“This community kitchen came as an opportunity for all the women at the camp to have the chance to work, help their community, and learn new skills. There is nothing better than bringing people together to serve their community.” 27-year-old, Mariam works as a kitchen manager at an established women-led community kitchen in Beddawi Palestinian Refugee camp in Tripoli.
The community kitchen has been established by Initiate and Women’s Program Association as part of “Empowering Women And Addressing Food Insecurity Through Women-Led Community Kitchens” project, supported by UN Women and generously funded by the Government of Japan and the Government of Australia Beddawi camp is one of 12 Palestinian Refugee Camps across Lebanon, established in 1955 and is located on a hill 5 kilometers north-east of Tripoli.
“Working at the kitchen, I have learned lessons that help me step up my career in managing people, and be more mature in communicating with people. One of the main challenges was being in charge of the kitchen and dealing with women from different ages and backgrounds, but things went smoother than I thought and as the friendly team environment was dominant”.
“Management requires a lot of coordination meetings and follow-up with my coworkers,” says Mariam, “we laugh, listen to each other’s stories, and try to find a solution to the obstacles we are facing”, Mariam admitted she has changed 360 degrees since the start of this project, from being a shy and quite person, to talkative and motivational person. “Now when I see someone arriving to the kitchen in the morning unhappy, I quickly take the initiative to talk to them and ensure all is good.
The community kitchens established have delivered over 7,440 meals to over 70 families living in vulnerable conditions, in Ein el Hilwe and Beddawi, while providing income-generating jobs to over 120 women’s that are preparing and distributing the meals in addition to arranging info sessions with the families on how to cook nutritious meals on a budget. Mariam says, “Our mission goes beyond delivering food; it’s a mission towards becoming a better version of ourselves, becoming people with a positive attitude, planting hope along the way”.
Looking at what she and her colleagues have achieved so far, Mariam feels proud to be part of this initiative. “At these times, and in light of what Lebanon is going through, such hunger-relief initiatives have a critical impact on people. The project’s importance does not only provide financial support for women, it also, allows them the opportunity to learn more skills, to meet new people, and to find a way to communicate better with their surroundings”.
“I believe we are creating a safe space women can seek whenever they feel that the outside is intolerable anymore, all while tackling food insecurity and serving their communities.