Beirut, Lebanon, 06:07 pm in the afternoon. It is a warm and summer day and people are happy to go home, meet with some friends for a drink or do some much-needed exercise after a long day at work. Yasmina El Assi, Deputy District Rotaract Representative and past president of Rotaract Club Saida, is standing right in front of her gym, talking to a friend on the phone. What she doesn’t know yet, is that seconds later her friend on the phone will notice something is off.
“There is an explosion“, is the last thing Jasmina hears before the call is interrupted and she is being push-backed into her gym by a strong force. She still has no idea what has happened but she wants to find out. Her gym is located in the city center, next to a big hospital. She sees injured people being brought in, lots of bleeding, and people in pain. Nobody, not even the official TV stations know the reason for the blast right now, just that many people are missing.
Everybody tries to find out whether their families and friends are injured while the firefighters, police, doctors, and nurses try to save as many lives as possible. The first person Jasmina contacts is her friend who had been earlier on the phone with her. She is relieved to learn, he survived it, even though he lost his house and his car. “The Rotaractors are mostly fine, but everybody knows somebody who lost someone “, she confirms. Many people are still missing so everybody spends the evening praying for their beloved ones. By now, they know that the explosions have taken place in the harbor, one of the most popular neighborhoods, the heart of Beirut. The harbor and its surroundings is usually a place where people meet after work for drinks, where many international people live, and where various cinemas and shopping malls are located. It is also next to one of the city’s most important highways. To sum it up: a very crowded place. This is why so many people were injured and killed.
On the next day, Rotaractors evaluate the situation and figure out, what kind of help is needed the most. “If it’s not us Rotaractors, who else is better prepared for engaging socially than us?”, Jasmina tells us. The blast has not only hit Beirut in its heart but also in the worst possible time: Lebanon had already been dealing with a major economic crisis when the Covid-19 pandemic started taking off and then the explosions happened.
Used to doing social work, the Lebanese Rotaractors (25 clubs, approx. 500 members) mobilize all the help they can get, Rotaract, Rotary, past members, and friends: they all are in this together and are coordinating their actions on a national level to have a bigger of an impact. Jasmina is one of them. They meet with NGOs and immediately start three much-needed actions that are still ongoing:
- Since many have lost their entire homes and belongings, many people no longer have access to food, this is the first thing they take care of. Rotaractors go out there, assess the families in need, and distribute more than 450 boxes filled with food.
- At the same time, Rotaract District 2452 and the Mediterranean MDIO collaborate and launch a world-wide crowd-funding campaign to support the rebuilding of the many destroyed houses. They have managed to already collect 14 000 Euros until now and the campaign continues until September 20th. In the meantime, they assess each house that has been destroyed together with the organization “Fabricate”. Once this is done, they will pay for as many materials as possible to rebuild the houses with the money collected through crowdfunding.
- Rotaract meets with Rotary and they team up assessing the long-term needs and how they can develop Beirut. Together they are working on several projects.
Rotaractors and Rotarians are very committed and stronger than ever after what happened and are fighting to regain their city day by day: “We are making the difference”.
Are you wondering how you can help?
Participate in the crowdfunding campaign to help rebuild the houses and share the campaign with all your friends: Beirut Stay Strong