Many Lebanese families this week are patronising specific restaurants in Beirut during the "Eat Out for Life" fundraising campaign organised by the Children's Cancer Centre of Lebanon (CCCL).
The campaign, which is in its second year and runs from July 1st to 7th, allows any citizen to contribute to the treatment of children with cancer by dining at one of 60 restaurants, all of which have agreed to donate 10% of their profits to the centre.
"The centre treats about 300 cancer-stricken children a day. The cost of the treatment is $50,000 per child per year," said Georgette Aoude, the cancer centre's public relations co-ordinator, "Since the centre does not charge the financial cost of treatment to the parents, it organises fundraising campaigns to collect donations."
Founded in 2002 as an initiative by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, CCCL is a regional hospital that has provided free cancer treatment to children for the past 10 years. It depends entirely upon donations to cover its $12 million annual operating budget.
Since the centre's founding, doctors have treated more than 800 children from Lebanon and the Arab region,who range in age between a few months to 16 years old.
The centre has a remission rate of 80%, and many former patients lead normal lives.
"This remission rate makes the mission of our centre a mission of hope and life," Aoude said.
The "Eat Out for Life" campaign follows the recent "Bus of Hope" initiative, which was launched on the centre's 10th anniversary in April. In that effort, Lebanese artists participated in bus tours around the countryside to encourage people to donate to the hospital.
"The [Eat Out for Life] campaign attracted a large number of restaurants that wanted to contribute to this humanitarian cause in their own way," Aoude said, adding that participating restaurants hung posters on their doors to attract patrons who wanted to contribute to helping sick children.
Rita Naeemah, owner of the El Rancho restaurant in Ghodras, told Al-Shorfa, "We always help when needed, and this is the second year in a row that we are participating in the campaign. We see it as a means to help treat children."
Naeemah said her restaurant organises "many free activities and fundraising campaigns", adding that "the restaurant's doors are open to all charitable organizations".
Julie Shabib went to a restaurant in Gemayzeh with her three children and was initially unaware of the campaign. When she saw the campaign poster on the restaurant's door, she did not hesitate to enter.
"After we took our seats at the table, I told my children that today when we have our meal, we'll be contributing to the treatment of a sick child," Shabib said. "I wanted them to understand the importance of humanitarian work, especially as we are all vulnerable to disease at any moment."
Rita al-Hajj has experienced the pain of cancer first hand as her 7-year-old son George endured two years of treatment at the centre and emerged in good health.
"Based on our personal experience with my son, who was treated at that centre, I contribute in my own way to all of the centre's campaigns because I know very well that the funds and donations are spent appropriately," al-Hajj said.
She encouraged others to participate in the fundraising campaign, "which combines performing a charitable deed with enjoyment as a person can enjoy a good meal while helping to cover the cost of treatment for a sick child".