A new initiative by CNEWA and its operating agency in the Middle East, Pontifical Mission, has been helping small businesses in Lebanon damaged by the Beirut port blast last August. The port explosion deepened Lebanon’s ongoing financial crisis during the time of pandemic, wiping out businesses, jobs and people’s ability to survive without assistance. However, this new initiative has made a significant positive impact for local business owners.
While visiting Beirut last week, CNEWA’s president, Monsignor Peter Vaccari met Elie Rached, a 54-year-old single man, who has benefited from this new program. Mr. Rached lives with his mother and three sisters in a poor neighborhood in Achrafieh, where he runs a small coffee shop he inherited from his father, now deceased. His shop is well known and visited by neighbors.
Last summer, the economic situation and COVID-19 restrictions had placed great stress on businesses like his, which make up the heart of local communities. The port explosion added more stress. It caused massive damage to Mr. Rached’s shop. He was away when it happened and was not harmed, but what he saw the next morning was heartbreaking.
“It was gone. Everything was broken. There was not a thing left,” he said. “I tried as much as I could to fix everything and get back on my feet. I needed help, I couldn’t do it on my own, everything was ruined, the ceiling, the products, the coffee machine, the fridges, everything. It was surreal.”
The CNEWA small-business initiative, in collaboration with the St. Vincent De Paul Society, offered invaluable support. Through a grant, the shop was repaired and rebuilt. It reopened a few months after the explosion.
At the time of publication, the shop had regained about 50 percent of the business it generated before the blast, enough to support his family, Mr. Rached said, his eyes filling with joy and reassurance.
“We Lebanese deserve a better life. Together with your support and our hard work, we can achieve a lot,” he added, referring to CNEWA and Pontifical Mission. “Thank you!”