Bekaa Bags Empowering Syrian youth in Lebanon to be productive

Photostory by Erol Gurian

In October 2017, Monica Liebetanz, a fashiondesigner based in Munich, Germany travelled to Saadnayel in Lebanon. Her mission was to teach Syrian boys and girls how to sew their own schoolbags. Together with the local NGO Beyond Association, Monica and her team started a project, they weren't sure would be successful.

The heavy-duty Protex sewing machine was bought in Bourj Hamoud, Beirut's Armenian Quarter. Serop, the owner of Sarkissian Sewing Machines had already prepared our order and driver Vram drove us and the machine over to the Bekaa Valley.
Our Armenian driver Vram (right) is a former tailor and helps us to set up the machine when we arrived at the Beyond Center in Saadnayel.
Layla Assi heads the department of combatting child labor at Beyond. On the right photo she is briefing the workshop participants and Monica says hello to the young ladies.
Taghreed, Waed, Boshra and Nada were the first four candidates to participate in the Bekaa Bags project. They were waiting patiently, waiting for their first instructions.

Taghreed, Boshra, Nada and Osama are introducing themselves:

Of course, the first step of production is to create the cuts for the bags.
The girls are very quick learners and Monica does her best to supervise and assist.
Waed and Nada are cutting new material in the hallway, while Monica and Malak are preparing the next steps for production.
The sewing machine has a lot of knobs, levers and wheels that have to be adjusted.
Monica demonstrates the usage of the machine to the curious crowd.
Nada watches closely, as her friends work on their cuts for the bags.
Monica's helping hands assist with the handling of the material.
Boshra and Nada are preparing lunch: today it's flatbread with oliveoil and Zatar.
Monica and Malak are walking in Zahlé, on their way ...
... to a fabric store. They are buying some more material for the next series of bags.
Monica and her friend Istvan are waiting, as the owner of the local shwarma-restaurant brings their lunch.
Beyond's Mohamed writes some English words and their Arabic phonetic translation for Monica to learn.
The first bags are being finished and the girls are very happy with the results.
Osama cuts the thread, as Mohamed and Boshra watch closely.
For the second series of bags, the girls are applying their initials.
After a long day of sewing, Waed and Osama are cleaning the floor.
Beyond founder Maria and Osama are very happy about the first Bekaa Bag.
Osama happily carries his bag home. It's about a half-hour walk to his home in Saadnayel.
Asma and Monica are shooting a selfie.
Everybody is superhappy with the result of the first Bekaa Bags workshop. A total of fifteen bags has been created within one week.
After work, the sewing machine rests safely under a sheet of fabric.
The next step of the project will be the production of raincoats. Here, Mohamed tries on a prototype much to the delight of the girls.

Monica is planning to return to Bekaa in May 2018 to continue the project and to bring the next sewing machine to another one of Beyond's centers. The long-term goal is not only to teach youth a new skill, but also to provide them with a safe source of income. Instead of harvesting potatoes in the scorching sun for 4 US$ per day, they might be able to produce wonderful bags in a safe environment.

Support Bekaa Bags and get in touch with Monica:


A BIG Thank You to our very special supporters! We couldn't have done it without you Theresia Graw, Christina Kilg, Peter Tischler, Beatrix Mannel, Christine Renner, István Velsz, Angelika Schwarzhuber, Gerald & Sophia Wrangel

Created By
Erol Gurian


© Erol Gurian 2017

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