Basmeh & Zeitooneh (“a smile and an olive tree”) is an NGO dedicated to serving Syrian refugees in Lebanon. It was launched in 2012 by a group of Syrian expatriates. Since February 2014, Basmeh & Zeitooneh is officially registered as an local NGO in Lebanon. The organisation runs several community centers throughout Lebanon as well as two in Turkey. Located in Tripoli and Akkar in North Lebanon, in the Palestinian Shatila and Burj al-Barajneh camps as well as the Nabaa district in Beirut and in Bar Elias in the Beqaa Valley, Basmeh & Zeitooneh is working in those areas with the highest influx of Syrian refugees. It employs more than one hundred full-time staff members and volunteers.
Mission and Activities
Basmeh & Zeitooneh today have developed several programmes and is involved in a number of projects benefiting Syrian and Palestinian refugees in Lebanon as well as their Lebanese host communities. The activities are based in community centers which provide a focal point for the programs and relations with the community. Their work includes basic relief work in areas not covered by other NGOs, non-formal education for children not enrolled in official schools, psycho-social support and the renovation of homes and shelters. They also provide long-term assistance for vulnerable Syrians, Lebanese and Palestinians. In addition, cultural activities are an integral part of Basmeh & Zeitooneh's community engagement. Their Arts and Culture Center in Shatila camp, for example, targets vulnerable young people who have few economic or educational prospects, and runs activities which provide them with a means for creative expression and emotional release. The center holds trainings and workshops in music, theatre, visual arts, film and photography, among many other artistic activities. The organisation aims to build bridges with the host community and employ refugees and neighbors. They aspire to remain grounded in the communities they serve in order to be able to adapt to new needs.
Cooperation with forumZFD Lebanon
Basmeh & Zeitooneh has cooperated with forumZFD within the project Future Together Now! I since 2014. The aim of the FTN! I project is to establish processes for social inclusion, joint decision making and nonviolent conflict transformation between and within host communities and refugees from Syria. To that end, a conflict transformation-based community mobilising mechanism was jointly developed with local partner organisations in selected pilot villages/towns in North and Central Beqaa in Lebanon. A team of Community Activists in the community of Bar Elias in the Beqaa was trained and mentored by forumZFD. The Community Activists work in their communities to improve communication and cooperation between Lebanese host communities and Syrian refugees by initiating joint community projects with them. In Bar Elias, one of the main settlement zones for Syrian refugees, they started a recycling project with Lebanese and Syrian inhabitants in summer 2015 in order to clean up the neighborhood. By separating the garbage and selling plastic as well as metal, the community was able to fund other activities and meet other needs. In 2018, the community with the help of Basmeh & Zeitooneh and forumZFD built up a sign stating “We love Bar Elias”, showing their communal spirit in Bar Elias.