Give Now, Give Later: Spirit of America is Helping Lebanese Families with Basic Food Supplies

Monday, June 1, 2020
Opinion by Jean AbiNader
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Every day we hear horrific stories of Lebanese families falling into the abyss of no access to funds in banks, no work, little or no state assistance, and no way out of the cycle. Families are starving, medicines are scarce so health is deteriorating, and people have lost hope. It tears at our shared human spirit.

Who are the culprits and why is this happening? There is plenty of blame to spread around but the more critical question is “Can’t something be done about this NOW?” US assistance programs are ramping up their contributions. For example, the State Department announced a grant of $20 million in emergency tuition support for 1,800 Lebanese students at the American University of Beirut and the Lebanese American University to cover half their tuition.

ATFL is committed to using our resources in the US to educate decision-makers as to what America can do; we cooperate with NGOs to offer what assistance we can; and we are looking to profile organizations and individuals on the ground keeping hope and dignity alive for those suffering in Lebanon whether citizens or refugees.

 

The most recent organization we want to spotlight is Spirit of America (SOA), www.spiritofamerica.org , made up of US military veterans offering immediate relief in more than 70 countries where US forces are stationed. To date, they have supported 1,366 projects in 82 countries, including 40 projects in Lebanon. All of this effort was made possible thanks to the support of 16,700 donors who contributed some $36 million. As its website explains, “When our troops and diplomats identify a local need they can’t address quickly, Spirit of America provides flexible, citizen-funded assistance. All America’s strengths and capabilities, our goodwill and generosity, our can-do spirit and power of inspiration: this is what we bring to bear exactly at the point of need, when it is needed.” In Lebanon, they have also worked with the Civil Military Cooperation Directorate as well as various LAF special operations regiments, and have provided food aid for vulnerable families in Tripoli, Arsal, and the South.

We met virtually with veterans Zack Bazzi, the Regional Director for the Middle East who was born in Lebanon, and Ryan Frost, the Director of Field Operations, to talk about their work. In Lebanon, SOA is helping provide food assistance. As SOA explains, “Hunger has become a reality for many Lebanese families. According to government estimates, nearly 75% of people require aid. If not swiftly addressed, food insecurity will quickly grow into physical insecurity in the form of riots, street clashes, and political paralysis at a time when Lebanon can least afford it.”

Through their latest campaign, they are seeking $13,000 for food assistance to vulnerable families hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. SOA is working with the LAF to distribute the food parcels and “the US Cooperation Directorate has identified local NGOs that will match some of our contributions, thereby amplifying the impact.” To date, less than $800 has been raised, so donors can make a great impact by contributing now to help the Lebanese families that will receive the aid. More information and ways to donate can be found here: www.spiritofamerica.org. For more information on SOA programs in Lebanon contact zack@spiritofamerica.org.

Each time we think about how disastrous the situation is in Lebanon, let’s not forget that small steps can help fill the vacuum created by its leadership in helping the most disadvantaged Lebanese. We will continue to bring to your attention individuals and organizations that are committed to the common values that make the US-Lebanon relationship a great investment.