PMI Lebanon Chapter: Rebuilding Community in Lebanon
Number of Hours Pledged: 150
SDGs Supported: #2 Zero Hunger, #3 Good Health and Well-Being
Summary: After a massive explosion ripped through the Port of Beirut on 4 August 2020, Lebanon’s capital city was left in chaos - and uncertainty. More than 200 people were killed, and volunteers across the country scrambled to assist the many thousands more who were injured or dealing with schools, stores, hospitals and homes damaged or destroyed by the blast.
With the country also staring down a devastating economic crisis, members of the PMI Lebanon Chapter saw the need to reimagine how they worked, recalls Riam Chazbek, PMP, VP of volunteers for the chapter. The chapter had always had strong relationships with NGOs, but it doubled down on its efforts to identify more organizations that could benefit from its support.
Recent volunteer efforts include humanitarian efforts, such as helping NGOs with preparing food parcels, providing mental health services, making food and clothing donations, and delivering medications. But the chapter has also focused on restoring nature through planting and reforestation projects. And it’s hosted several special events, including a holiday lunch for older community members and an iftar meal during Ramadan.
“The aim is to change a person’s life and be supportive through all the volunteering that we’re doing—and to support our community in these tough times,” Chazbek says. “Through all these activities, the major goal is to always give back to our community and pay it forward.”
The chapter’s Hours for Impact pledge also aligns the team’s work toward multiple United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), helping build a better future for all.
“United we can do more,” Chazbek says. “Volunteering allows you to be part of changing lives. When you give to society, it can give back to you, as well.”
Riam Chazbek, PMP, on changing lives—and perspectives—in times of crisis
How did you get started with the work associated with your Hours for Impact pledge?
I joined the PMI Lebanon Chapter five years ago as a member and then I applied for the VP of volunteers position two years ago. It started from the moment I got the position and understood the concept behind Hours for Impact and its target to give back to the community.
Then we started contacting NGOs here in Lebanon to offer our services and help. Lebanon was and is still going through one of its worst economic crises, so we felt obliged to keep the mission going.
What were your expected outcomes—and were they realized?
We wanted to make a difference and change lives—even if this change is minimal. The positive feedback that we always receive is what keeps us motivated and trying to push forward.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during your work?
The biggest challenge was the economic crisis and the hyperinflation that Lebanon is suffering from, which limited our resources, including volunteers, finances, fuel, medication and electricity. This made us change our perspective, and we search for volunteering opportunities that can help and support people during this crisis.
Why do you like volunteering?
What motivates us as volunteers is the ability to see people happy, to change lives, to share joyful moments with them, to reach out to them, and sometimes, to feel their relief.