Safi produced their web series, Shway Shway (meaning “little by little”), showcasing change-makers across the SWANA region who are slowly making life better for some of the world’s most marginalised people. In an attempt to create a global conversation about the human ability to create change and as a direct challenge to the negative media narrative surrounding Arab countries, we take the journey with Safi as they explores the ever-evolving political landscape and their own relationship with the diaspora. With this, the documentary series offer a unique insight into some of the world's less known not-for-profits who are changing and saving lives every single day.
Why Is An Aussie-Leb Back In Lebanon?
I moved to Lebanon in 2019 to volunteer my skills and experience as a filmmaker to those who need it the most. I created Shway Shway, a self-funded series highlighted places, people, NGOs or community groups that were helping change lives for the better. Please support these not-for-profit change makers by sharing their videos or better yet, contributing to any of their campaigns directly.
Shatila Studio Is Light Inside "An Outdoor Prison"
Shatila Refugee Camp is full of tens of thousands of Palestinian and Syrian refugees who are not permitted to work, and yet who still have to pay hundreds of US dollars in rent each month. Lebanese police, army and ambulances do not enter Shatila. But there is a diamond in the rough - Shatila Studios, offering skills, autonomy and a salary to over 100 people who are some of the most vulnerable. With the permission of Shatila Studio and leaders of the camp, I visited this space that the world has seemingly forgotten about to investigate why and how Shatila Studio operates.
To support these women, order a custom design here.
Turning Periods Into Pathways
About half the world's population will get their period at some point, yet it still remains one of the most taboo subjects across the globe. It's even more difficult and potentially life-threatening for AFAB people who are displaced, homeless or refugees and who do not have access to menstrual products or hygiene. We spent time with Days for Girls, who are trying to combat this shame and inaccessibility by creating pads that last for three years. Watch as they distribute their handmade sustainable menstrual kits and provide sex and health education to vulnerable Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinians living in Lebanon.
For more information, please visit https://www.daysforgirls.org
The People Who Give Peace To War Affected Kids
For those who have never experienced war, you can only imagine or read about the immediate affects, but the long-term toll can be just as horrific. War-affected kids around the world have to deal with not only what they've seen and heard, but the aftermath of what that violence and fear has done to them and their community. They don't have access to treatment or money for anti-depressants and for some regions of the world, foreigners are too afraid to set foot where they live, meaning they receive little aid and end up feeling completely abandoned. That's why I was so moved to hear about IAHV Peacebuilding in Tripoli. They are a mix of volunteers from Tripoli and the world who refuse to give up on these young people.
Check out more @iahvpeacebuildinglebanon or here.
The Woman Who Turned Down Her 3 Masters Degrees To Feed The Homeless
Maya was only 25 when she started @foodblessed, a local hunger relief and food rescue initiative run by a group of volunteers with a passion and will to fight hunger in Lebanon. After many people in her life begged her to stop and to get a job instead, Maya knew what was right and decided to help families and people who weren't so privleged. FoodBlessed don't turn anyone away, whether it's a meal for Iftar or to distribute food kits to the homeless or refugees, their belief is that everyone deserves love and kindness just as much as they need something on their plates.
In the time FoodBlessed has been running, they have managed to partner with restaurants, events, grocery stores and more to help collect food that would otherwise end up in a landfill. And if that's not enough, Maya also runs beach clean ups, plants trees and hosts talks about sustainability and climate change.
Go here for more information on how to donate or volunteer.
The Only LGBTQ+ And Women's Safe Space In Beirut
Haven for Artists is a Beirut based NGO that aims to endorse, encourage and expose the modern underground art scene of Lebanon and the Middle East. Dayna Ash founded Haven after she saw the desperate need for a space that not only would feature emerging local artists, but one that would support those facing persecution or discrimination in the SWANA region for their LGBTQI+ status. And so, with a group of volunteers, she created her own space. For some, this is a life-saving space or a literal refuge for those who would otherwise be homeless, without community or unemployed. From the artist residencies, free galleries, workshops, screenings, gigs and so much more, there is no space quite like it anywhere else.
This NGO Uses Yoga To Help Refugees And Underprivileged Neighbourhoods
From those living in tents, to domestic workers in Jounieh, Sandy believes that yoga is one of the most beneficial practices for those suffering from trauma, and all she wants is to make that knowledge accessible. For a lot of people around the world, yoga is a practice that is available in studios, on apps or online. For displaced communities or children suffering from psychological traumas, it is extremely beneficial to coping with stress, to obtaining mindfulness and sometimes simply just be able to move their body, yet completely out of reach. Sandy is changing that every day.
The Team Who Care For 800 Dogs And 200 Cats
With roughly 40,000 dogs on the street and a countless amount of cats, BETA are a team of dedicated volunteers who are endlessly rescuing as many injured or abused animals as humanly possible. Nestled in the picturesque mountains of Lebanon, 800 dogs, 200 cats, a bunch of horses and even a few monkeys spend time here to recover, and if they're lucky, to be rehomed. Helena, the Vice President, explained that although the mentality is slowly changing in Lebanon, getting people to adopt is still a challenge. Helena was on route to take me to visit her 200 cats at the cat shelter when we suddenly found a dog in need of urgent care. Please watch at your discretion.
For more information on animal rights and advocacy in Lebanon please visit http://www.animalslebanon.org
Two Trans Friends Discuss Growing Up Gay In Beirut
Ash and Al were generous enough to give me, and now the world, their time, their stories and to share their dreams. Although Lebanon is slowly changing and the party scene here is huge, there is still so much to be done, including changing people's perceptions on the region.