As the civil war continued to rage through Syria, Ahmad sought refuge in Lebanon, but lost all hope of pursuing his past dreams. He remained in his room until he heard about a local charity called Basmeh & Zeitooneh, one of Trócaire’s partners, who were offering training and small grants to future business owners.
Ahmad attended one of the sessions in a community centre in the Bar-Elias region of Lebanon and signed up for management and finance training after which he received a small grant to launch his own tailor business.
His talents were quickly recognised and today, he is one of the most popular tailors in the region and has a small business within his home.
He continues to work hard to fulfil his dreams, and to help his fellow people who have suffered from the war.
Ahmad is just one of the 82.4 million people in the world who have had to flee their homes as a result of persecution, conflict, violence and human rights violations.
Every day around the world, 30,000 people – more than the total amount who live in Kilkenny city – are forced from their homes, abandoning their entire lives in search of safety.
Today is World Refugee Day, which provides an important opportunity to reflect on the refugee crisis and our responsibility to support and protect these people – many of whom are living in refugee camps and facing the spread of Covid-19.
Fadi Hallisso, Co-Founder and CEO of Basmeh & Zeitooneh, is a former civil engineer and was pursuing a career as a Jesuit priest in Lebanon when the conflict in his home country of Syria escalated.
Seeing the Syrian death toll rise drove Fadi to action.
In 2012, he left the priesthood to co-found the organisation Basmeh & Zeitooneh (B&Z), which supports Syrian refugees and vulnerable populations living in Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Iraq.
Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s Impact
Since 2012, working in partnership with Trócaire, B&Z has been providing these communities with education, protection, ways to earn an income and relief services.
“One of our main priorities is ensuring that families can sustain their livelihoods. People can’t survive on aid alone, they need to work and provide for themselves. We provide people with training on how to enter the labour market, and provide them with funding to start their own businesses and projects,” Fadi said.
“In our schools, we support 2,400 Syrian refugees to continue their education by offering retention support and removing barriers to their education. In our learning centres, we teach Syrian refugees Arabic, English, math, science, literacy and Turkish to prepare them to re-enrol in formal education.”
In addition to forced displacement and economic insecurity, Covid-19 is now also a threat to people living in crowded camps that often lack basic sanitation.
Fadi says the biggest problem his organisation now faces is trying to ensure funding continues to those most in need.
“The next year will be a fight for survival.”
“When Covid-19 first hit, we mobilised our resources quickly to respond to the lockdown. In Lebanon, a lot of people work in the informal sector so they are counting on daily wages to survive. Lockdown means that they might be left to starve. We supported some 20,000 families with food packages, cash and hygiene kits.”
“We also urged donors to donate money to get devices for our students to continue their schoolwork. Our teachers adapted quickly to doing lessons on WhatsApp and we developed an online platform for students to work with their teachers.”