Entrepreneur Mariam Shaar’s idea of using Palestinians’ national cuisine to provide hope and opportunity for refugee women has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams.
Shaar’s project “Soufra,” which means a table laden with food, drew the attention of Hollywood actress and social activist Susan Sarandon, whose documentary, also called “Soufra,” was screened for the first time this week in Beirut.
The film tells the story of Shaar’s efforts to set up a food truck and harness the culinary talents of the women living in the refugee camp of Burj al Barajneh, which was established in a southern suburb of Beirut in 1948 and is still home to thousands of Palestinians.
The documentary premiered at the El-Gouna film festival in Egypt in 2017 and created a stir that helped Shaar’s NGO, the Women’s Program Association (WPA), to raise funds to build a pre-school that will create jobs and educate about a 100 children.
Visiting the ‘Nawras’ school on Monday, Sarandon expressed her joy at Shaar’s success.
“It just goes to show you that when people pull together, you know, things get bigger and bigger and bigger, and especially the school, how fabulous to have that happen,” said Sarandon as she sang English nursery rhymes with the kids.
With the United States “whipped into a fearful state of being” over immigrants and asylum seekers, she added, it is vital “to redefine the word ‘refugee’, to put a face on that story and show how important it is to support people who are displaced or trying to survive in very difficult circumstances.”
soufra screening beirut afp
Morgan gifted the “Soufra” team the awards that the film has garnered worldwide over the past two years.
Nearly half a million Palestinian refugees live in mostly overcrowded, impoverished conditions, in 12 camps in Lebanon. They are descendants of families who fled or were forced to flee during the fighting which created the state of Israel in 1948.