Garry and Kate Mayhew were cleaning up after dinner in their Beirut, Lebanon apartment when they felt the ground shake beneath them. Then they heard a boom so loud and so powerful it threw them to the floor.
The Mayhews and their daughters, ages six and four, took shelter in the bathroom, away from whatever was happening outside.
“From my experience of living in Afghanistan for six years, I was almost sure this was an explosion from a bomb,” says Garry.
Except it wasn’t. The explosion was caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate at Beirut’s port. It caused destruction throughout the city, destroying Lebanon’s main port where the country imported most of its food—as well as grain silos estimated to hold 85 percent of Lebanon’s grain stocks.
After the Mayhews’ children were reassured and calm, Garry and Kate, who are representatives for Canadian Foodgrains Bank member Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, began to take stock.
“The needs are massive,” says Garry. “COVID-19 is an even bigger risk than it was because so many people are gathering in the streets.”
“One person just looked at us and said, ‘I have nothing. So I have nothing to get destroyed,’” adds Kate.
In response to the overwhelming needs, the Canadian government matched the first $8 million dollars donated to the Humanitarian Coalition and its members, including the Foodgrains Bank. From August 4-24, Canadians responded generously and quickly, donating more than $11 million.
Thanks to this generosity, the Foodgrains Bank is able to provide monthly food packages that include rice, beans, lentils and canned meat to 1,000 families through MCC.
“We do a lot with food already, so we are well positioned to scale up our program to meet food needs,” says Garry. “The needs are high here in Beirut, but we’re grateful for the generosity of Canadians who have enabled a quick response to meet immediate food needs of families affected.”
Linda Espenshade/Mennonite Central Committee (adapted)