Basmeh & Zeitooneh was launched in September 2012 with field visits to areas with high concentrations of the most marginalized and desperate Syrian refugees. The main goal of these visits was to assess needs and find gaps left by other aid agencies. As a result of those preliminary assessments, we chose to concentrate our efforts in the most poorly served areas, including Arsal, the Bekaa Valley, Tripoli and the Palestinian refugee camps in Beirut. Basmeh & Zeitooneh’s volunteers make frequent field visits and foster a relationship of trust with our beneficiaries. All the while, we aspire to live up to our name by bringing smiles and peace to those we serve. In Arabic “basmeh,” means smile and “zeitooneh,” means olive, a symbol of peace and nourishment.
Since the beginning, we believe our role is to create avenues to empower those affected by the conflict by developing their skills and reviving their sense of humanity and dignity. To that end we opened our first community center in Shatila, in the suburbs of Beirut, in May 2013. The center was created to establish a reference point for Syrian refugees in an area neglected by other aid organizations, where they can seek direct assistance and information and learn income-generating skills. In the course of our interactions with our beneficiaries, we noticed a pressing need for medical services. Therefore, in September 2013 we partnered with Médecins Sans Frontières to open a clinic on the first floor of our Shatila Community Center, which provides free services to pregnant women, children under 15 years old, and people with chronic diseases.
After only a year of hard work and planning, in February 2014, Basmeh & Zeitooneh became an officially registered NGO in Lebanon. Today, our organization serves an estimated 15,000 Syrian individuals in Beirut alone, and employs more than one hundred full-time staff members. We have also opened a community centers in Burj Al Barajneh, Tripoli, and the Bekaa Valley, with another underway in Gaziantep, Turkey.
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