Shatila refugee camp in the outskirts of Beirut has long suffered from a lack of many basic services traditionally provided by the state. It has also remained off the map for many international aid organizations, owing to its precarious security situation, despite the high level of social and economic problems in the camp. Even following the influx of Syrian refugees to the camp, when Basmeh and Zeitooneh launched in September 2012 there were no humanitarian aid agencies working in the camp.
Basmeh and Zeitooneh opened its first community center in Shatila in May 2013, just eight months after the organization began its work. The center sought to provide the refugee community with a place to seek assistance through a wide variety of programs, and as a focal point through which social networks could be made. Yet this center also offers its services to the host Lebanese and Palestinian community of Shatila, many of whom suffer from the same lack of services and opportunities. Within four months of its establishment, Basmeh and Zeitooneh’s community center had grown into the single largest project serving the refugee and host community in Shatila and the surrounding area. The center currently serves over 2,700 families that benefit from a wide range of relief and development services. We have successfully replicated this community center approach in the following locations: Bourj al-Barajneh, Bar Elias, al-Qibbah, Akkar and Abu Samra in Lebanon, and Gaziantep and Sanliurfa in Turkey.