two that’ll not only make someone’s life more bearable this winter, but also help the most vulnerable of them survive.

So, this SATURDAY from 11:00AM till 6:00PM at The Beirut By Bike Area in Downtown Beirut and donate anything you can spare. I’m gonna head down there before going to ABC for our Gino’s Blog and Live Love Beirut collaboration for Christmas.

Anyway, RSVP to the event here, and SHARE it!

 

Gino’s Blog and Live Love Beirut’s Christmas Campaign: $1000 in a Week!

g+llb

Being charitable shouldn’t be a Christmas-only thing, that’s a given. But, it is Christmas, and that means doing something special and going the extra mile to put a smile on a sad face, especially if it’s the face of a young child.

That’s why Gino’s Blog and Live Love Beirut have teamed up, so that with the help of our readers and photographers, we can donate the 1000USD to 24 different NGOs that help children in Lebanon.

Our aim is 1000USD, and we have exactly one week to reach that goal. We’re releasing 100 limited edition Live Love Beirut bracelets, and for each donation of 10USD or more, you’ll get one of them!

You can give us your donations and claim your bracelet directly from us; because we’d love to meet you guys live and spread the Christmas cheer. I will be at ABC Ashrafieh this Saturday from 2:00PM till 8:00PM with the bracelets (Just whatsapp me +9613134477 to find me!). If you can’t make it to ABC Ashrafieh, you can pass by at your convenience to Eddy’s house in Gemmayzeh. If you’re abroad, you can buy a bracelet online on www.livelovebeirut.com.

The NGOs we’ll be helping are:

  1. AFEL – helps abused, at-risk and delinquent children reintegrate into society
  2. Ahlouna - helps underprivileged members of society, especially children, in the Saida region
  3. Ajialouna – all-female NGO which runs several development programs in Lebanon
  4. Arc En Ciel – reintegration of vulnerable individuals into society, amazing work with physically disabled people
  5. APEG – provides medical and psychological support and treatment for victims of war and violence
  6. Bassma – complete support for families to become self-sufficient, help with financial, housing, job and education needs
  7. Bravheart – treats children with heart diseases, aims to stop any child death from congenital heart disease due to lack of funds
  8. CCCL – treatment of children with cancer at AUBMC
  9. CHANCE – treatment of children with cancer and blood diseases
  10. Philip Hatem Foundation – foundation that aims for a happy childhood for underprivileged kids
  11. Fondation René Moawad – development and education in rural areas of Lebanon
  12. Heartbeat – treat children with heart disease
  13. Himaya – stop child abuse in Lebanon and help the victims of child abuse and molestation
  14. Home of Hope – support and reintegration of abused, traumatized and orphaned children
  15. Ibtissama – clown doctors for hospitalized children
  16. IRAP – education of deaf children
  17. Kids First – treats children with cancer
  18. Lebanese Autism Society – helps children with Autism
  19. Lebanus – provides scholarships and other support for children in need
  20. My School Pulse – helps chronically ill children pursue their education and keep up with their peers
  21. Ordre de Malte – various medical and social support for children in need
  22. S.O.S. Children Villages – takes care of Lebanese orphans
  23. Sesobel – helps children with disabilities
  24. The Lebanese School for the Blind and Deaf - school for the blind and deaf

So, let’s make this Christmas really special, and help all these amazing, hard-working, apolitical, non-discriminatory, non-religious NGOs bring a smile to the faces of Lebanon’s kids, whether they’re sick, disabled, orphaned, abused or in need, we must help. After all, this is what Christmas is all about, and we can make things better together.

Merry Christmas everyone!

When we get to the 1000USD mark, we’ll get a star in Zaitunay Bay along with big corporate brands signed by us all (Gino’s Blog Readers and Live Love Beirut taggers) to show that normal folks like us can have a huge impact on our society…

Ashrafieh 2020 on Sunday: A Car-less and Fun Gemmayzeh

2020This Sunday, Gemmayzeh’s gonna be closed off to all cars, trucks, “mobilettes” and disgusting valet parking thugs. Instead, it’s gonna be full of live music, live DJ sets, live painting, a photo exhibition, free wine and a whole lot more.

Here’s the schedule of the day:

  • 10am to 6pm Bike rentals with Beirut by Bikes
  • 10am to 7pm Photography Exhibition with ALBA
  • 11am to 6pm Street Musicians
  • 12pm to 6pm DJs playing live sets
  • 3pm to 4pm Exclusive Appearance by RODGE
  • 11am to 12.30pm free Zumba Classes for all with Pia Afi
  • 11am to 5 pm. Children corner with arts crafts and cultural activities around music and dance, with le Club des 2 Clowns at Jardin de Claire Maassab and Garderie Santa
  • 12pm to 4.30pm Sports Challenges
  • 10am to 7pm NGO, charities and mouné exhibition: on Frères School
  • 10am to 6pm Several painters scattered from chez Paul to Les Frères School will paint live
  • 2pm to 3pm 161th live painting show with Bernard Renno on St Nicholas Stairs
  • 11.30am to 5pm street shows: Fanfares, stilt walkers, hip hop, ballroom dance
  • 10am to 7pm Wine exhibition on Saint Nicholas stairs
  • Inauguration of Love lock wall on St Nicholas stairs
  • 12pm to 4pm Graffiti artists EPs and M3allim will paint blind walls
  • 3pm A tribute to Maroun Naccache next to Santa Church (where his first play was presented) Selected pieces of “L’avare” de Molière, directed by Mike Ayvazian
2020-1
It’s awesome seeing so many talented people and friends making appearances, like M3allim and Rodge, DSC and loads of others. So, After your parties on Saturday, go rest up a little, then get your boyfriend/girlfriend, family, friends and pets and head down to Gemmayzeh. We’ll have a glass of wine altogether and enjoy the dozens of live art displays and shows. And for all you lovers out there, don’t forget to bring a padlock with your names scribbled on it for the brand new love lock!
Check their Facebook page for more info

Brilliant Women’s Rights Campaign by ABAAD

Abaad2

It is no secret that God, or at least his fan club in Lebanon, are the biggest obstacle and opponent to women’s rights in Lebanon. The ferocious opposition and harassment by religious authorities, especially muslim ones, is disgusting, and was well-documented on this blog. What’s even more disgusting is the spineless MPs that succumbed to this religious bullying, despite prominent Sunni politician Saad Hariri’s stance in support of the protection of women from domestic violence and marital rape (which had meek support from his Christian counterparts, especially the FPM)

I found this campaign brilliant because it speaks on several levels:

  • Saying “God help her” or other similar phrases is common by Lebanese, and throws away responsibility and guilt from individuals that should be fighting to protect women and ensure gender equality in a supposedly “modern” country or at least the self-proclaimed “most liberal” Arab one.
  • My atheistic vanity also delighted in this ad, you know, since God can’t really do anything to help her, considering there is no God, only petty humans using God as an excuse. It’s up to us, real humans, to fix this and take responsibility in making it a thing of the past.
  • “God help her” is actually an insult to these abused, raped and murdered women, considering it’s “God’s fault” the law never passed, and was gutted from any meaningful jurisdiction thanks to God’s representatives in Lebanon.

All in all, it’s beautiful, and many readers have already sent me photos they’ve taken of the offline campaign on billboards all over the country. Like ABAAD on Facebook here, and join in the struggle to make sure your mothers, sisters, cousins, colleagues, classmates, lovers, girlfriends and friends don’t pay the price for our inaction. No MP will be endorsed on this blog in future elections if the women’s protection law isn’t an essential part of their platform, along with causes like civil marriage, the right of mothers to pass down the Lebanese citizenship to their children and foreign husbands and other way overdue laws.