“One night I was sitting with a group of friends in a bar in Mar Mikhael and a young girl approached us selling gum. She was so small and looked so tired, and it was so late for someone her age to be out working. It's the same thing people all over Beirut come across on a daily basis."

That's what Venetia Rainey, a co-organizer of a new project aiming to collect donations for street children in Lebanon, says prompted her to do something. Moved by the incident, Rainey and her colleagues decided to take empathy to the next level by finding real ways to help children in need.

“We were talking about concrete, long-term ways to help the street children we see so often, and having heard good things about [local NGO] Home of Hope, I suggested we try to find a way to work with them,” she explained.

Home of Hope provides shelter for abused, abandoned, and orphaned children in Lebanon.

“I visited the home to find out exactly what they needed (they get a lot of donations that they don't need!) and a week later the 'Make a Street Kid Smile' campaign was born.”

The process is simple: people first decide whether they want to make a donation to a teenage girl, teenage boy, or a younger child and then gather the items listed in their category of choice accordingly. Donations will then be packed separately and delivered to the children. Both new and second-hand items are accepted, as long as the latter are still in good quality.

“So far we have had loads of interest and positive feedback, but slightly fewer concrete donations. That's changed in the last few days, though; people always leave things to the last minute so that's only natural,” Rainey noted.

The donation campaign was initially supposed to end by the end of Ramadan but the organizers decided to extend the deadline in order to fulfill their goals. “We are extending the deadline by a week (until July 24) so we can meet our target. We don't want any of the kids to be left out,” Rainey explained.

Four drop-off locations have been set up for donations in Hamra, Gemmayzeh, upper Ashrafieh and Mar Mikhael.

“If it works well it's the kind of thing I would love to repeat every year, as the Home's kids come and go a lot, and those who stay are always growing!” said Rainey.

But it doesn’t stop here. “Once this donation drive is over, we will start working on a fundraising campaign to buy the home itself something bigger items like computers for IT lessons or sports equipment. We also want to arrange a day out for the older kids to go somewhere fun,” Rainey added.

To make a donation, or find out more about the initiative, visit the event page on Facebook.

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