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Cooking and vocational course students prepare meals.
Natalie Jacobsen

Natalie Jacobsen

Natalie Jacobsen is the senior manager of marketing and communications at the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capital Area. She works in tandem with a superstar team of passionate marketing professionals to develop inspiring messages and materials encouraging federal employees to donate to charities. An avid advocate, traveler, plant mom, writer and photographer, she has found her dream role at Global Impact, where her interests and ambitions collide in the best possible combination. When she isn’t fervently scratching her head over her keyboard to find the right words, she’s jet-setting to push her own boundaries, learning new perspectives, ideas, and cultures – and finding moments in between to capture on notepad and film.

By
Natalie Jacobsen
Photo Credit
Serene Dardari / Anera / Lebanon

Thanks to early preventative measures set in place and practiced nationwide, Lebanon has seen fewer than 1,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May 11, 2020. However, the closing down of local industries, businesses, restaurants and educational facilities has meant nonprofit organizations, such as Anera (American Near East Refugee Aid), had to step in. 

Their efforts have supported Lebanon in a myriad of ways: educational, nutritional, medical, and social. Anera’s country director, Samar El Yassir, feared for the well-being of many vulnerable communities across Lebanon, posing the question, “What does it mean when you shut down a country that was already impoverished and broken?” A single case could quickly turn into a disastrous outbreak in one of the overcrowded refugee camps and settlements housing hundreds of thousands of refugees. It could rapidly spread through tight-knit, working-class neighborhoods with limited resources. Residents mostly work as day laborers and have very few income options since almost all related work was shut down in early March.

In an effort to protect staff and aid recipients, Anera has moved to working remotely as much as possible, coordinating to deliver supplies and resources directly from suppliers to those in need. But that doesn’t mean aid has become limited. In fact, it means Anera has been able to help more than ever, adjusting to the changing circumstances and building stronger partnerships to sustain their vital regional programs.

Here are a few of the ways Anera has continued to support Lebanon through the COVID-19 pandemic: 

  • Anera has transitioned their UNICEF-funded basic literacy and math, English language, and financial literacy courses to an online system. Though much of it is a pilot program, Anera is ensuring all students have received a tablet to work and study on to maintain the quality of learning and sharing of information. Anera is also testing and working to improve the effectiveness of communication methods and identify hot spots and weak internet areas.
  • Anera is increasing their shipments of medical supplies necessary to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Anera has coordinated two major shipments of N95 respirator face masks, sanitizing items and portable oxygen devices with their front-line partners in Lebanon. One of the shipments was delivered to the Lebanese Red Cross, which will in turn distribute the supplies to hospitals treating COVID-19 patients. Their second shipment went directly to Rafik Hariri Government Hospital, the country’s main facility treating coronavirus patients. Anera is also staying in touch with Lebanon’s health care system and determining what other supplies are needed as they prepare for a rise in COVID-19 cases.
  • Anera is delivering hygiene supplies directly to communities. Anera has filled three shipping containers of hygiene and baby care kits, school supplies and blankets ready for delivery in vulnerable areas of Lebanon. Anera is also sourcing hygiene and disinfection supplies for municipalities and individuals.
  • Anera has worked with local partners to produce face masks. In Ketermaya, Lebanon, over 100 graduates of Anera’s vocational sewing classes have been working with many local partner organizations to sew and distribute over 200,000 masks for front-line responders.
  • Anera has delivered thousands of food supplies and meal kits to families during Ramadan. 141 Anera cooking students, graduates from the UNICEF-funded vocational cooking classes, are preparing hot meals every day during Ramadan for over 3,000 families with limited food sources. They cook, pack and deliver the meals throughout the country. Cooking classes resumed in April to train more individuals to prepare meals and learn the importance of hygiene practices when handling food. 
  • Anera is increasing messaging on staying healthy and safe through the pandemic. Across Lebanon, Anera has been sharing daily videos through social media channels and core communication channels such as WhatsApp. These videos include simple instructions that promote how-tos on sanitization, hand-washing, social distancing and how to stay active at home.

Many of these programs also provide vital income to students who, along with their families, would otherwise have no source of income or an unlivable wage. These employment opportunities benefit the students who are given immediate cash-for-work, who are in turn delivering urgent aid to their neighbors and country. 

Currently, Anera is fundraising for a new initiative: packing and delivering hygiene kits to refugees. The at-risk groups living in camps have few resources and limited support during this time; Anera is seeking to change that with help from their partners and donors. 

To learn more and see Anera’s work in action, watch some of Anera’s videos summarizing their initiatives and programs. Learn more about the history of Anera’s work since 1968 by watching their video here.

Support Anera and other Global Impact Charity Alliance members who continue to provide sustainable programs to vulnerable areas like Lebanon during the global pandemic. And check out more resources for your company to get involved in response efforts. 


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