When a CCST Metuchen delegation visited Lebanon in June 2016 in search of projects to possibly fund, a Caritas Lebanon food-processing factory in Deir El Ahmar, in the Bekaa Valley, caught their eye. The group was impressed with the entrepreneurship of the project, its connection to the Catholic community, and proximity to other programming that helps the poor and refugees in the area.
A year later, when Caritas Lebanon USA asked Caritas Lebanon for projects in need of funding, that same food-processing factory appeared on their list.
As a result, this Sept. 24, with help from CCST volunteers, a Caritas Lebanon USA fundraising luncheon will be held at Evelyn's and Barca City restaurants, adjoining dining sites along Easton Avenue in the heart of New Brunswick. This Sunday afternoon event runs from 1-3pm. A minimal donation of $50 is requested, and diners will have their run of both restaurants. Thanks to owner Gus Sleiman's generosity, 100% of donations will go to the Deir El Ahmar project.
Ticket sale information will be made known shortly.
Deir El Ahmar is located approximately 100 km from Beirut and 12 km northeast of Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. With a population of approximately 23,000 Deir el Ahmar's location in the fertile Beqaa Valley makes agriculture its main economic activity. The town produces jam, jelly, marmalade, and dairy products as well as handcrafts. However, the town is facing high and increasing emigration of youth (62% of population), deficient role of the women in development, and high rates of unemployment.
Thirteen years ago, in response to community needs, Caritas Lebanon launched a traditional food processing facility in Deir El Ahmar. Sourcing raw materials locally, the unit creates market for farmers. The main activities of the plant include the production of pickled cucumbers; eggplants in olive oil; goat and cow milk cheese; tomato sauce; and peach, cherries and apricots compotes. Products are purchased by Lebanese distributors.
In addition, the plant provides “Freekeh” pasteurization services for WADA (Women's Association of Deir el Ahmar) and for local farmers. Most of the workers are women from poor families originating from the region. Today, 36 women are working at the facility. The work team receives regular training on food hygiene, industrial production and laboratory manipulation.
Due to the increasing demand, Caritas Lebanon seeks to expand the production during the coming years. The increase in planned production requires adaptations in the food processing facility, notably the creation of an appropriate food storage area in the basement. Besides, for safety and security reasons, the power generator and the fuel reserve currently located in the basement should be installed outside, in an enclosure.
Once fundraising goals are raised, work can begin to:
• Increased storage and production capacity
• Reduce dust contamination inside the plant
• Reduce cleaning costs.
• Reduce safety and security risks