September 4, 2020 – In the wake of the explosion that shook Beirut, students from the Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) Petroleum Engineering Society (PES) have joined their “We Fuel Lives” initiative to NDU’s broader “Bridging Hearts” campaign.
“We Fuel Lives” began in May of 2020 with a proposal made by the PES’s advisor, Dr. Naji Khoury, Associate Professor at the NDU Faculty of Engineering (FE), to the society’s officers, Jerome Sfeir, Omar Abou Nader, Gaelle Chouiery, Anthony Matar, Fatima Abed-Ul-Sater, and Weam Haidar.
Remembering the start of the initiative PES Vice President, Omar Abou Nader, said, “PES met virtually several times, discussing Dr. Khoury’s proposal and brainstorming about ways to help the people suffering from the pandemic. We wanted to act as responsible and caring citizens as well as competent professionals. We decided to launch an initiative to help Lebanese families most affected by the pandemic and economic crisis by delivering boxes of food.”
“We wanted the initiative to be well planned and organized so it would have maximum impact,” said Jerome Sfeir, PES President. “Our ideas and actions were developed and shared under the Office of Student Affairs (SAO) and University’s supervision since they would be our biggest source of support for the campaign.”
The objective of the initiative was to raise funds in order to buy food and distribute it to people in need. “A fundraiser link was ideal,” said PES Secretary, Gaelle Chouiery. “The link helped motivate people to get involved, made it easier to share on social media for larger support and showed how much we collected.”
“The goal of the initiative was to provide as much food as possible to help the people in need. Families were struggling with ever increasing prices due to inflation,” said PES Officer and treasurer, Weam Haidar. “We also provided basic sanitary equipment to help mitigate the spread of this pandemic”.
PES members worked together as a team advertising the fundraiser, and collecting and organizing supplies. Within a month, a large sum of money was collected along with in-kind donations. NDU’s community and clubs and the University itself made generous contributions. A combined total of 2 tons of essential food divided was collected and purchased through the initiative. The food was divided into 100 boxes for distribution.
Senior PES Officer, Fatima Abed-Ul-Sater, suggested the distributions be split into two phases and locations, saying, “Distributing the supplies in two phases would allow us to reach different communities and make a broader impact.” With approval from the SAO, the first phase saw 50 boxes distributed within the Zouk area with the support of “Lajnet El Mahabbe – Saydet El Wardieh”.
When they heard the news about the explosion, PES’s initiative was well underway. They were ready to provide aid almost immediately. “Distributing boxes to Beirut became a must! A lot of families living there were suddenly in need and, with the boxes ready, we were in the best position to intervene as quickly as possible,” said Anthony Matar, a senior PES officer, during an urgent society meeting held after the blast.
We Fuel Lives merged with NDU’s Bridging Hearts campaign as part of the relief effort, making use of the broader initiative’s contacts to ensure the aid was properly distributed.
Reflecting on the results of the initiatives, Haidar said, “We consider the initiative a success; it met the goals we set. With the donations we received, we managed to make and distribute 100 food boxes weighing between 20 and 27 kilograms, containing basic foodstuffs, such as beans, pasta, flour, sugar, etc. We also managed to secure over 1000 top grade surgical masks to distribute with the food boxes.”
“We Fuel Lives was our first initiative, but it won’t be our last,” said Abou Nader. “After this extraordinary experience and the gratifying success of our initiative, we hope to continue fueling lives starting with the relationships the PES members forged with our fellow students and the Lebanese people. We are working to become accredited as a branch of the official Society of Petroleum Engineers, which should deepen the impact of our next endeavors.”
Dr. Khoury spoke of his pride in the students during an address to the PES. “You fought against a pandemic, using the letters of its name COVID: courage, objectivity, volunteering, inclusivity and determination, to fuel your fight. You raised funds to provide 100 food boxes and more than 1,000 masks to people who otherwise were suffering during this pandemic and blast. Your work will continue to inspire and fuel lives for generations.” Khoury went on to thank the University and SAO for their support and contributions to the initiative.