It was the week before Christmas and as I walked down Beirut’s busy streets and visited its crowded shops, I felt overwhelmed with sadness. The holidays’ glow had shed a beautiful light on every tree and every corner, a glow that may have been just too bright, blinding us from noticing “the transparent people”.
These people that morph from human beings to objects, almost transparent objects, laying there, in the background of our busy lives, going unnoticed. Those foreign domestic workers sitting on a chair in one of our restaurants’ bathrooms barely making (or receiving) eye-contact, let alone a “good evening” or those in our acquaintances’ homes who we always avoid greeting as we move from one person to another in the room.
We’re not talking about violence, or disrespect, but possibly worse; we are talking about a complete disregard to a person’s existence. That may sound like a very strong statement but let’s face it; violence and disrespect are things one can see, take of photo of, tweet and do something about, however how will the world notice what the world cannot see?
Another type of transparent people, probably one of the most heart wrenching, are the underage children who work, and whose only playground are the streets in between our moving cars, as we commute to our malls, nightclubs and party scenes.
On that night, I got the chance to have a sit down with one of these transparent kids, on a deserted street in Beirut, decorated only with trash bags and open sewers.
How old are you and how long have you been in Lebanon?
My name is A.T. and I am 12 years old. These are my brothers across the street; they are younger. Our families fled to Lebanon from Syria when the war started and we have been living here ever since.
Why are you on the street so late?
We need to sell all of the flowers we have before going back home, otherwise these roses would get thrown away and their cost would go to waste. We start working at around noon and stay until 2 am. We avoid staying longer, because the police might take us away. Last time this happened my little brother spent 10 days in a prison very far away from Beirut.
How do the people in their cars interact with you?
There are good people who help us out by buying flowers or handing us money. We insist on giving them a rose in return, whereas, others use bad words or shout at us asking to go back to our country. A few months back, one car hit my brother before driving away, he was injured on the back of his neck but luckily it wasn’t a life threatening blow.
Is your family here with you?
Yes my family is here, but we are a big family, dozens of brothers and sisters from many mothers. My older brother got married at 18,but I am not in a rush to find a woman myself.
The group of kids that had joined us giggled at that last answer, especially when I said that at 31 I was still unmarried myself. I was happy that I got them to smile, as deep down inside I numbed down all emotions to sustain a straight face.
It was just too unfair, that tiny fragile bodies hiding the immense responsibilities of an adult mixed with the fear of an innocent helpless children.
As I tried to walk away before my eyes mirrored my hidden feelings, the kids clenched to my jeans asking for help. I froze, not knowing whether to give them money that might fall in the wrong hands, or buy them food or medicine which was risky and just a useless quick fix.
I wish that I knew at that moment what I know now.
Today I am happy to share with you all an initiative which is putting a new solution on the streets to improve the living reality of these working children. Meet THE GOOD NOTE!
“The Good Note is a way to give children on the streets the things they need, with a clear conscience.”
Launched by Bou Khalil, a renowned Lebanese super markets chain, this printed currency whose notes are each worth 1,000 Lebanese Pounds, can only be spent on necessities such as food, water, household supplies, personal and hygiene items.
Furthermore, the organizers of this initiative tied up with a local pharmacy (Pharmalife, Hazmieh) so that Good Notes can also be used by these children to get the medical products needed upon doctor’s prescription.
But this is just the start, as the beauty behind The Good Note is not in it being a quick fix solution, but more like a permanent platform which a multitude of different businesses can use to make a difference in our community.
Bou Khalil is not acting on its own as it tied up with an NGO which preferred to remain anonymous to preserve its relationship of trust with the families and children which has been built along years of hard work and continuous follow up.
Furthermore, sources informed Blog of the Boss that more than 25,000 Good Notes have already been printed so far and all profits from the goods these street kids will purchase will go to fund the NGO’s activities for the cause and their tireless work for these families.
Involving an NGO that is specialized in working with these vulnerable and disadvantaged children and their extended families ensures that proper knowledge, experience and resources are invested in this initiative and slims down the chances of these Good Notes ending up in the hands of the child-beggar perpetrators again.
Want to support this initiative? Head to any branch of Bou Khalil or to Pharmaline Pharmacy to get these notes in bonds of five. But remember, some of the street children may not have heard of Good Notes yet, so be patient if you meet one who refuses to take it – explain to them what it is and where the nearest Bou Khalil branch is and you will have helped another vulnerable child’s life be a bit more bearable.
To end this post, one question on thegoodnote.com website says a lot about the intentions behind the people organizing this initiative. “Are you going to allow beggars in Bou Khalil hypermarkets? Yes. Street children and their families are people just like you and me. They will be encouraged to come to Bou Khalil Supermarket branches to redeem their Good Notes and shop for necessities such as food, water, household supplies, personal hygiene items and small treats.”
In his book “Man’s Search For Meaning”, Viktor Frankl shares his famous quote which says “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how'”. Let us work hand in hand to help relieve the ‘how’, so that these little pure transparent people can figure out a way to their very own ‘why’.
For more information of The Good Note initiative, please visit the website thegoodnote.com
*Some facts and names have been modified to protect the identity of the children*
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