BEIRUT: 14 non-governmental organizations involved in providing support for refugees in Lebanon gathered together in Beirut for the first time on Sunday. The event entitled “More than a Refugee” brought together artists, activists and groups seeking to challenge the negative perception of refugees in Lebanon and globally.
The event, which was organized by the international organization Their World, involved talks, live performances, social and interactive spaces aimed at giving a glimpse into how the refugee community is enriching the host community’s art, music and cultural scene.
Walking down Hamra Street on Sunday had a different taste, as colorful kiosks decorated one of the main parking in the area. From crochet garments and knitted clothes made by war survivors, to tasty traditional food cooked by women striving for economic empowerment, More than a Refugee made efforts to change negative perceptions.
Yara Harake, Program Coordinator at Their World, was busy informing visitors how they can help a number of the initiatives at the event. She told Annahar that “the event aims to focus on the positive impact refugees can have.”
She said “We're promoting these people, especially that the media does not promote them,” adding: “for the first time, Palestinian and Syrian NGOs gather in one place.”
Rawabet, which was launched by Hamzet Wasel in March, is an online platform linking all NGOs supporting refugees affected by the Syrian crisis.
Sabri Al Natour, who worked on developing Rawabet’s website said: “The website, which is funded by International relief and development, also includes scholarships for Syrian refugees.”
The majority of beneficiaries are from Turkey, Al-Natour said, noting that refugees in Lebanon come in second place.
One of the kiosks where many people were gathering was Soufra’s. Delicious traditional Palestinian food was being served by 25 women. The project is a continuation of the Palestine 100 percent project, in collaboration with the Women’s Program Association in Burj El Barajneh camp.
Maha Najjar, a volunteer at Soufra, said that the latest initiative involves a food truck that enables women to cater all kinds of events, in a form of “lunch on wheels.”
Colorful embroidery and artistic designs at the event were created by 400 women from the women's workshop at Basmeh and Zeitouneh, Saba Sader, Project manager of the workshop told Annahar.
"We train the women, until they start selling their work," she said. Anyone interested in the designs can carry out orders through the NGO’'s Instagram and Facebook pages.
Lamset Wared, however, is an NGO that helps street children have fun every Saturday, through arts and crafts. Hamed Shayet, Program Coordinator at Lamset Wared spoke passionately about the project by saying that "the best part is seeing the kids smiling every week."
Refugees also wanted to reveal their love for music and show how they are a great addition to it. Orontes Guitar Quartet, which was present at the event, first got its name "Orontes" from the Assi River in Syria.
Gabriel Boutros, one of the four guitar players in the band, told Annahar that "the band first came to Lebanon in 2015 to attend a music workshop."
"We started in September 2015, and that is when we had many concerts in Beirut and Syria," he said.
Boutrous adds: "One of our greatest concerts was in the Opera House in Syria in October 2016." In that concert, the young band members played the Andalus Concerto, which is the only concerto written for four guitars and an orchestra.
For them, More than a Refugee is a chance to "show people that we created something positive during the war, and still can do."
Gaining recognition by the most famous guitar player Pepper Mero was a huge milestone for the band.
Rama Kurdi, a volunteer at Anamel, a center that focuses on empowering women inside the Lebanese society and works on embracing Syrian refugees, said that "the NGO aims to make Syrian women independent."
"Everyone has a story here. It is not just about cooking and sewing," one of the women said, narrating how she found another family at work, after surviving "risking her life as a migrant in the sea."
Syrian folk-fusion music filled the atmosphere when Asaaleek band started playing. All the band members are from Syria, except for the violin player, who is from Norway.
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