BEIT EL BARAKA, FROM A FREE SUPERMARKET TO SUSTAINABLE SOLUTION-DRIVEN MODELS IN LEBANON
Everything starts with the vision of what you believe in, and we, at Beit el Baraka, believe in a system that protects the vulnerable, and models that promote human capital. This means offering equal opportunities and access to quality education for youth, and securing a soft landing for elders.
This is where the role of the civil society, charities, collectives, and non-profits comes into the picture. The more conflicts erupted, the more NGOs emerged; and the more Lebanese communities became interdependent, the more they searched for means of interaction. Beit el Baraka’s mission in this national transition period is to create sustainable, solution-driven, and innovative models that can be replicated in all communities, with a holistic approach on problem solving.
How did we get here? It all started with a free supermarket, a first-of-its-kind concept in the Middle East where registered families of retirees and children have the opportunity to shop what they need, using a point-based system that makes them feel they are shopping and not seeking charity.
In order to sustain our food aid program, we decided to launch our agro-farming permaculture project across organic lands that have been donated to us. Little did we know that, in going back to the land, we would be anticipating the crucial needs of a crumbling economy.
Following the sequential crises that hit Lebanon, our import-based economy hit a major roadblock. The need for solid and sustainable food and agriculture systems has become more than vital. Our agro-farming project sets an example today through its organic farming methods and permaculture practices, supplying our families of elderly and children with healthy food while reviving environmentally-friendly ancestral methods and encouraging the optimization of local natural resources.
Because our vision aspires to a country where families can live a secure, valued and respectable life with access to social security, education, and retirement pensions for all, without having to rely on charity, we expanded our scope of work to grant these families access to decent livelihood, healthcare, and education as well, because these are the four pillars of a dignified life.
This is how, through our housing department, we refurbish the homes of elders, from sanitary to heating, waterproofing, mildew removal, painting, tiling, electrical works, new furniture and more. We also settle the rent, electricity and water bills for those who have no access to any income whatsoever. This same department grew overnight after the 4th of August 2020 explosion, and recruited a team of 372 architects, contractors, plumbers, electricians and painters. Together, we repaired 3,100 units including apartments, 686 small businesses, 20 heritage houses, up to 7 schools, and 1 hospital in the devastated blast area.
With the inflation and the inaccessibility of medicine, healthcare became a luxury. Our solution was to open a medical department that covers the treatment needs of our beneficiaries. To be able to sustain this department and cater for a growing number of patients, we opened a free pharmacy through which we distribute thousands of medicines for dozens of hospitals and primary healthcare centers.
In the aftermath of the pandemic and the port explosion, the educational sector suffered severe repercussions, threatening the future of thousands of Lebanese children. We acted fast by launching an education program called Forsa, in partnership with Murex. With the support of our partners and our donors, we were able to cover the tuition fees of thousands of Lebanese students across Lebanon, retaining the jobs of teachers and keeping school doors open. Forsa has now evolved, and we’re installing solar panels on all our schools, in return for tuition fees, turning donations into real investments that are saving schools all over Lebanon.
Having sustainability at the core of our work, we launched our social enterprise, “Kanz”: a line of fine terroir products and artisanal crafts that empowers more than 1,000 women and artisans in 53 villages, in collaboration with star chefs and renowned designers. By exporting the talent of these women and artisans to the world, we create job opportunities in rural areas, and training programs that transform our beneficiaries to producers, with proceeds redirected to Beit el Baraka’s programs.
Lebanon is a rich world of craftsmanship and culinary arts that date back 12,000 years.
Lebanese culinary knowledge and artisanal skills are amongst the oldest in the world. From ancestral crafts to “Mouneh” (a traditional process of preserving food), our millennia-long culinary and artisanal traditions are preserved by women and artisans, the custodians of this heritage.
Since the dawn of agriculture 12,000 years ago, the inhabitants of Lebanon engaged with their fertile land, innovating and taking part in the discovery of agriculture, humanity’s single most significant innovation, as well as in clay pottery in the Neolithic age (4,000 BC), and the first use of metals in the Bronze Age, Phoenician glass blowing (1,000 BC), silk making (5th century AD), copper and soap production (14th century)… Yet, credit for these astounding innovations is often fleeting. The roots of Lebanon’s cultural and culinary heritage reach deep into the layers of the past, while they remain fragile. Kanz (named after the Arabic word treasure) aims to safeguard, revive, and spread Lebanon’s heritage to the world.
We have evolved, and more importantly, we have adapted.
Today, Beit el Baraka is an ecosystem for Healthy Happy Living (HHL). In our organization’s culture, we believe this is the key to success, and we believe in the Healthy Happy Lifestyle model for our families in Lebanon. Internally, Beit el Baraka has become a platform that allows its human capital to expand their potential and to live by their values. Although these values cannot be implemented in the current situation, we are working to lay the foundation for them. These values consist in creating a culture of inclusion, social justice, solidarity, integrity, transparency, a sense of belonging, credibility and reliability.