From the Heart of Lebanon – Beit El Baraka
On a recent trip to Lebanon, I met with NGOs, civil society organizations, and individuals who are working to restore ‘the heart of Lebanon’, the rural and urban communities that host those most affected by the economic dislocation of the country. This profile features Beit el Baraka, one of the most prominent entities working on sustainable solutions. It has undertaken several sectors of activities to restore some normalcy to everyday life in Lebanon by creating opportunities for self-advancement, a sense of community and hope, especially for women and marginalized groups.
Beit el Baraka was founded by Maya Chams Ibrahimchah, a well-known philanthropist and entrepreneur, who sees enormous potential in the people of Lebanon. Their mission is, “to ensure dignity to hard working Lebanese citizens by assisting them in their struggle with the increasing cost of living. In a spirit of respect and support, we give them access to food, decent livelihood, medical services and education.” More broadly, their vision is, “a Lebanon where families can live a secure, valued, and respectable life with access to social security, education, and retirement pensions for all.”
Their programs include:
A fundraising effort with MUREX to enable private schools to continue to operate through donations earmarked for students, teachers, and physical facilities. Over 20,000 students were impacted in the 2021-22 academic year.
Agricultural Renewal and Regeneration
Providing the means for extensive plots of organic farming in various regions of Lebanon, Beit el Baraka enables the growing and processing of ingredients for Lebanese foods, having created a supermarket for distributing imported products and locally produced items within Lebanon in addition to a product line of food products for overseas export, thus creating jobs for women and marginalized groups, and generating incomes to give hope during these times of growing poverty.
Reconstruction and Renovation
From local homes to the Sursock Museum, hundreds of homes and small businesses devastated by the Beirut Port explosion have been renovated through Beit el Baraka’s program to utilize local craftsmen and women to repair structures.
The bottom floor of the Museum is in turn made available to host Beit el Baraka’s gourmet shop and boutique that features products from local chefs and artists. The food selections are amazing and based on traditional Lebanese recipes. The boutique includes furnishings, pottery, embroidery, textiles, and other products reflecting the cultural traditions of Lebanon.
What is most important about the projects of Beit el Baraka is their emphasis on rebuilding Lebanon from the bottom-up. As noted in a recent policy brief from the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies on the role of entrepreneurial development in rural Lebanon, it is precisely these kinds of efforts that are essential to Lebanon’s recovery. “As a bottom-up approach, it can a) help reform and improve bureaucratic and regulatory frameworks to better design an efficient entrepreneurial ecosystem that encourages entrepreneurs to start new businesses. b) It can also reduce time and cost for the private sector to formalize businesses and have better access to resources and finances.”
This policy vision is in tune with Beit el Baraka’s emphasis on local initiatives scaled to achieve national outcomes. The policy brief goes on to say that, “Viable entrepreneurial cultures foster income creation and strengthen social, environmental, and economic sustainability in rural areas, as well as achieving a balanced territorial development of rural communities.”
By emphasizing improving the livelihoods of especially vulnerable people, and doing so by achieving sustainable results, Beit el Baraka is focused on making life in Lebanon more bearable, teaching people new skills, endorsing the role of women entrepreneurs, and bringing hope where there is now desperation. For more information about Beit el Baraka and how you can support its projects, visit its website here.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.