Mar 16, 2016

Syrian Refugees' Urban Gardens Thrive

Bourj Hammoud, a densely populated and diverse city on the outskirts of Beirut, Lebanon, is home to over 94,000 people from several ethnicities, nationalities, and religions. Living conditions in this suburb are very crowded and substandard. Commonly known through the years as the “hub for refugees”, Bourj Hammoud is now home to over 18,000 Syrians who have fled to Lebanon for a better life.

Most refugees have little to no source of sustainable income as their savings have been depleted—pushing them into risky coping strategies like child labor and exploitative, illegal, or demeaning work. With an aim to improve access to food and increase the economic resilience of at least 150 poor Syrian and Lebanese families over the coming months, NEF is focused on cost-effective solutions to achieve self-reliance through urban agriculture, small business development, financial literacy, and group savings.

NEF is working with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the YMCA-Lebanon to help vulnerable families grow fresh fruits and vegetables at home by providing training and start-up materials for container gardening, vertical gardening, and/or rooftop gardening.

The very first woman to welcome the idea of urban agriculture into her home is Araxi. Araxi is a Syrian refugee who escaped the war three years ago. Like most Syrian refugees in Lebanon, she is struggling with insufficient financial resources as she and her husband try to put their two children through school, pay rent, and put food on the table.

After installation in early October, Araxi is already benefitting from the vertical garden which will yield enough onions, garlic, thyme, marjoram, and mint to use in her kitchen—reducing expenses she would otherwise incur purchasing these vegetables elsewhere.

“The kit was just recently installed, but the onion leaves are shooting, and my aunt and I already ate from them. On another note, the week I harvested the green onion leaves, I did not go to the supermarket to purchase onions or green onion leaves. In the long run, this will make a lot of difference.”

With diminishing humanitarian aid, your support is appreciated more than ever. Thank you for your continued support of the Near East Foundation, and for helping women like Araxi and her family find safe and sustainable solutions to achieve food and financial security!


Dec 18, 2015

Workshops launch to help Syrian refugees

Today, Lebanon hosts more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees and Jordan hosts over 600,000. As the crisis enters its fifth year, refugees have depleted their savings and humanitarian aid is declining—leaving refugees to survive on just 50 cents today, and vulnerable families to resort to harmful coping mechanisms such as begging and child labor.

While immediate humanitarian aid is important, NEF is focused on cost-effective actions that have long-term sustainable impacts by enabling refugees to meet their own needs with dignity, and becoming productive members of their host communities. 

This month, the Near East Foundation held its first workshops in Lebanon as a part of its project to help refugees and vulnerable members of their host communities in Lebanon and Jordan build economic resilience and food security.  

On December 9th, NEF led an urban agriculture workshop at the YMCA in Beirut, Lebanon. Thirteen Syrian and Lebanese women from Bourj Hammoud attended, and were trained by American University of Beirut experts on urban agriculture topics, such as: vertical and horizontal planting, composting techniques, and how to use a sun-dryer.

As the workshop came to an end, the participants were enthusiastic to apply the newly learned information in their own homes. Many mentioned that they would like to attend similar workshops to further refine their skills. 

That same week, NEF led a second series of workshops on enterprise development. The aim of the four-day workshop was to help Syrian and Lebanese women study the aptness of their business ideas to ultimately translate them into viable business plans. The workshops also taught participants how to write clear, concise and effective marketing strategies, and the appropriate techniques needed to formulate a sound organizational and financial plan. 

One participant, Ada, who is a Syrian refugee and mother of two remarked “I have enough self-confidence to become an entrepreneur…but I need to refine my skills”.

A committee, comprised of representatives from NEF, YMCA-Lebanon, the American University of Beirut, and other business professionals, will evaluate the proposed business plans and give feedback and guidance where necessary so that these plans may one day transform into operating businesses. 

With a focus on women and adolescent girls, NEF’s overall aim over the next two years is to help at least 5,000 Syrian, Lebanese, and Jordanian families restore their livelihoods and achieve some degree of economic stability.

As always, thank you for your support of NEF and for supporting our project to “Help Syrian Refugees Help Themselves”!


Nov 13, 2015

Advancing Economic Opportunities for Women

The Near East Foundation (NEF) is partnering with the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) to build the capacity of four community organizations (CSOs) in Armenia to manage and refer gender-based violence (GBV) cases to.

Currently, there is little to no infrastructure present for CSOs is Armenia to conduct this type of work, particularly in the more rural areas. NEF is working to improve the effectiveness of these CSOs to offer protection and economic independence for women survivors of gender-based violence. This includes helping them to engage the public in dialogue, hold trainings around norms, provide safe workspaces, and implement protection strategies linked to economic opportunities. 

NEF is working with Spitak-Helsinki Human Rights Group, which works on community development, youth engagement, anti-GBV advocacy, and strategies to promote women’s empowerment in the Lori Region of Armenia. Ashkhen Babyen, Spitak’s Executive Director, said “Work is the best thing women can do to improve their lives. If they earn their own money, they can provide for their children, and begin to find a way to escape a difficult situation. Work also brings psychological benefits. By keeping busy, survivors are able to refocus their minds and pour their energy into what is going well in their lives.”

Spitak is one of the currently operational “safe spaces” for survivors of domestic violence in rural Armenia. It hopes to further develop its internal capacities so it can increase its impact on the community and vulnerable members of the community.

NEF’s project to advance gender equality and the rights of survivors of GBV is funded by the European Commission. In the first phase of the project, economic development trainings and workshops have been completed for 58 women, of those 25 have received funding for approved business plans.

The business ideas presented to the committee were diverse and spanned from traditional ‘’women businesses’’ ideas, such as baking, hairdressing, nail art, and cosmetology to less traditional ambitions like shoe production, pottery, and opening and running a bistro.

 “I had no hope that I could receive funding for my small business that I was dreaming about for many years. My family never supported me to earn money, now I have proved that I am able to do something.’’ said one of the participants in the training who recently received funds to purchase a modern knitting machine to make clothes. She already has made arrangements with nearby fashion centers to sell the clothes she is making.    

As always, thank you for your support of NEF and for supporting this project to help women survivors of domestic violence in Armenia to acquire skills to earn an income so they can build a new life for themselves and their families.

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