A Moving Feast: Buy a food truck for refugees in Lebanon
In a refugee camp in Beirut, a remarkable woman has created a catering business that’s offering dignified employment and new hope to a group of Palestinian refugee women. Please help us atAlfanar – the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organisation – to buy these amazing women a food truck, so they can sell their mouth-watering food to even more people, and grow their business even further.
Living as a refugee in Lebanon
For many of us, the life of a refugee appears impossible. After leaving behind everything that’s familiar to them, they are torn away from the sights, sounds and tastes of home, taking only what they can carry.
This is the reality for 1.5 million Syrians, Palestinians, Iraqis and others who have found their way to Lebanon, a tiny country with only 4 million inhabitants located at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea.
They wait, hoping that the conflicts raging in their homelands will one day end, and they can go back home. In the meantime, daily survival is the goal.
‘Soufra’ – serving up a feast in Burj el Barajneh
But in the permanent Palestinian refugee camp of Burj el Barajneh, the leader of a women’s organization – the soft-spoken, but incredibly fierce and focused Mariam Shaar – has other ideas.
She doesn’t just want her community to survive: she wants it to thrive.
Mariam runs the Women’s Program Association (WPA) in Burj el Burajneh, which provides education, vocational skills training and micro-loans to women – most of whom, unlike today’s new wave of refugees, were born in the camp.
In 2013, Mariam asked us at Alfanar for funds to set up a catering unit. She could see the opportunities to market delicious Palestinian food, build women’s skills and confidence, and help WPA start to generate its own income.
We decided to take a risk on Mariam. As well as providing start-up funding to help cover the costs of the catering unit – now called ‘Soufra’, which means dining table in Arabic – we’ve provided Mariam and her team with business support and advice to set the business on the path to growth.
We are so glad we did. Surpassing Mariam’s – and our – wildest dreams, with our help, Soufra recovered most of its costs in its first year.
Today, Soufra isn’t just bringing refugee women an income – it is giving them a voice. Mariam describes the pride and joy the women in her kitchen experience when they head out of the camp on Saturdays to sell their products at Beirut’s famous green market Souk el Tayyeb, or to cater a Ramadan iftar at the Spanish embassy.
Mariam’s vision is close to becoming reality.
So why do we need your help?
During Alfanar’s business planning work with Mariam, it became clear to us that while the business was growing, demand for catering is seasonal. That means lumpy revenue for Soufra – and erratic income for the women.
So we started brainstorming new ways of generating steady orders. As ideas were being thrown about, we remembered the US movie The Chef, and realised that if Mariam could buy a Soufra food truck, the women wouldn’t have to just sit and wait for the phone to ring – they could take their food to straight where their customers are.
Staring us in the face was the solution: right outside Burj el Barajneh is a major hospital, which has high footfall…we worked out that this could be a great potential market to serve on a daily basis.
Our idea was a bit a controversial at first – the camp is a pretty conservative society, and women rarely leave it on their own, let alone to cook and sell food out of a truck!
But the Soufra team were soon convinced, and now love the idea of serving affordable, delicious lunches to people coming in and out of the hospital, with the chance to build Soufra’s profile even further.
What we need to buy the food truck
Please help us raise the $48,640 we need to:
- Buy a food truck for Soufra
- Equip it with necessary equipment to safely serve food
- Cover its initial running costs for a year, including gasoline and maintenance
Once the food truck is up and running, we forecast that the revenues from food sales will:
- Cover the costs of running the truck
- Provide steady income to the women cooking and selling the food
- Generate additional review to support WPA’s desperately needed education and empowerment activities
This is not a charity case…
Please help us to help these amazing women as they chop, slice, dice, sauté, fry, bake, and garnish their way to a better future for themselves and their families.
This is not a charity case, these are business women. They need more business, and they need your help.
So please contribute to our kickstarter campaign and find out just what the Soufra women are capable of!
Alfanar is the Arab region’s first venture philanthropy organisation. With offices in London, Cairo and Beirut, we provide strategic grants and management support to social enterprises in the region so they can stand on their own two feet and improve their ability to transform people’s lives, long into the future. Our venture philanthropy approach ensures that all our charitable donations are directed towards sustainable, strategic social investments.
Soufra catering is a social venture launched by the WPA community centre in Burj el Barajneh. This was envisioned by the WPA team and launched with seed funding and business planning support from Alfanar. This has enabled Soufra to partner with Lebanon’s leading social enterprise Souk El Tayeb, which runs a weekly farmer market and restaurant, Tawlet. Soufra has also partnered with the American University of Beirut’s Faculty of Health Sciences Follow Soufra on Twitter and Instagram
Other ways you can help
- If you are not able to donate, please spread the word. Share this link inviting friends to join our campaign. Let friends know how important it is to support #AMovingFeast
- Use the Kickstarter share tools and send this out to everyone you know, via Facebook, Twitter, and email.
- Don’t forget to use the hashtag #AMovingFeast. Let’s go viral!