Jessica Kahawaty on the UAE community coming together for Beirut: 'People need to feel hope'

The Lebanese-Australian social media star and philanthropist posted a series of videos with volunteers in Dubai

Model and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty, who is currently in Dubai, pitched in towards Beirut relief efforts. Instagram/ @jessicakahawaty
Model and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty, who is currently in Dubai, pitched in towards Beirut relief efforts. Instagram/ @jessicakahawaty

In the weeks following the tragic port explosion in Beirut, people from all walks of life have stepped up to help. Some have donated goods, while others have volunteered their time.

This week, social media star and philanthropist Jessica Kahawaty put a spotlight on the efforts of people in the UAE who are pitching in.

The Lebanese-Australian model volunteered with the Emirates Red Crescent on Tuesday, August 11, capturing the process on social media.

“With the money we are collecting, we are buying non-perishable goods, medicine and other necessities that will be flown to Beirut, Lebanon. With the help of Emirates Red Crescent we are able to send planes with 40 tonnes of goods each trip. Two planes were already sent with three more scheduled,” the caption read on an Instagram post.

“Generous donations are being collected throughout the UAE. When the goods arrive into Beirut, they are handled by the UAE embassy in Lebanon who then distribute them directly to families. Lebanon we are with you and we are not leaving you.”

She also posted a series of Instagram Stories highlighting how volunteers had formed a human chain within the Emirates Red Crescent headquarters in Al Garhoud to better move, sort and pack the goods that are being donated.

“You see this a lot in humanitarian missions or emergency situations as the human chain is an effective and efficient way to move goods,” she tells The National. “There were a lot of volunteers on the day and it was so overwhelming to see people from all nationalities. This issue is not country specific – it is a humanitarian crisis and has touched people from all backgrounds.

“Dubai has always had a myriad of nationalities, but to see everyone so involved in community issues was so heart-warming,” she added.

In the Emirates Red Crescent headquarters in Garhoud, volunteers have made a human chain to move and pack goods. Instagram/ @JessicaKahawaty
In the Emirates Red Crescent branch in Al Garhoud, volunteers have made a human chain to move and pack goods. Instagram/ @JessicaKahawaty

Kahawaty has also gotten involved, buying and donating goods, as well as moving them (in a very packed car). She has used her online platform to shine a light on the realities of the disaster, while encouraging more people to come forward and help.

We’ve all been very heartbroken. All my friends back home are injured, without exception. Our hearts are heavy for them and with them

“We’ve all been very heartbroken. All my friends back home are injured, without exception. Our hearts are heavy for them and with them. We are now trying to mobilise the community to come forward and help in any possible way. Volunteers are doing a great job – both on the ground in Lebanon and here in Dubai.”

Kahawaty was in Dubai when news of the explosion broke. She says her initial reaction was shock, followed by the need to call and check on friends and family.

“When I saw the full extent of the destruction, when I saw the pictures and videos, I went numb. I had sleepless nights. I wasn’t able to eat for days. If I didn’t experience it as I was so far away in proximity, and I could feel like this, I really can’t imagine what the people there must have gone through.”

Kahawaty is no stranger to using her platform to raise awareness on humanitarian issues. While several of her posts are hard-hitting, there are also positive moments highlighting the bravery of the people in Beirut – such as a musician playing for an elderly woman who has had to evacuate her home, or a nurse who managed to save premature babies from the blast.

“I think people need to feel hope. In times of crisis, that is what you need to instil to get them to move forward. That is why it is just as important to highlight the positive as it is the negative. Alongside the stories of tragedy and negligence, the resilience of the human spirit needs to be felt.”

Updated: August 14, 2020 10:36 AM

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