"Kibarouna believes that elderly people are our senior citizens who represent our national treasure of heritage, values, and expertise. We need them as much as they need us."
DL: How long has Kibarouna been in existence? In what parts of Lebanon do you operate?
K: Kibarouna was founded in September 2005. We are a Lebanese NGO for all Lebanon. Currently it operates in Mount Lebanon: North Metn in Bikfaya Elderly Club.
DL: What types of activities and projects does Kibarouna undertake?
K: a) A Social Club: in Bekfaya once a week opened to elderly women and men who take part in different social activities such as:
- Attending awareness sessions presented by specialists such as doctors and nutritionists to heighten awareness regarding healthy eating.
- Exercising with a physiotherapist in groups to maintain flexible joints.
- Engaging in handicraft activities to work fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
- Playing cards to work short term memory.
- Elderly are transported free of charge and are offered breakfast. These have been beautiful times cherished by the elderly participants. A lot of fun goes on, and some elderly
- express their joy by singing and dancing the Dabke.
b) Trips: monthly trips to different parts of Lebanon where elderly spend a day and lunch together. The lunch is prepared by Kibarouna volunteers and about sixty elderly join this activity.
c) Social Outings: Trips to art exhibitions, theatre, etc. For example, this year a group of about forty seniors accompanied by Kibarouna attended a George Khabbaz musical and visited the Garden Show at the Hippodrome in Beirut.
d) A Summer Camp: In cooperation with other social organizations, a group of 40 elderly from disadvantaged backgrounds are selected to take part in a summer camp. Besides Kibarouna members, other volunteers such as nurses, a physiotherapist, occupational therapist, and a social animator who help support this group are recruited from Saint Joseph University.
e) Grandparents Day: This is an occasion which builds a nationwide awareness about the valuable role of grandparents and promotes a sense of recognition of their achievement. It intends to promote a positive relationship between the youth and their grandparents.
Kibarouna invites elderly centers, institutions, and organizations who care for elderly people to celebrate the occasion. The invitees, about eight hundred, attend a show presented by famous singers and artists. All elderly people receive a “packed brunch” and a symbolic gift.
DL: There doesn’t seem to be many organizations in Lebanon who deal strictly with caring for the elderly. Is your organization’s mission unique to the country?
K: We believe that Kibarouna mission is unique in Lebanon in the way that it stresses empowering the elderly, both by maximizing their social interaction with others and connecting them to youth.
First we are working on changing how the elderly are perceived in Lebanon. People in general look at the elderly as being dependent, weak, unable to produce, and perhaps perceive them with some pity.
Kibarouna believes that the elderly have a wealth of experience and skills that need to be tapped.
DL: I see you are promoting June 28th as Grandparents Day. How many years have you celebrated Grandparents Day? What activities will you undertake to celebrate this day?
K: In 1999, the National Committee for Elderly Care And Protection announced that the last Sunday of June is “Grandparents Day.” Grandparents Day was celebrated by Kibarouna two times in the past:
2006 Forum de Beirut attended by one thousand five hundred Grandparents.
2007 Cancelled because of the situation in Lebanon.
2008 in Kanat Bakish – a small celebration was held because of the situation (three hundred attended a Brunch).
2009 - This year on June 26 about seven hundred fifty elderly people attended.
DL: What do you hope to accomplish in the near future and the long-term?
K: We hope to achieve the following:
- Empowering the elderly to overcome their weaknesses, social isolation, and feelings of being abused.
- Acknowledging elderly achievements, value their roles, and support them to attain their rights.
- Mentoring families of the elderly to acquire the necessary skills for caring and answering the elderly needs.
- Creating opportunities for encounters and connection between the elderly and youth in Lebanon.
For more reading and a photo albums please click here. Photos are from Grandparents Day 2009, courtesy of Kibarouna.
Safadi Foundation USA thanks Kibarouna for taking the time to answer our questions. Please visit Kibarouna's website to learn more about the organization and discover ways you can help empower the elderly and create awareness about the value of Lebanon's senior citizens.