Volunteer in Lebanon preparing food

A heartwarming bond that has united communities

Volunteers Rinda and Fatmeh's special friendship, formed in a bustling kitchen, is bringing solidarity to a blended community

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In Lebanon, where conflict and insecurity is all too often part of everyday life, the Mary's Meals school feeding programme is bringing much-needed nutrition to children while they learn, and planting seeds of compassion and unity within a blended community. 

Children in Lebanon with school meals

Working with a trusted partner organisation called Dorcas, Mary’s Meals has been serving school meals in Lebanon since 2017. Currently we feed 1,446 children in areas around Lebanon’s capital city, Beirut. A daily nutritious meal gives the children more energy to participate in the classroom and focus on learning.   

At school, Lebanese children learn alongside their friends from Syria, who – like millions of others – were unfortunately forced to flee their own country with their families in search of sanctuary. The Mary’s Meals’ feeding programme is a living demonstration that sharing meals can help transcend cultural differences and create friendships across all ages, and the basis for a supportive community. 

Helping to deliver Mary’s Meals to the children, proud volunteers regularly take time out of their day to cook in the bustling kitchen of a community centre in Beirut. Working alongside each other, mothers Rinda, who is Lebanese, and Fatmeh, a Syrian refugee, are dedicated volunteer cooks who have formed an unlikely bond in the kitchen.  

Volunteers preparing food in Lebanon

Rinda says: “Volunteering with Mary’s Meals is the only work I have. I’m very happy as it’s well organised … which should be clear looking at this kitchen! 

“When I started volunteering in this programme, I met people from different backgrounds from Syria and Lebanon. And they are talking to each other, they are sharing their challenges with each other, they are listening, and they are exchanging sometimes hints. I tell you something, you tell me something, it’s a lovely regular discussion that’s happening.” 

Fatmeh finds fulfilment in witnessing her own children's enjoyment of the nutritious meals. She says: “My kids enjoy the teaching, but they also enjoy the food. The food is the most important thing to them.” 

In a place where locals and refugees live their daily lives together, the school feeding programme not only nourishes young minds and bodies but also serves as a catalyst for unity and understanding within communities. It is estimated that Lebanon, which has a population of approximately 5.3 million, is currently hosting 1.5 million refugees and discrimination and prejudice are sadly common. 

Despite this, Rinda and Fatmeh’s dedication and commitment to their roles shine through as they embrace the opportunity and pull in the same direction to make a difference in the lives of children and their communities.  

Lebanese volunteer preparing school meals

Reflecting on their bond formed through the feeding programme, Rinda emphasises that cultural and social backgrounds should not define the connections between people. She says: “People that discriminate will often be a little bit limited in their thinking, but on the other hand, many of us have severe challenges. People should help and support and communicate with each other, and here we can be close together.  

“We are doing lots of activities that encourage children to meet each other so culturally people are closer. So, regardless the background of each person, we are all brothers and sisters.” 

You too can help Mary’s Meals to bring hope to children while helping to encourage communities to break down barriers and build inspiring friendships like Rinda and Fatmeh’s. 

By supporting our vital work and being part of our global family, you will help us reach more hungry children and empower parents, friends and communities around the world to work together to create a better future for the next generation.

Change lives by joining the Mary’s Meals community today.