The lives of thousands of Lebanese citizens changed irrevocably on 4 August 2020 as a result of a massive explosion at the port of Beirut. We learn more about the work of Beb w Shebbek, a local NGO whose mission is to restore the doors and windows of damaged homes in the capital.The blast at Beirut’s busy port killed over 200 innocent people, left thousands injured and caused damage to more than 300,000 homes. It is considered to be among the most powerful non-nuclear explosions of all time and one of the darkest moments in Lebanon’s history.
Beb w Shebbek was born in the aftermath of this incomprehensible tragedy with the aim to replace the doors and windows of 80,000 destroyed homes, bringing them back — as closely as possible — to how they previously looked. With a team of over 200 architects, carpenters, contractors, glaziers and painters, the NGO provides vital support to some of the most vulnerable victims who would otherwise be unable to afford the cost of repairs.
“We couldn’t just sit there knowing that 300,000 people had been displaced. We felt a sense of duty to do something to help these innocent people,” says Mariana Wehbe, one of the founders of Beb w Shebbek. Together with Nancy Gabriel, the pair decided channel their efforts into helping people return to their homes and begin the difficult process of rebuilding their lives. “Although reconstructing buildings was something beyond our capabilities, we realized that we could at least repair the doors and windows of shattered homes to get them to look — as closely as possible — to how they they did before the explosion.” says Gabriel.
Wehbe and Gabriel, whose offices and homes were also casualties of the disaster, explain that their familiarity with and access to Lebanon’s art and design community — architects, interior designers, painters, etc. — triggered a chain reaction.
We mobilized quickly because we had the resources and the know-how. It was just a case of tapping into our contact lists.
The NGO relies purely on donations to carry out the work it is doing. “This responsibility has been forced upon us because of an inadequate government that does not put its citizens first. We will continue our work and take it as far as we can to at least allow people to live with a little dignity and respect. The first step is get them back into their homes before winter arrives.”
To learn more or to donate, visit Beb w Shebbek’s Instagram page.