“We can’t deny that our experience in YES built in ourselves and in our personalities the idea of service,” says Nazih Raychouni, president of the YES Alumni Association in Lebanon. “I personally understood and was introduced to community service and community work when I went on YES during my exchange year. And I took it with me to Lebanon.”
But that isn’t all the exchange alumni have done. After its initial clean up efforts, the group shifted into data collection and analysis mode in the neighborhood of Gemmayzeh, which they have now handed off to NGOs, like the Red Cross and MSF to distribute medicine and medical care, as well as to allot housing for those whose homes were destroyed. Just as impressively, they established “listening posts” with the Lebanese Cultural Association where psychologists were unhand for nine hours a day to assess and aid the mental health of anyone affected.
Members of the group are quick to add that they’ve all supported the efforts in their own way, according to their own talents and skills. They include Ali Akil, a nurse who was at one of the central hospitals receiving victims who even now stays for extra shifts and volunteers at a primary care clinic to treat the wounded; Hoda Al Hawari, a new graduate and former South region YES coordinator from neighboring town whose work got her sister involved a new exchange alumni; to former YES Alumni Association in Lebanon president Amir Hijazi who coordinated data collection efforts. Even a current student, YES alumnus, and current Mount Lebanon representative coordinator Houssam Al Jawhari seized on the YES spirit to lead a group from his university in collecting and distributing clothing along with contributing to clean up efforts.
Amir says that Lebanon has had a tough time in 2020, but he credits the YES Alumni Association’s current president, Nazih, for his work in bringing all of them together to help their communities. They’re a family, he says, and they are a remarkable one at that.