To Bekaa and Back – How we carry out in-country philanthropy advice
John Abbey visited the Bekaa valley Lebanon in March 2019 on behalf of a HNWI donor who wanted to support education projects for Syrian children. Abbey Solutions has been providing philanthropy advice for some years now. Our clients vary from individuals that normally wish to invest in sustainable projects, to Foundations that have a proactive approach to giving.
John’s role was to identify cost effective, sustainable NGOs and carry out due diligence; assessing potential partners, analysing financials, governance and reporting systems. John works with individuals that are use to buying businesses. These highly successful individuals want to apply the same careful analysis to investing in NGOs.
Bekaa is now home to over a million “refugees”, “displaced people” or “economic migrants” depending on who you talk to.
While men will work in construction or agriculture for very little money, women will go to Beirut or other cities with their children selling flowers, some will beg; coming back every week to pay the monthly rent to stay in the camps (an average of $70 a month). Some children work in the fields; others tragically disappear in the narrow congested streets of Beirut. Their fate unknown. There is always exploitation in war, so we should not be surprised, but we should not become numb to it either.
In the cities there are NGOs doing incredible work, such as The Makhzoumi Foundation Fun Bus initiative that helps to protect street children. The bus goes round Beirut helping children seen begging or alone. Last year hundreds of children were taken off the street, many more were given food, clothes and medical care.
Temporary school Majdel Anjar Lebanon
Some lucky children are in school. Just a few kilometres from the border crossing I visited a brilliant temporary school in Majdel Anjar, made from local materials.
These buildings are ingenious. They can be dismantled and moved to another location without too much fuss. A sort of flatpack solution, but one that you can actually dismantle and rebuild without the thing collapsing.
The buildings are sturdy, warm and look great. The NGO that established the school I visited is the Kayany Foundation. The cost of building this facility was just $100,000.
The school can teach nearly 800 children. I took a tour of this school. The prefabricated buildings were better than anything I have seen in the UK. (Some schools in the UK have prefab school rooms too). Toilets were spotless and class sizes were relatively small, maybe 30 in a class.
The children were all in uniforms, well behaved and eager to learn, devouring every single word the teacher was saying. They were happy children. It was refreshing to see in the valley of despair this place of hope and belonging. It’s always the children that inspire.
Financial transparency is everything to donors, as it should be and evenings were spent analysing accounts.
Lebanon is a fragile beautiful land accommodating many different peoples and political factions. A country of religious diversity and although under enormous economic and cultural pressure, a hub of stability in a region that shows no sign of being at peace.
If you or your Foundation want to find out how we can help identify highly effective organisations working in Lebanon or the wider Middle East, please do get in touch.
We are the only UK organisation that carries out such detailed in-country research on behalf of donors. We get behind the glossy websites and online stats.
We spend time with NGO staff and get to know the people that are being supported. We talk to the partners and donors. We reach out to local journalists and where necessary government officials to understand the political environment.
Our donor reports are thorough and our process rigorous, so you know that NGOs recommended by us, based on your criteria, are of the highest standards and deliver projects that make a difference.