Drive to help Beirut

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“My brother and I are half Lebanese and spent a lot of time in Lebanon. We lived there for six months, went to school there, went every summer, and have a lot of family there. I felt at home there, so when this catastrophe hit, I wanted to take advantage of the attention Lebanon was receiving to aid people wanting help,” Noor Hachem said. (Photo submitted/Lalla Asmaa Alaoui)

This summer, a large pile of ammonium nitrate exploded at the Port of Beirut, killing over 200 people and leaving almost 300,000 homeless. Lebanon had been rebuilding from the Syrian Civil War spillover prior to the explosion, and shortly after the explosion, Beirut citizens were put in more precarious positions, as the economy became further plagued by inflation. The $1 that equaled 1.50 Lebanese Pounds changed to $1 equaling 1,507.50 Lebanese Pounds, according to recent estimates, within a span of a couple months. Horrified by this humanitarian crisis, junior Noor Hachem, freshman Mohamed Ali Hachem and freshman Ryan Rached decided to help out.

The Hachem siblings offered assistance in the form of three collection drives, with the first drive beginning in August shortly after the explosion. They started by emailing all the teachers, calling people to ask for donations and informing all students of the drive. Since the Arabic Club was not allowed to collect directly on campus due to COVID-19 precautions, the drive took place at a park to collect objects. The first drive lasted two weeks, and over 200 hours, consisting of several pick ups and drop offs to the Hachems’ house. The Hachems would sort all the items at home, place them in different boxes and palletize the containers for shipping. Eventually, the Hachems gathered so many items that they had to move the items from their garage to a warehouse.

For those scared of COVID-19 and who didn’t feel comfortable coming to the drive, Noor Hachem created a wishlist. This informed people what the drive needed, allowing them to order from home with one click. 

A second drive started March 13. After the Hachem siblings started the Arabic Club in January, they used the club as well to promote their charity and involve more members. Members spent spring break packaging and sorting items in a 40-inch container, then taking it to the warehouse. A third drive occured Saturday, April 24, lasting two to three weeks. Hachem wanted to send before Eid al-Fitr, the last day before Ramadan, so people could eat after fasting. Thus, the siblings and members of the Arabic Club spent their entire spring break and week at the warehouse.

Due to their hard work, the club and the Hachem siblings received an accolade of excellence, “In Recognition of An Inspirational Leader Who Made a Difference and An Extraordinary Performance and Contribution to Help 4 Beirut Project,” April 16 at Jacaranda Country Club. The mayor of Plantation, Fla., Lynn Stoner, proclaimed the day as “Arabic Club Day of American Heritage School.” The mayor of Weston, Margaret Brown, presented the members a recognition letter and proclaimed that the State Department recognized April as the Arabic American month. Among those attending this ceremony were Upper School principal Mrs. Elise Blum, President Dr. Douglas Laurie and Plantation councilman Nick Sortal. 

The drives collect needed items, like used shoes, non perishable foods and hygiene supplies, and are packaged in containers with messages like “From a human to a human.” These containers are then sent to the port at the headquarters of a Lebanon organization Rached’s dad works. At the port, the goods are sent to a place that evaluates where help is needed the most. This place involves people detailing their situations and explaining why they need help to a representative. The organization listens to their stories and gives supplies accordingly to them, making sure they arrive to people who need them. 

“It makes you feel very good overall doing the charity work and helping them. I know a lot of people affected by the bomb, and I want to help out. After hearing about people coming together and cleaning up the city themselves, I knew I had to help,” Noor Hachem said.

In the future, Hachem expressed a desire to diversify charities in the Arabic club. Future plans include an education charity for Morocco and a spread to help all people, regardless of Arabic descent or not.

Eva, a junior at American Heritage School, is starting her first year as a writer for the Patriot Post. She enjoys all things literature and is part of many clubs including the National Honor Society, Key Club and Black Student Union. When she is not studying, she is at swim practice or watching Netflix.

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