I have never heard of a time when Lebanon was not suffering. The perpetual crises have included endless wars, political and civil unrest, terrorist attacks, financial meltdowns and most recently, a huge explosion in Beirut that killed more than 200 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless and a pandemic that has affected virtually every aspect of life. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. The Lebanese people never got a break, not even when they escaped the country looking for a better future. And many did migrate. Some say the diaspora is twice the size of the population. They’ve gone to almost every corner of the globe.
But crises create opportunities and we created one in October 2009 by bringing citizens, the diaspora and the private sector together to find solutions to the problems we were facing.
Live Lebanon, a UNDP initiative, was born to support the development efforts especially for the most vulnerable communities.
We started out by mapping the needs and asking non-governmental and civil society organizations, municipalities and even individuals for ideas and proposals. Every year we would select up to 15 projects to implement, taking into consideration criteria like need, feasibility, number of beneficiaries and impact. We developed an online crowdfunding platform, allowing every willing individual to contribute. The amount of the donation didn’t matter as long as the collective effort resulted in a success story. Over the span of a decade, we managed to raise $5 million and implement around 70 projects.
We have helped people in Lebanon build irrigation and potable networks and tanks in rural areas, generate electricity and install solar street lights in extremely remote villages, build playgrounds for kids and green spaces for everyone, rehabilitate dozens of schools, equip health centers and hospitals and purchase much needed ambulances, rehabilitate old markets, equip and train cooperatives, and provide waste collection trucks. Browse all of our ongoing and completed projects: http://www.livelebanon.org/project-list.
Live Lebanon’s success motivated us to continue expanding our efforts. We launched a youth volunteering program that has mobilized over 3500 volunteers, donating their time to various causes every other weekend – planting trees, cleaning beaches, waterfalls, rivers and the seafront, providing meals to homeless people, orphans and the elderly, painting schools and organizing activities for people with disabilities. We’ve collected over 39 million hunting cartridges and built recycling machines in collaboration with mechanical engineering students. We’ve raised awareness about environmental and health-related issues by taking action. With our “Bike to Work” initiative 600 people cycled to work reducing air pollution in the city and boosting wellbeing. With each step, we’ve encouraged more and more people to join and act to give back to their community.
Our mission does not end here. There are many things we have learned along the way that can be shared with other communities. Together with UNDP and the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB), we are expanding our work to other countries, using Live Lebanon and key insights to support our new Tadamon platform, developed within the IsDB – ISFD NGO Empowerment for Poverty Reduction project – where our task is to support over 500 civil society organizations within the next five years.
Our work started with Morocco, Indonesia, Kazakhstan and of course, Lebanon; to be followed soon with Tunisia, Somalia and Turkey. Thousands of organizations have already joined our platform.
While there is so much more to do, we have learned throughout our journey to act even when we don’t have the necessary funding. Because it’s people and ideas that build futures.
Blogpost by Rawad Rizk, UNDP