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La Jolla family launches fundraiser for Lebanon aid

The Chalhoub family of La Jolla — Talia, Gisele, Fadi and Caleen — launched a fundraiser for the people of Lebanon.
The Chalhoub family of La Jolla — Talia, Gisele, Fadi and Caleen — launched a fundraiser for the people of Lebanon following last week’s devastating explosion.
(Courtesy)

As the world watched the horrifying video of a massive explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, on Aug. 4, the Chalhoub family of La Jolla leapt into action to launch a fundraiser for the people of Lebanon through its nonprofit Lebanese Network for Philanthropy.

Six days later, the online campaign had raised about $6,700 toward its $10,000 goal.

The explosion killed at least 160 people and wounded about 6,000, in addition to destroying the country’s main port and damaging large parts of the capital. Lebanon’s health minister announced Aug. 10 that the country’s cabinet had resigned in the wake of the blast and public demonstrations over the weekend.

The explosion is believed to have been caused by a fire that ignited a 2,750-ton stockpile of explosive ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port since 2013.

Though the fundraiser went live in the aftermath of the blast, the nonprofit was established years ago.

Caleen Chalhoub said her family goes on a trip to Lebanon every few years, most recently in December.

“We grew up with a strong Lebanese culture even though we were born in La Jolla,” she said of herself and her sister Talia. “We started Lebanese Network for Philanthropy a few years ago, but we never found the opportunity to fundraise and make a move until the explosion.

“We decided to use the nonprofit for this so people can donate, get the tax deduction and make sure it goes directly to the people. Government corruption often deters people from donating because they don’t know where it is going to go. We want to emphasize this is a safe avenue.”

Around October, Chalhoub said, Lebanese began to protest their government and living conditions. “When we went [in December], there was a lot of demonstration.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit soon after, the people of Lebanon were “hit very strongly due to the weak infrastructure in the hospitals,” she said.

“When the explosion happened, we decided we were going to fundraise and we spoke to my uncle who lives there to get the money there in full,” Chalhoub said.

Money raised will go toward food, medical supplies and any other needs people may have, she said.

The family was moved by the eagerness of Lebanese citizens and people worldwide to help.

“We were heartbroken on the morning when we saw what happened, but our hearts got full when we saw the reaction of people ... donating and the support of the people,” family matriarch Gisele Chalhoub said, choking back tears. “That means love to us.”

“We all work together for change, even if they do not have a connection to Lebanon,” Caleen Chalhoub said. “It was an overwhelming love of people coming together.”

Caleen added that “we have a lot of Lebanese American friends, and on social media I saw a photo my friend posted of his dad standing in front of the TV [watching video of the explosion]. It reminded us that so many of us have parents from there. … But the biggest thing that impacted me was seeing the people supporting each other and opening up their homes. That’s a testament to the resiliency of the Lebanese people — they are there for each other.”

To learn more about Lebanese Network for Philanthropy or to donate, visit charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/relief-for-lebanon2. ◆