Halifax teen raises more than $17K for Beirut
'With the entire community coming together, this is exactly what Lebanon needs,' says 17-year-old Jaden Lawen
When Jaden Lawen first heard about the deadly explosion in Beirut in early August, his mind immediately turned to his friends and family living in Lebanon.
"My aunt's in Lebanon right now, so the first thing I do is text my aunt, and say, 'Are you OK?'" said Lawen. "I was in shock. I was like, this did not just happen."
Luckily, his aunt turned out to be OK and nobody he knew was killed, but some of his friends and family were injured in the blast.
"Two or three of my friends got cut by glass, and my dad's second cousin got really badly injured and is lucky to be alive," he said.
Lawen, a 17-year-old student at the Sacred Heart School of Halifax, was born in Canada, but he spends most of his summers in Lebanon.
He said he could have been hurt in the explosion as well if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn't prevented him from travelling to Lebanon this year.
"Usually, at that time, I would be around that area," he said. "I could have gotten injured the same as my friends. I could have died."
Lawen first learned about the blast in a group chat with a bunch of his friends in Lebanon. His friends posted pictures and videos of the wreckage left over by the explosion, which killed at least 178 people and left thousands more with injuries.
After doing some more research on the explosion and seeing the devastation left from the disaster, Lawen decided he had to do something.
"I wanted to actually go down there and physically help the people with my own hands, but obviously, because of corona, I can't do that," said Lawen.
"So what I ended up doing, a week later, I was like, 'Why don't I just raise money for people in Lebanon?'"
Lawen decided to partner with the Canadian Red Cross to raise money for Lebanon. He started a page to collect donations called Halifax to Beirut with Love, with donations going directly to support Red Cross relief efforts in Beirut.
As of early Monday afternoon, his page has raised more than $17,000 since it was launched Saturday. Most of them were small donations made from people who found the fundraiser through social media websites like Instagram.
"Just the support from Halifax is unbelievable. The amount of people that have been reaching out to me, saying, 'Anything you want me to do, I can help with,' it's just been amazing," said Lawen.
"With the entire community coming together, this is exactly what Lebanon needs — especially with the strong Lebanese community here in Halifax."
Lawen believes some of the support from Halifax comes from the fact that Halifax had its own, similar tragedy in 1917.
"In school, we always learned about the Halifax Explosion, but there weren't really any videos of what actually happened," Lawen said. "This was like a current-day Halifax Explosion ... it's just really heartbreaking, and it really hit home."
Rebecca McLeod, a philanthropy associate with the Canadian Red Cross, said she's thankful for all of the community support they've received since the explosion happened.
She said donations have come in through Lawen's portal from as far away as Australia and the U.S.
"It's quite profound," she said. "It really shows how much he cares about his community that he's built in Lebanon, and then also just how well he's rallied his community here and there."
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