Students in the new Lebanese Student Association plan to raise awareness for ongoing issues in Lebanon and fundraise for charities to raise emergency aid this semester.
E-board members said they plan to build a tight-knit community for Lebanese students at GW and use social media to spread awareness and fundraise for conflicts in Lebanon. Student leaders founded the LSA last spring, registered as a student organization over the summer and aim to host social events for students to engage in Lebanese culture this semester.
More than 20 students attended LSA’s first general body meeting Tuesday, which included free falafel sandwiches and opportunities to suggest event ideas for the fall semester to board members. Student leaders said they plan on holding weekly fundraising events, including a sale of Lebanese food that would send half of the profits to charities for Lebanese communities facing poverty, like the Lebanese Red Cross and Social and Economic Action for Lebanon.
Sophomore Oliver Jabbour, the co-founder of the LSA, said members hope to screen Lebanese films with outside organizations like the Foreign Film Society, an organization on campus that shows foreign films to encourage conversation on world events.
“I think it’s going to be so great,” Jabbour said. “Just have a strong Lebanese presence on campus and outside of campus.”
Jabbour said the main goal of the new student organization is to bring people together across campus to promote Lebanese culture. He said the LSA previously disbanded, which made it more difficult to meet other Lebanese students. A Facebook page named GW Lebanese Student Association posted most recently in November 2018.
“I want a strong community with these people and to start doing things together instead of being alone,” Jabbour said. “We are unified by sharing some religions or sharing Arabic as a language.”
Sophomore Lara Eid, the co-president of the LSA, said the organization is planning to recruit students to join the club and help spread awareness about Lebanese culture through public fundraising events and other promotional events like tabling in Kogan Plaza.
“I think a big Lebanese thing is socializing and everybody knows everybody somehow through someone,” Eid said.
Eid said the members hope to build an inclusive community not just for Lebanese people, but for anyone on campus to help and participate.
“I want everybody, not even just Lebanese people, to be a part of it and just feel like they’re here and they are able to participate, not like they are excluded or like they’re not welcome,” Eid said. “I want everybody to feel like they can really engage and embrace our culture.”
Junior Katarina Hamady, the LSA’s director of public relations, said members want to dedicate a portion of each club meeting to discuss current events in Lebanon. She said she wants to create educational posts for the club’s social media to raise awareness for issues in Lebanon, like the current economic crisis and the 2020 Beirut explosion.
In August 2020, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate detonated in the Port of Beirut, killing more than 200 people. Last August, thousands of protesters led demonstrations in Beirut urging the Lebanese government to further investigate the explosion that left more than 300,000 people displaced.
Hamady said members plan to use the organization’s Instagram account, which currently has more than 70 followers, to recruit students. She said LSA plans on being “as active as possible” this semester with sales of Lebanese food in Kogan Plaza.
“We’re definitely not hesitant in sharing our love for our culture and also educating people on all the things that are going on right now and how you can help,” she said.
Junior Eyad Sleem, the LSA’s director of cultural integrity, said his role is to make sure the club “exemplifies the culture of the Lebanese identity” and no religion is “discriminated” against on campus, considering there are 18 recognized religions in Lebanon.
Sleem said GW needed the Lebanese Student Association due to the high number of Lebanese students on campus. He joined the organization wanting to create a community where students can talk to each other and share in their culture.
Sleem and other members said they hope to collaborate on student programming with other organizations across campus, like the Arab Student Association and Middle Eastern Society. He said the LSA could organize a joint Brazilian and Lebanese barbecue with the Brazilian Student Association along with other bonding events for all students.
“As a board member, I would say my responsibilities would be to ensure that this club is successful in its mission of bringing Lebanese kids together and forming a good community,” Sleem said. “There’s a lot of freshmen on campus and I noticed a lot of exchange students as well that we could try to bring in.”
Sophomore and LSA member Maya Sabeh said she was excited about having an organization where Lebanese students can bond and get to know each other.
“I am half Lebanese and I’ve lived in the U.S. for most of my life, but I want to get more connected to my culture and my Lebanese side,” Sabeh said.