Who We Are
The Smile & Olive Foundation is a District of Columbia nonprofit organization founded in 2017. It is recognized by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt organization under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Our mission is to support the work of Basmeh and Zeitooneh in marginalized locations where refugees from the Syrian war are struggling to keep their lives together and rebuild.
What we do
We support the humanitarian relief efforts of Basmeh and Zeitooneh, our acting partner in Lebanon, Turkey and Erbil - Iraq, by making financial grants from contributions raised in the United States. Basmeh and Zeitooneh is responsible for more than six community centers for Syrian displaced civilians. Through these centers, in cooperation with Basmeh and Zeitooneh, we aim to provide community members of all age groups with basic relief, as well as protection services and development opportunities.
Vision: To bring a sense of community and togetherness in all what we do
Mission: To raise awareness, advocate for, and fundraise for local NGOs supporting refugees in marginalized communities to help them lead better lives.
Our Board of Directors
- Abdel-Rahman Salkini
- Alia Malek
- Maeve Higgins
- Ruba Katrib
The Syrian crisis has become known as one of the worst humanitarian crisis of our recent history. Lebanon has received more than 1.5 million Syrian refugees since the crisis. It has the highest number of refugees per capita than any country in the world.
By the end of 2018, the total number of registered Syrian refugees in Lebanon was 948,849 people despite the gradual decrease (-20%) in the total number of Lebanon-based registered Syrian refugees in comparison to 2015, the demands, however are still increasing as well as the gap in various sectors, such as education, health, protection, livelihood and access to basic services, like clean water and electricity.
This rise in the requirements to support Syrian refugees in Lebanon comes within a context of deteriorating economic conditions and a fragile political stability in the country. As a result, the social tension between host communities and refugees is getting higher. This tension comes from various reasons; Competition over job opportunities, the increase in demand for rented accommodation, basic commodities and services which has raised their prices drastically, in addition to putting an additional pressure on already deficient healthcare and education services.
Today Lebanon hosts over 1 million Syrian refugees, 50 percent of whom are children. According to a report recently released by Human Rights Watch, more than 250,000 Syrian refugee children in Lebanon are excluded from the education system. Despite efforts by Lebanon’s Ministry of Education and Higher Education (MEHE) to increase access to public schools for Syrian children, the number of children still exceeds capacity: for the 2015-2016 academic year, only 200,000 places were available, which is far lower than the overall number of refugee children (495,910). These figures illustrate the vulnerability of Syrian refugee children, and the pressing need to establish educational institutions to increase access to education.
Sectors we support
In response to the huge gaps in education for Syrian children in Lebanon, Basmeh and Zeitooneh have opened two learning centers in Lebanon which currently have a total of 2,080 students.
The first learning center was established in 2014 in Shatila camp. According to B&Z internal assessment, this center is considered to be one of the most effective programs that B&Z runs and strives to maintain and develop. Currently, the learning center is providing education to 1380 Syrian children in Shatila camp and has more than 100 children on waiting lists. During 2018, B&Z was able to provide official certificates for the students to enable them to continue their education in formal schools. 191 certificates were distributed and 174 others are waiting to be collected by the parents. However, despite the issuance of these certificates, our data shows that only 12 students went to formal schools.
By the end of 2018, B&Z opened a new learning center in Majdal Anjar town in the Bekaa area, providing education for 700 Syrian children. In addition to the learning centers, B&Z community centers have been providing basic English and Arabic literacy, computer classes, and life skills for youth and adults to enhance knowledge and enhance access to livelihood opportunities.
The Protection Program at B&Z has been working since 2014 on delivering protection services based on an understanding of behavioral changes and coping mechanisms that have surfaced after the Syrian crisis. Services are offered to affected populations through community-based centers in Beirut (Shatila camp, Burj Barajneh camp, Nabaa), Bekaa (Bar Elias) and the Northern area (previously in Akkar and Tripoli (Qebbeh and Abu Samra). The program is based on the needs of vulnerable and at-risk groups and focuses on building the resilience of individuals so that they can come to terms with their experiences, better adapt to the current living conditions, and be better equipped to face future challenges.
The department offers psychosocial support, case management services, and counseling services to the vulnerable members of the community and their families. This methodology ensures that all members of the family are receiving care, either individually or within a group, to gain a sense of belonging to space by reestablishing a routine and a social network similar to the one at home.
The Impact of the provided Protection program always showed a great effect on the participants, men, and women, the impact varied between, change in mentality, increase knowledge regarding human rights, enhance coping mechanisms, increase in confidence and self-esteem, increase the ability to deal with their children. The women reported that they consider the sessions as a place to relieve stress. In general, through the Protection program in B&Z, the percentage of participants who reported improved wellbeing was between 85-100%.
In 2013, B&Z has started the small grants project in Shatila camp in compliance with several requests from the local community. Over the past three years, and based on its successful impact, this project has been later replicated in Burj Albarajneh camp, Tripoli and Bekaa. In 2018, B&Z conducted an assessment for this project in Burj Albarajneh, Shatila and Tripoli. The results and findings of this assessment have been adopted and used to enhance this project to better achieve its objectives. According to B&Z’s assessment, the small grants program was successful in achieving its goal. It enabled the participants to secure and cover their basic needs while On the psychological level, 75% of small grants recipients reported that this program has improved their psychological wellbeing and has significantly increased their confidence and self-esteem The majority of recipients have reported that they became more independent, because these grants helped them take control of their own lives.
One of the first programs of B&Z was the women workshop, which provided skills training to more than 1000 women and provided livelihood opportunities to hundreds of them. An assessment of this program's impact shows that All women participants have expressed a significant improvement with their psychological well being, mainly because these women were able to find a safe space, where they can share their experiences freely with their peers. As for the livelihood aspects of this project, all interviewed participants reported a better ability to cover their basic needs because of the income generated from this workshop. Furthermore, due to the feeling that these women have become productive members within their local communities, 90% of them reported that their self-confidence has significantly increased.
Additionally, B&Z has provided vocational training, Basic Literacy, and Numeracy (BLN) programs, and life skills training for adults and youth. aiming to increase their opportunities in accessing the labor market. According to assessments85% of participants in these courses have expressed their willingness to continue their training in more advanced levels. Also, for those who already have jobs, they reported an improvement in their ability to perform their tasks because of the new skills they acquired.