By Matthew Horwood
Aladdin Convenience & Bakery raised over $8,500 to support victims of the recent explosion in Lebanon through a bake sale held on Friday, Aug. 14.
Following a campaign on Facebook and Instagram to raise awareness about the initiative, Aladdin Convenience & Bakery was able to sell over 1,200 Zaatar Mana2eesh pastries in a single day. Jenan Farhat, a manager at the restaurant, said her family was “overwhelmed” by the generous donations and the influx of new customers.
“It was crazy how busy we were on Friday,” said Jenan. “We have never seen the store so busy.”
The explosion that ripped through Lebanon’s capital of Beirut on Aug. 4 left more than 200 dead, 6,000 injured and up to 300,000 people homeless, according to Global Affairs Canada.
Jenan, whose father Mohamad owns Aladdin Convenience & Bakery, said her family has friends living in Beirut whose houses and cars were damaged by the explosion. Though, thankfully, none of them were injured, Jenan said the explosion “still hits close to home.”
“This was literally the last thing the country needed,” she said. “The hardest part for Lebanese people living outside of Lebanon is there’s not much we can do here, so that’s how we came up with the initiative.”
Jenan said a few days after the explosion, her family was at home brainstorming ways they could help the country, when she had an idea.
“I told my dad ‘our pies are a Lebanese staple, so why don’t we take one day where all our sales go towards Lebanon. We can get new people from different cultures trying them, and raise money and awareness about what’s going on,’” she said.
According to Jenan, 100 per cent of the money raised through the bake sale and donations will be going to help victims of the explosion. Her family plans to donate half the money to the Lebanese Red Cross, while the remainder will be given to a family friend in the country to be distributed to those in need.
“We are very grateful for all the support we received, and are glad we can directly send this money to help people over there,” Jenan said.
Mohamad Farhat, the owner of Aladdin Convenience & Bakery, is no stranger to seeing his country under strain, as he lived in Lebanon while it was in the midst of a civil war.
“I was a teenager still in high school, and it was a very bad situation for everyone. Sometimes we went to school, sometimes school would be shut when it wasn’t safe,” he said.
Mohamad opened up a hardware store after finishing high school, but rising inflation and continued fighting made business difficult. When Mohamad came to Canada in 1987, he decided to switch careers and open up a Lebanese restaurant.
Mohamad said he appreciates the generosity of his customers and their concern for his family’s well being.
“Even if they are not Lebanese, everyone is helping,” he said. “We have a very good community around here, and Canadians don’t hesitate to help with any problem.”
While Mohamad is glad the money raised can “help make a few people’s lives better,” he acknowledges Lebanon’s recovery will be lengthy and difficult. That is why Aladdin Convenience & Bakery still has a donation box set up, and Mohamad has plans to raise more money for Lebanon in the future.
“For sure, I will try to do something else. It’s not like we can do this once and it’s done. [Lebanon] still needs our help.”
Anyone looking to help victims in Lebanon can also donate to the GoFundMe started by the non-profit Lebanese Club of Ottawa. All money raised will go to the Lebanese Red Cross and to hospitals across Lebanon.