On 4 August 2020, a large amount of ammonium nitrate stored at the port of the city of Beirut, the capital of Lebanon, exploded, causing at least 200 deaths, 3 reported missing, 6,500 injuries, US$10–15 billion in property damage, and leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless. 50,000 houses, nine major hospitals and 178 schools were damaged.
Our club got involved when a member of Putney Rotary, Agustina, said she’d very much like to help Beirut, and we quickly put our thinking caps on as to who to speak to on the ground in Beirut. Colin Mathews, a past DG of our London District 1130, is in our Rotary Club and Mimi, a member of Beirut Cosmopolitan, came to talk to our club many years ago where she spoke about their projects. Colin forwarded their most recent club newsletter to me, the day after the blast, so I got in touch with President Habib Saba of Rotary Club Beirut Cosmopolitan.
After speaking to Habib about their project priorities, our Putney Rotary Club decided that we’d really like to support them – because unlike many other NGOs and clubs, RC Cosmopolitan and their partner clubs’ focus is on more long term and sustainable projects, rather than immediate needs which were well in hand after the blast. Sustainable projects also aligned well with our Putney Rotary Club ethos.
Putney RC set up a fundraising page, and President Habib came to talk at our club on the 17th August. I put out a call to all the Presidents in District 1130 and RGBI kindly printed details of our talk in the Humanitarian Newsletter. What started out as a small fundraising campaign with a target of £500 to help with basic necessities like food boxes and blankets, in August, morphed into something quite different… as they do once one becomes passionate about a project and puts a lot of energy, time and enthusiasm into it!
I quicky raised our target to £15,000…and offered to co-ordinate the Beirut campaign in the UK, as Habib was also speaking to clubs in USA, Canada, Europe and Australia, to help fundraise for the projects. Rotary Club of Beirut Cosmopolitan’s President, Habib Saba and I then began speaking together at clubs across the UK and as a result, it has been wonderful to see how many clubs across the UK from Scotland to Sudbury, Norfolk to Dorset have responded with encouragement, donations and offers of support.
What started out as a small fundraising campaign with a target of £500 to help with basic necessities like food boxes and blankets, in August, morphed into something quite different… as they do once one becomes passionate about a project and puts a lot of energy, time and enthusiasm into it!”
President Habib and I discussed what was needed to supply equipment for the paediatric and neonatal operating theatre that they were putting forward in their Global Grant. This is $395k. The paediatric wing is a further $90k. After one of our talks in the UK, I committed to President Habib that I’d ensure that from the UK, we would raise $140k to help them achieve this Global Grant target, and we are working hard to do just that.
With the wonderful support of D1130, the District Executive have decided to contribute the £6k raised in the District Fund to our Karantina Hospital campaign. We are also going to be able to leverage D1130 DDF Global Grant funding which will be matched by the Rotary Foundation. So, as at 19th November, we have around $50k raised so far, and $90k still to go, to meet our target.
I’d ensure that from the UK, we would raise $140k to help them achieve this Global Grant target, and we are working hard to do just that.”
This is a real testament to the personal relationships that Rotary is all about, and how we connect together for the greater good, and leverage our global Rotary network to take action. It shows that friends that we make and relationships forged within our Rotary Clubs, are strong and long-lasting… and through this campaign, we are forging closer bonds with clubs across the UK and the world.
If you’d like to contribute to our UK target of $140k, you can help in the following ways:
Bank transfer into the Rotary Club of Putney Charity Account
Sort Code: 60-17-11 | Account Number: 90224787 with Reference: your name – Beirut.
Donate online using https://donorbox.org/putneyrotary-beirut-relief
Thank you so much for your kind support, fellow Rotarians. Together, we will achieve this $140k target.