Group of people preparing food.

Photo credit: Oxfam 

"Like a doorway for hope"

“Everything is gone! You have to come to Beirut immediately. A disaster has happened!"

That's the message Christine Codsi received about the impact of the devastating port explosion on her business.

The blast, which killed over 200 people, injured over 10,000 and left 300,000 people homeless, destroyed Souk El Tayeb, consisting of a market, community kitchen and guest house.

Codsi rushed back to Beirut from her home north of the city and found the roads blocked and filled with broken glass.

When she finally arrived at her business, “it was a disaster,” she says. “I didn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t believe what had happened to it and to our neighbours.”

The next day, as Codsi totalled the losses, she thought there was no option but to close. 

“This experience was quite traumatizing,” she says. “Everything is gone, everything is destroyed. What’s the point of continuing?”

Two days later, she received a call from an international aid organization, asking if they could make meals for those affected by the blast. Codsi said yes.

But she needed help. Through financial support from the Humanitarian Coalition, provided through its member, Oxfam Canada, Souk El Tayeb was able to launch e-commerce activities and exports to increase sales from abroad and make up for the loss of local income.

“Without that help, we would not have survived the crisis,” says Codsi of the assistance, which came through Oxfam’s Lebanese partner Alfanar, a non-profit organization which seeks to strengthen social enterprises that transform the lives of disadvantaged women and children in the Arab world.

“Yes, there was a disaster, but at the same time we were able to provide job opportunities for 20 women and 70 individuals from underprivileged communities, among which are Lebanese, migrants, and refugees,” Codsi says.

For her, the support was “like oxygen and a doorway for hope.”