FOCUS LEBANON: LIFE is Helping the Lebanese Help Themselves

Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Opinion by Jean AbiNader

LIFE Lebanon is not your typical professional association. In addition to its highly qualified and energetic financial, banking, technology, and consulting members, it has worked tirelessly to support Lebanon’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs through its vast network of overseas Lebanese professionals. LIFE partnered with MEI and ATFL to produce critical analyses of the rationale for strong US-Lebanon relations and is instrumental in supporting the newly launched Lebanon program at MEI. In addition, its members support scholarship programs, mentoring, training, job placement, and have raised more than $9 million in humanitarian relief for Lebanon.

As overseas Lebanese, they represent the classic emigrant dream – go overseas, do well, help your country of origin. And they continually strive to do more. This blog will focus on one of LIFE’s most recent efforts to help small businesses, the heartbeat of Lebanon’s economy, to recover and thrive. There are two programs currently being implemented.

Facebook Donation to LIFE
In February 2021, LIFE received a $300,000 donation from Facebook to support vulnerable businesses in Lebanon. Using their experience and network on the ground, LIFE will allocate the donation to 100–150 small and medium enterprises (SMEs), helping them and the economy grow in these unprecedented times. 3QA, a Lebanon-based third sector quality assurance organization, will offer support during the vetting and proposal stages and will undertake monitoring and reporting on behalf of LIFE.

Working with 22 project partners, SMEs are being selected based on: impact on the community; vulnerability level; geographical spread; sector diversity; and gender balance.

Accelerate Beirut
More than 10,000 SMEs were severely damaged during the Beirut explosion and many more are still suffering from its economic impact. Accelerate Beirut is an initiative launched as a collaboration between LIFE, Alia Atieh, and a team of consultants from Bain & Company. The objective is to support Lebanese SMEs by establishing connections and enabling collaborations between local SMEs and global corporations. These collaborations take the form of financial contributions, in-kind donations, partnerships and mentorship programs, or technical assistance from large companies.

Achievements to date:
• The rehabilitation of 5 restaurants in Mar Mikhael working with Nusaned through a $50,000 donation from the Accor Hotels Group
• The Sisley-d’Ornano Foundation donated $24,000 to fashion designer Sandra Mansour
• Eres donated 500 items of clothing to Stand for Women beneficiaries
• L’Oréal Levant are working on a collaboration with Sarah’s Bag
• House of Zejd and Joyau d’Olive are two other SMEs who have received $20,000 of funding

Georgy Rahayel, Founder of Le Joyau D’olive, one of the small businesses who received funding through Accelerate Beirut.
Le Joyau D’olive is a Lebanese artisanal biodegradable vegan soap made of virgin olive and essential oils.

Georgy Rahayel, founder of Le Joyau D’Olive: “Accelerate Beirut has been an eye-opening experience as it took our thought process to a new level. It has exposed us to the right people who can help us scale our venture.


Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag at her workshop. Through Accelerate Beirut, Sarah’s Bag worked on a collaboration with L’Oréal Levant

Sarah Beydoun, founder of Sarah’s Bag: “I really think it’s a brilliant idea and a creative solution, asking big international corporations to support local businesses each in their own field of expertise.”


House of Zejd builds on two centuries of family heritage of pressing locally sourced olives from the northern hilly Beino landscape. This is another SME who received funding and support through Accelerate Beirut

Youssef Fares, General Manager, House of Zejd: “Thank you Accelerate Beirut for this great initiative bringing Lebanese products and know-how to the forefront and for the valuable contribution to our brand visibility in target export markets.”

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon.