Tyeb El Eid, the first store to offer free shopping in Lebanon, aims to serve the needy. Yet the current economic crisis in the country is making things difficult for Good Samaritans.
“They come in with tears in their eyes, but when they leave the store, all I see is their laughter.”
With these words, Cherine Kabbani describes the most beautiful feeling she experiences every day in her clothing store in Beirut, the capital of Lebanon.
She remembers a little girl walking into her clothing store a few years ago with tears streaming down her cheeks, and then a few minutes later leaving her with a broad smile on her face.
The store has something very rare: bags full of free clothes.
In 2017, Cherine, mother of a young child, decided to donate her spare clothes to families in need. On her Facebook account, she wrote an article asking her friends to pack their extra clothes.
She then visited them in different Lebanese provinces and then distributed the entire collection in several neighborhoods.
From this experience of collecting and distributing clothes, the idea of renting a boutique in Beirut was born.
She named him Tyeb El Eid, which in English means “party clothes”.
Explaining the thought behind her store’s name Tyeb El Eid, she said TRT World that it is based on the idea of receiving a gift, which makes you feel as fulfilled as after a good feast.
“This is what I wanted other people to feel,” Cherine said.
“When people come to the store, they tell us that they have forgotten what it is to smile and laugh and that after entering here they feel delighted.”
Preparations for the small store began ahead of the holy month of Ramadan in 2017.
Tyeb El Eid quickly became the first store to bring the idea of free shopping to the needy in Lebanon.
“I opened it on the first day of Ramadan,” Cherine said. “We continued. [And since then] donors kept sending us outfits and we took them to the laundromat before we donated them. “
Some visitors have left a lifelong impression on Cherine. She remembers in particular a dwarf nicknamed Abu Ali.
“He was very popular in the area. He wanted a red cap and a red shirt. His lovely laugh and his innocence made me give him what he wanted,” she said.
By the end of Ramadan, Cherine and her volunteers had donated 7,000 items of clothing to the poor and needy in Beirut.
Cherine decided to keep the store open and not limit the location to the month of Ramadan.
Economic difficulties in Lebanon
The monthly cost of operation Tyeb El Aïd is approximately $ 850, which includes the payment of rent to the landlord and the salary of a permanent employee who looks after visitors during working hours.
With the Lebanese pound falling sharply against the US dollar and rising inflation, Cherine is struggling to keep the store running.
Hard currency has dried up in Lebanon since it collapsed in a major financial crisis in 2019, and people with US dollar accounts were only able to make withdrawals in Lebanese lira at an exchange rate of 3 900 lire to the US dollar.
“Unfortunately, the state has not provided us with any help, although we have become a registered association and are entitled to annual aid,” said Cherine, who wants to expand her shop and develop a clothing distribution mechanism.
“The country’s difficult situation increases our daily difficulties. Poverty has increased. I was thinking, for example, of renting a larger store. But I backed off.
“I thank God that there are many warehouses that offer us the service of storing large quantities of clothes for free. We use them as a warehouse.”
But despite these difficulties, Cherine insists that the Tyeb El Eid remains open to people.
“Even if I were to fund it myself, I will. I will not close it,” she said.
Cherine is in contact with several civil society organizations in Lebanon. They help them collect clothes and items from charitable people in the villages. Then they send them to the store to be distributed to the needy.
Although the aid started with clothes, it now includes stationery, toys, shoes, blankets and food.
“The store has grown today and we provide, in addition to clothing, everything families might need. We help with textbooks and stationery, house rents, snacks and meals.” , she said.
“Sometimes we help the newlyweds before their wedding by introducing them to a photographer for the ceremony, for example, or a wedding suit / dress.”
Donors from all over the world
Tyeb El Eid has also become popular outside of Lebanon. It receives donations from countries like Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Australia, United States, Brazil and Sweden.
Lebanon’s permanent donors, however, find it difficult to keep up with the supply. Such is the time, people who donated clothes to Tyeb El Eid a few years ago are now taking advantage of the store’s services.
For Cherine, the store is open to everyone, regardless of religion, nationality, sect or color of membership.
“We don’t discriminate between anyone,” Cherine said.
But priority is given to those who appear to be the most desperate and needy.
To judge who is in need and who is not, she relies on a survey she conducted of her colleagues to determine the financial situation of every family that regularly visits the store.
“Like what their social conditions are, the number of children in the family, the monthly financial return. We make sure of that before distributing aid. We don’t take a book from anyone. Everything in this store is 100% free. “.
She remembers an unforgettable incident – when a mother came with her little girl. The little girl was sleeping in a basket of vegetables.
“The scene was so tearful. It was winter and the little girl was lying in a basket of vegetables with no cover on, nothing at all,” Cherine said.
She and her friends visited the mother’s house and saw the family living in extreme poverty. Cherine and her friends donated some of the essentials the little girl needed most.
“Some time ago another adorable child came to the store wearing a nylon diaper, which caused her skin infection,” Cherine said.
“It was very painful. We also helped this little angel.”
Cherine won first place at DHL’s Got Heart, a global competition for humanitarian initiatives around the world, such as establishing shelters and centers for the homeless, building small schools, and more.
The competition included more than 80 countries around the world.
“Sometimes a mother chooses the clothes she wants for her child and gives us a thousand lire (less than a dollar). She tells us that she can’t pay more but wants to feel that she supports this store.”
Cherine confirms that the store’s first supporters were those who believed in her humanitarian, not commercial, idea and were driven by the idea of doing good.
“I’m just a tool. The credit goes to the donors. We are just a means to help those in need.”
Source: TRT World