American University of Beirut

MEPI-TLU Engaging for an Impactful and Meaningful Volunteerism

Despite the various challenges that arose with the COVID-19 pandemic, our students continued to be regularly engaged and committed to impactful and meaningful volunteerism and civic engagement activities, both here in Lebanon and abroad in their respective communities.

Some of our TLU senior student engagement acitvities include (but are not limited to):

Doha Al Bared (Syria) who volunteered with AUBMC – Material Management Department to monitor donations received after the Beirut Explosion, including medical supplies and other equipment. Doha assisted in classifying medication, counting and storing the inventory.

Mohamad Kaimouz (Syria) volunteered at the Sunny Weekend Event with AUB's Office of Student Affairs and Hostler, providing psychosocial support activities to kids of faculty and staff from the AUB community to help them better cope with the difficult circumstances.  Mohamad was part of the logistical team that organized the program activities and offered participants the needed support.

Ibrahim Al-Jaifi (Yemen) volunteered with AUBMC's  Material Management Department to monitor donations received after the Beirut Explosion, including medical supplies and other equipment. Ibrahim, along with other volunteers, assisted in sorting, counting, and labeling various types of inventory. In his reflection, Ibrahim noted that “I had the chance to participate in an activity related to the aftermath of the tragic Beirut explosion. I felt it was my duty as I have been a guest of this great community for the past three years."

Ibrahim Al-Jaifi (Yemen) also volunteered with FoodBlessed. In his reflection, he states, “Although I was there for only three hours, I was able to see how different people from all over the country cooperated to help these people who were affected by the blast. It is amazing to see this behavior and to be part of it."

Assem Helou (Syria) volunteered with Foodblessed, Assem stated, “I have volunteered with FoodBlessed many times before and I know about the food waste and hunger issues in Lebanon and in the world. I just believe in what they are doing and love helping them."

Sundus Al Nahari (Yemen) volunteered with Seenaryo, a leading specialist in participatory arts and education with marginalized communities in Lebanon and Jordan, with the goal   of transforming education and equipping people with the tools to collaborate, think critically and build transferable skills using arts and play. Sundus is supporting the piloting and testing  of the newly developed "Seenaryo Playkit", a teacher training resource portal and mobile app. For this purpose, she first participated in the enumerator training to learn how to collect data and conduct a census while observing and examining the classes, policies, as well as duties and responsibilities.

Retaj Essa (Libya) volunteered in  the “Cancer Awareness Village" organized by the Barbara Nassar Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health. Retaj was responsible for introducing attendees to the predisposing factors that can lead to cancer. Retaj also volunteered with Loyac, a non-governmental organization that aims to design and develop programs to facilitate the professional development and personal growth of youth through different programs and initiatives. She volunteered at Loyac's after-school program ,where she delivered sessions on a variety of life skills to children.

Beirut Recovery Project: MEPI-TL Scholars' Success Story

The massive blast that ripped through Beirut on August 4, 2020 resulted in widespread damage and chaos, leaving more than 200 people dead, wounding more than 6,500, and displacing hundreds of thousands. Amid Lebanon's worst unprecedented multilayer calamity, which has been further compounded by the health pandemic and a collapsing economy, thousands of local and international volunteers quickly flooded the affected areas to respond to the catastrophe and trauma. Among these driven volunteers were AUB MEPI-Tomorrow Leaders scholars, representing countries from across the MENA Region, who felt a collective and moral responsibility to support individuals and families impacted by the devastating event. For them, it was not a question of whether they were going to do something, but rather where they could put all their efforts to ensure optimal impact, be it on the frontlines or working behind the scenes.

In immediate response to the explosion, AUB's Center for Civic Engagement and Community Service (AUB-CCECS) organized teams of volunteers and experts to offer practical and moral support in the areas most affected – Gemmayzeh, Mar-Mikhaël, and Karantina – while taking the utmost safety precautions. Tents were set up and volunteers were given kits of head-protecting gear, masks, goggles, and gloves, along with brooms, shovels, buckets, and woven sacks. In the first days on the ground, more than 750 volunteers, including Amjad Al-Qadasi (Libya), Assem Al Helou (Syria), Fadi Salahedin (Syria), Hala Al Haboub (Yemen), Ibrahim Al- Jaifi (Yemen), Lamees Ali (Syria), Marwa Boustaji (Syria), Mohammed Abobakr (Yemen), Retaj Darwish (Libya), Said Lahmari (Algeria), Sendus Majanni (Syria), Wael Musaed (Yemen), Yehya Aryani (Yemen) and Zakaria Al-Shahary (Yemen), were assigned to different areas to address urgent needs like clearing debris and shattered glass from streets and homes, as well as minor repairs such as sealing broken windows with plastic and removing dangerous objects at risk of falling on residents. In parallel, a team of volunteer architects and engineers from AUB conducted mapping and damage assessments to more than 380 homes to identify what was needed to ensure families had a safe and habitable space.

After days of being in the field and witnessing the enormous amount of glass and plastic remains on the streets, Fadi realized that there was a pressing need to address the environmental aspect. With determination, he started a plastic recycling initiative to collect plastic waste and transport it to relevant NGO recycling sites.

Following the immediate and quick high-impact emergency response, Wael Musaed (Yemen) moved on to contribute and support  the comprehensive renovation, rehabilitation, and restoration efforts of residential homes in partnership with Al Maymouna Tanmiyah. At least 8,000 buildings holding significant architectural elements were severely damaged. Accordingly, and with the guidance and supervision of AUB-CCECS staff, scholars assisted skilled workers and experts in plastering, sanding the walls, painting, roof insulation, and woodworking for two residential homes located in Mar-Mikhaël.

Meanwhile, when many were on the ground offering direct relief support, Amjad Al Qadasi (Libya), Bashar Karaja, Doha Al Bared (Syria), Esraa Al Baqeri, Hala Al Haboub (Yemen), Ibrahim Al Jaifi (Yemen)and Nadeen Al Samawi (Morocco) played a profound role volunteering with the American University of Beirut Medical Center (AUBMC), which received donations after the explosion to provide financial support to care for the patients impacted by the blast, getting supplies to clinicians, and helping AUBMC begin repairs for its own buildings which too suffered structural damages. Scholars were directed to assist in various logistical and administrative tasks, such as registering patients in the AUBMC portal, responding to their inquiries, helping in monitoring donations, tagging and labelling medications, and storing them.

The explosion and its aftermath not only left people physically scarred and wounded, but also caused significant long-term psychological distress to thousands of people from both Lebanese and non-Lebanese communities, many of whom lost relatives, friends, colleagues, businesses, and were shaken to the core with fear and trauma by the experience. Responding to this less visible yet pre-eminent need, psychology majors Fadi Salahedin (Syria) and Rima Kamel (Syria) steppedup to put their academic knowledge and training to work where it was called for, never more so than today. As volunteers with grassroots initiatives such as Be Brave Beirut and the Red Oak, and accompanied by expert psychologists, they were equipped with the necessary skills and tools to carry out online rapid assessments of the emotional and mental health needs of the most vulnerable populations. Through culturally sensitive and remote interventions, such as story-telling, dialogue, and psychological first-aid, both Fadi and Rima are exploring alternative ways of interpreting one's reality—providing a sense of hope, belonging, and meaning for people in light of this traumatic experience.

One year after the colossal blast, and still with so much to be done, the motivation, perseverance, and drive to rebuild the city persist. Although very challenging and daunting, the MEPI-TL scholars had the opportunity to contribute to the remarkable relief efforts. Demonstrating qualities of empathy, civic responsibility, and solidarity, they are able to make a difference by being part of a community aiming for a common goal of change and transition.

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