On August 4, Beirut, Lebanon, suffered from a massive explosion, originating from the capital’s port warehouse. As the city erupted into fire and smoke, civilians documented the catastrophe and fled for safety.
According to The Washington Post, the explosion killed at least 150 people, injured 5,000 and the subsequent wreckage has displaced roughly 300,000 people.
Sitting at home in Georgia, senior Iman Fakhoury opened Instagram to see the tragic scene unfolding in her hometown. Fakhoury grew up in Beirut and moved to Atlanta as a high schooler. Immediately, she felt she had to do something to help.
Fakhoury and her friend Bahaa Kazzi, an Emory student, created a GoFundMe account to help rehabilitate and rebuild Beirut.
“The destruction was immense,” Fakhoury said. “Every single home of everyone I know in Lebanon has been damaged in one way or another. We feel this sense of guilt in a way [and] we just are wanting to help in any way possible because we’re not there to clean the streets with our fellow Lebanese people.”
The fundraiser has been active for one day and has already received $23,000 in donations, to help reach their $35,000 goal.
Fakhoury initially aimed for $5,000, not expecting to reach that amount, and is “so thankful for my friends who are supporting.”
The funds will be donated to Offre-Joie, a politically and religiously independent non-governmental organization in Lebanon. Following the explosion, Offre-Joie is focusing on rehabilitation sites and rebuilding the impacted homes and city infrastructure.
In the past few years, Fakhoury has watched her country withstand raging forest fires, national protests and, according to Forbes, the worst economic crisis in modern history.
Fakhoury said the government’s inaction has left citizens to deal with the wreckage.
“Lebanon has been under the rule of corrupted politicians for decades on end,” she said. “My friends who are overseas right now, [are] on the streets cleaning up along with hundreds of thousands of Lebanese people because the government hasn’t sent anyone down to help. Every single Lebanese citizen has to take it into their own hands to help rebuild Lebanon.”
Fakhoury addresses fellow Atlantans and U.S. residents and asks them to empathize with the hurting community.
“I realize these catastrophic events didn’t happen here, in our backyards in America,” she said. “There’s a lot more security here, and I’m grateful for that. However, this is their reality, but I’ve seen people making memes of the explosion. And I’m like, ‘That’s my city that I grew up in, and you’re making memes about it. It’s a big deal.’”
Fakhoury also notes how the media inaccurately portrays the Middle East and encourages others to experience new cultures outside of Hollywood.
“The media portrays… whatever they need for publicity,” she said. “The Middle East contains so much beauty, culture and the people are extremely welcoming. I’ve had American friends travel overseas and loved Lebanon, so I just want people to realize that it’s okay to go overseas and give other things a chance.”
Fakhoury and her partner “infinitely appreciate” everyone who reposted the fundraiser or donated to the cause.