Connecting to My Grandparents’ Legacy Through Qualified Charitable Distributions

Both of my maternal grandparents spent their formative years in Lebanon before emigrating to the United States, where they eventually met. My grandmother, Melia Kiame, and her older sister Emily attended a boarding school in Beirut run by German Lutherans. They also spent time in Schweir (Dour El Chouier) with their grandfather, who helped farmers sell their goods.

When Melia was in her late teens, she became a nanny for a German officer’s son and moved to Constantinople with the family. After the child she nannied passed away, she stayed in Constantinople and worked in a hospital there during World War I. When the war ended, the hospital was taken over by the British. British authorities provided her with the paperwork to visit her married sister in Nova Scotia.

1920. Sittoo as bride.

Melia arrived in New York on the Ship Adriatic in May 1920. After being detained at Ellis Island for several days, the family story goes that a cousin picked her up and took her to Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she then stayed with the Aborjaily family, who had emigrated from Bhamdoun. Aborjaily is spelled in various ways in the records – from Abourjaily to AbouRjeili.

The Aborjaily family had two sons and a daughter who had worked at the German school in Beirut that Melia had attended. After visiting her sister in Canada, Melia returned to Lawrence and married the younger son Karam Aborjaily in August 1920. The family moved to Boston shortly thereafter, where both my mother and I were born.

Family photo (left to right) – Melia, her mother Dibe Ataya Kiame, and sister Emily.

My support for Anera connects me to my grandparents’ legacy in ways that are very special to me, especially after taking my mother to Bhamdoun to meet her paternal uncle’s descendants 21 years ago. I first became aware of Anera’s work more than 30 years ago when I was working as an engineer for the federal government and discovered Anera on the list of charities participating in the Combined Federal Campaign. What caught my attention was Anera’s youth vocational training programs in Lebanon, since my sitto (grandmother) was a lifelong learner and an avid supporter of education.

Now retired, I primarily make my donations to Anera through a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) from my individual retirement account (IRA). Donating this way each year allows me to give a larger amount than I would otherwise be able to give because of the tax benefits it offers and my IRA’s positive stock market performance. This has allowed me to qualify for the Anera Leadership Circle at the Karam Circle level.

Being a member of the Anera Leadership Circle has deepened my connection with and understanding of Anera’s work. I love being able to see the impact of my support for Anera through its newsletters, special webinars, and update calls with Anera’s program staff and participants. Giving at the Karam Circle level is particularly meaningful to me since it was my grandfather’s name.

If my grandmother had known about all of the ways that my donations to Anera have supported vulnerable communities in her home country, I know she would be as proud of my contributions to Anera as I am.


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