Showing solidarity with Beirut miles away

Madison Temmel
6 min readSep 6, 2020
Eman Fakhoury, a student at Georgia State University, is actively involved with all facets of social media, and has found it to be the perfect conduit for sharing current events and the history of Lebanon. It is important to Fakhoury to share with her users, especially American friends, information that will shatter stereotypes of the Middle East.

When the first videos from the Beirut explosion were posted online, Iman Fakhoury, a student at Georgia State University, stared in disbelief at the destruction that lay waste to her hometown. The rubble on the streets was from the same buildings she had walked by numerous times. The images of people left to search the ruins for the injured were her people. She should have been there like she was every summer; helping the people on the streets. Yet, because of the pandemic, Fakhoury was not there. Instead she was in Atlanta left to wonder how she could help those in Beirut.

At the same time, just a few miles away, Bahaa Kazii, an Emory student, felt compelled to find a way to do something.

“I had no words to describe what I was seeing, and surely like all other Lebanese people, I was extremely emotional for a while…I just wanted to help people affected from afar,” Kazii said.

After reaching out to a group chat with other Lebanese citizens in Atlanta, he received word from Fakhoury; she was interested and wanted to help. Later that night, Fakhoury, Kazii, and a group of other individuals created their fundraiser page on GoFundMe to help provide support for various Nongovernmental organizations in Beirut. Little did they know the impact their fundraiser would have. Within 24 hours they had received more than $20,000. Now, almost three weeks in, they have received more than $30,000 in donations. Through their fundraiser they have not only brought the Lebanese diaspora together, but also have engaged with the Atlanta community about their beloved Beirut.

What motivated you to take the extra step to create your own fundraiser page?

Fakhoury: As a Lebanese citizen, I consider Lebanon my home, so being away from home when something so devastating happened I felt the need to do something. I mean, all my friends, all my family there, they went straight down to the streets within 12 hours to clean up, and to start removing debris. So for being so far away I just felt like raising money was the best way to help.

Did you expect this fundraiser being as successful as it has been?

Fakhoury: Definitely not. When we first started our goal was $5,000, and we were talking that night about how it would suck if we only got $1,000. Then within 24 hours we had reached 20k. It just kept spreading around, and because it was so immediate there was a lot of momentum behind it. So if we had waited a week I don’t think it would have gotten that much attention.

You seem like you were very proactive about posting this fundraiser.

Fakhoury: I mean I was in shock looking at those videos because I could see buildings I know being torn to the ground. So I can imagine how my people there felt hearing it, feeling it, and seeing it right there. That entire day I was kind of in shock, and I didn’t start it (the fundraiser) until later that night. I am so grateful for meeting that guy from Emory (Kazzi) because he was really encouraging about a fundraiser. I had spent the whole day thinking how can I help? Then we connected and decided we’d do it together.

How did you decide which NGOs to send donations to?

Fakhoury: The Lebanese Red Cross has been the main NGO receiving donations, which is great, but they’re not going to be out there rebuilding with cement blocks, so we decided that our fundraiser was going to focus on Offre-Joie which focuses on rebuilding infrastructure.

Kazzi: In the beginning, we didn’t know that the fundraiser would have such momentum. When we started receiving such high amounts of donations, we concluded that it would be preferable to diversify the NGO because yes we can donate to rehabilitation projects, but it might be a good idea to also donate to food banks too.

Fakhoury: The first 20k will be going to Offre-Joie, and then after the 20k mark, we decided that whatever is raised, 40 percent is going to Beit El Baraka, 40 percent is going to go to Lebanese Food Bank, and the remaining 20 percent will go to other NGOs focused on hospitals destroyed in Beirut.

It sounds like your fundraiser is trying to focus more on long-term versus immediate aid.

Fakhoury: That was one thing we considered because when a lot of countries are done caring, because you know, a lot of countries just follow trends, and a lot of people do. Once they are done sending their first few millions, or first few tons of aid, they’re not going to care about the long term effects that Beirut is undergoing. It is still going to be in ruins after it loses the headlines. It is still going to be damaged. That is why we were trying to focus more on the long-term.

Since the explosion in Beirut, would you say you’ve seen more solidarity from the Lebanese diaspora?

Fakhoury: I think that really began back in October 2019 when our revolution started. People are just really fed up with the government, and the diaspora around the world organized protests just to stand in solidarity. It’s been growing since October, but when the explosion happened, I noticed people in their communities having to make a stand and try to make a small impact.

Kazzi: I think there are (Lebanese) students at Georgetown University who have fundraised about $25,000 by selling masks. I know other people selling bracelets and stuff like that, so it’s not specifically one person doing stuff.

What about from your non-Lebanese friends?

Fakhoury: I have a lot of friends who aren’t Lebanese who reached out to ask how they could help, so I told them to donate, and not just to donate to my GoFundMe. I sent them links to all of the organizations that are reliable and trustworthy.

Kazzi: I have some friends that asked me what the current situation is like. They also asked me if my family and friends were fine. I personally noticed that a lot of people who shared the fundraiser and donated were actually Americans.

Are they more curious about Lebanon in general?

Fakhoury: A lot of friends I’ve known for years and they’ve become more curious. They realize that this isn’t something normal. They want to know more of what’s happening on the ground so I try to show them videos and stuff as much as possible.

You’ve mentioned before about people caring only as a trend. How do you plan to combat that to keep Beirut on people’s minds?

Fakhoury: I really think that out of sight, out of mind is a true statement. If they have nothing to do with Lebanon it’s not a constant reminder, so they’re surely going to forget about it. I will keep posting about it here (instagram), and I will keep talking about it which will be a sober reminder of the reality. I just want them to know that this is my history. That is my city.

How much longer will this fundraiser be active?

Fakhoury: I honestly don’t think we’re going to keep it up too much longer. Just because we want to finalize the donations to those NGOs. We just started the process of sending the money to these NGOs.

What about any plans for after this fundraiser?

Kazzi: I am personally planning on launching a fundraiser. I already have some ideas in my mind on how to fundraise. Maybe by selling t-shirts or bracelets, I think it’s going to have a big impact.

Fakhoury: I want to have a broader impact so I’m considering either joining an organization or creating my own.

Do you have anything you’d like to add?

Fakhoury: I just encourage everyone to talk about Lebanon, you know, don’t forget about it. Break those stereotypes, and support it. Come visit us because you’ll have a place to stay.

Kazzi: I just really hope that this is going to be how Lebanon changes paths.

If anyone is interested in learning more, they can find the fundraiser here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/help-for-beirut-disaster?utm_medium=sms&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_susi-sms-welcome

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