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Global Communities in Lebanon: Working with Refugees
Published 02/06/2017 by Global Communities
Global Communities in Lebanon: Our Work with Refugees
Global Communities has worked closely with UNHCR to provide for refugees as well as the communities that host them. The Lebanese public health, education and infrastructure systems continue to struggle in providing services to locals and newcomers alike. Hundreds of thousands of individuals go without health care, children don’t go to school, and communities suffer with crumbling infrastructure. Additionally, refugees are often blamed for flooding the job market, thus bringing down wages and shutting others out of jobs.
Funded by UNHCR since 2012, Global Communities is providing Shelter, WASH and community support assistance to Syrian refugee families and host communities in Mount Lebanon. Through this project refugee families are receiving access to habitable, seasonally adequate shelter and water assistance through activities prioritizing critical upgrades to existing shelter conditions, maintenance of collective shelters and informal settlements. The program is also assisting Syrian refugees through receiving sealing and insulation kits. In addition, Global Communities is also maintaining/installing latrines and water tanks.
Working with Refugees and Host Communities in Lebanon
Given the continuing turmoil in Lebanon as a result of the Syrian conflict, Global Communities has partnered with the Al Moasat Social Relief and Welfare Organization, which provides education, vocational training, health services and social services to women and girls, especially those who are impoverished and/or have disabilities. Throughout Saida – a poor, conservative town – and neighboring areas, they help people in ways that benefit them directly as well as the greater community. They work with and employ not only Lebanese women but those from Syria and Iraq too.
Al Moasat started a small catering and event planning business from an on-site kitchen, selling high-quality baked goods to low-income people. All of the women who work there are from poor families. In the early days, back in the early 2000s, they cooked for thousands of people every week. But the conflict with Israeli in 2006 interrupted business and capacity. The women of Al Moasat worked from rented spaces in shops and other local establishments willing to help. But despite limitations, their stellar reputation kept demand growing, so in 2007 they partnered with Global Communities with funding from USAID. We worked with them to expand the kitchen, and from that time through 2015, revenue from the kitchen doubled.
And, since greater demand (roughly 700 orders a month from all over the country) required increased labor, employability increased too – it actually tripled from previous levels. The increased services also required new space, so Global Communities helped with the construction of two new buildings. The kitchen is now undergoing a major renovation once again to meet steady demand from the community, but older equipment will still be used for training purposes. Today they have 130 employees and 3,000 people benefit every month from Al Moasat services, which also include a vast medical center, learning institute, technical and vocational training, day care and more.
“If the kitchen was all there was and there were no other services, it would have been sufficient; there would have been enough funding to have renovated itself, but with all the other services, more families benefit in more ways,” says Arabe Kalach, Director of Al Moasat.
The employees of Al Moasat earn salaries that are competitive with market rates, and they receive full benefits including social security. To this day, employees have never been paid late. Al Moasat also provides transportation for employees and hosts many activities for them on holidays, in addition to providing for refugee families (15,000 during Ramadan) with money earned by the business, and from private contributions. There is also an on-site nursery for the children of employees which now has 70 children. The instructors are the same ones who teach at private schools. All fundraising activities are conducted on-site to keep costs down and ensure that all the money raised is always reinvested in the center.
Al Moasat’s outreach is not limited to its location; they have an extensive mobile outreach network so they can go to community members in need, in their own homes. This is especially important since Saida is a conservative community and often women and girls do not venture out alone. However, because parents know Al Moasat provides a safe environment, they are more amenable to allowing their daughters to go there for vocational training, socializing, sexual awareness education and more.
Because of its long-standing, stellar reputation in the community, Al Moasat has numerous connections to the private sector for when additional intervention is needed. With such extensive outreach and support, many families of employees use some or even all of the services offered by Moasat. It helps that they have no political or religious affiliation, to which Kalach attributes much of their success.