Calgary

Lebanese mom flooding her small town with hummus to raise money for blast victims

Naaem Joumblat has lived in the small rural town of Nanton for 22 years but she makes no secret of the fact that Lebanon will always be home.

Naaem Joumblat is using her love of Lebanese food to fundraise

Small town Alberta fundraiser has residents dipping into wallets for Lebanon

1 year ago
1:52
This well-known Nanton resident selling Lebanese treats to help her homeland was impressed, but not surprised, how the small Alberta town has pulled together. 1:52

Naaem Joumblat has lived in the small rural town of Nanton for 22 years but she makes no secret of the fact that Lebanon will always be home.

Everyone in Nanton knows her as 'Nana.'

She works at the local bank. Her husband Andy runs a family restaurant in town, the Sweet Queen. The couple have two grown-up children.

Joumblat is a fierce advocate of both her tight-knit town, which sits an hour south of Calgary, and her Middle-Eastern homeland, which was thrown into further turmoil last month following an explosion in Beirut's port. She still has family there.

Destroyed buildings are visible a day after a massive explosion occurred at the port in Beirut in August. (Daniel Carde/Getty Images)

Ammonium nitrate that had been in storage for years blew up, killing hundreds and destroying homes and businesses. Lebanon had already been in crisis before the explosion following the uprising there last fall, leaving the country in political and social tumult, made all the worse by skyrocketing COVID-19 cases.

Joumblat prefers to talk about Lebanon's culture, history, the beautiful scenery and its cosmopolitan capital in happier times.

Watching news reports out of Lebanon in the days following the explosion, Joumblat grabbed some chickpeas and her blender and began making hummus, along with traditional rice pudding and mammoul, a sweet pastry stuffed with dates, with a plan to sell her food to friends and neighbours and maybe raise a few dollars along the way.

She says it was the only way she could think to help. Her sister, Nesreen Macdonald, was doing the same thing in her community of Spruce Grove, west of Edmonton.

And it seems residents in Nanton were more than happy to oblige, swapping cash donations for batches of Joumblat's Lebanese cooking.

  • WATCH | See some of the staples she's making in the video above
Naaem Joumblat prepares a blender full of fresh hummus, a Lebanese staple that is now a staple in Nanton, Alta. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"I love Canada and I'm a Canadian but Lebanon is huge part of my life," said Joumblat.

She started her drive with a simple Facebook post. Within 10 days she'd already raised more than $1,000, which will be matched by the federal government through the group Humanitarian Coalition.

"Nanton has been incredible. We counted $1,374 in the first 10 days," said Joumblat. "It's not a huge amount but it was everything to me," she said.

"And everyone was asking us 'how's your family? How are you guys doing? Is there anything I can do to help? I'm so sorry.' Nanton really came together for us," said Joumblat.

Naaem Joumblat, known by most people in Nanton as Nana, says she’s enjoying sharing Lebanese food with her rural friends and neighbours, giving them a taste of her homeland and helping raise money in the process. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

She said she's lost count of exactly how many tubs of hummus she's sold. Money and orders are still coming in, along with messages of support. 

"I'm lucky. People that come from the city into a small town, they think it's cute and quaint but I know any family who's had any kind of trouble or setback here, everyone's jumped right in," she said. "In the city you lose that." 

Friends and neighbours all want to know when the next batch of hummus is coming.

They're not at all surprised to hear about all the support in town.

Naaem Joumblat is busy preparing Lebanese food in her kitchen, in between shifts at the local bank. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)

"We love Naeem's hummus and all her cooking. It's been really great for us and for the people in Beirut," said Pam Woodall.

"They are community-minded people and they really work hard to make this a fantastic community," said Woodall.

"This is what makes Nanton fantastic. It's a community filled with people who react to an emergency. If something happens to one of our own or across the world we're quick to react and often it's about food," Woodall said.

Woodall says it's what their small town does best.

Nana is busy squeezing lemons and blending chickpeas, making her next batch of hummus. It won't last long.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan McGarvey

Journalist

Dan McGarvey is a mobile journalist focused on filing stories remotely for CBC Calgary’s web, radio, TV and social media platforms, only using an iPhone and mobile tech. You can email story ideas and tips to Dan at: dan.mcgarvey@cbc.ca or tweet him @DanMcGarvey

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