Culinary Students Feed the Vulnerable in Lebanon
Vocational education job skills course serves up hot meals in the Bekaa
Give, and it will be given to you.’ This is a notion that emerges in one form or another in almost every religion, faith and belief system. The value is perfectly exemplified by a group of 40 students Anera is working with in the Bekaa Valley, Lebanon.
They are students from different nationalities and backgrounds and they are learning the basics of the culinary arts and healthy cooking as part of Anera’s youth vocational education program. At a time of unprecedented hunger in Lebanon, the students quickly put their newly acquired skills to use preparing appetizing, healthy meals for distribution. We also delivered the meals to COVID-19 patients in quarantine.
Anera is partnering with The Merciful Table, a project of the Archbishop Issam Darwish, to reach a wide network of vulnerable Syrian refugees and Lebanese families in the Bekaa Valley. In light of the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the region, Anera has also distributed 5,000 masks.
Says Darwish, “For five years, we have offered meals in honor of Saint John the Fifth and his care for the poor.”
“Our group reaches out to needy Lebanese, Syrians and Iraqis. It serves everyone in need, without regard for sect, religion or color.”
Such projects, which combine professional training with support to the local community, restore a feeling of communal solidarity in an underdeveloped and often ignored region of the country. Although Anera established this project to advance the professional development of local youth, it is also an opportunity to demonstrate that communities can help each other across different faith and cultural backgrounds.
While the trainees enhance their culinary skills by cooking specialized hot meals for families and individuals in quarantine, they also earn a daily income for their efforts, through Anera’s cash-for-work program. By the end of each day of cooking around 400 meals, the students are most animated when talking about the opportunity to help combat hunger.
Says Rama, a 20-year-old Syrian trainee,
“I feel alive! This is a major achievement! We cooked these meals from scratch and then distributed them to so many families in our community.”
Sheikh Haitham Touaimy, head of the Development and Regeneration Association, one of our partners, says that “together, our goal is to [eventually] distribute more than 17,200 cooked meals per day.”
“We want to make sure that no one is sleeping on an empty stomach.”
Anera is implementing this project in partnership with the Development and Regeneration Association and the Archbishop of the Melkite Greek Catholic Archeparchy of Zahle and Forzol. It is part of Anera’s Youth Empowerment, Education and Employability program, which is supported by UNICEF.