A new chapter in her life started in the year 2003. After a media career which introduced the audience to a charming lady, a U-turn in the life of Rima Karkafi took place back then after she officially became Rima Frangieh. Being married to one of the major political players in Lebanon and being a celebrity in her own right, the camera could not get enough of her, and anything related to her became an instant hit that was eaten up by the voracious media. Frangieh wanted to leverage on these factors to unveil her socially responsible character in a marginalized Lebanese region.
Believing in the organic approach and having faith in the enthusiasm and innovative ideas of the youth of the north, Frangieh decided to create a spontaneous think-tank or a series of brain storming sessions with five hundred fresh graduates whose interests varied but who all had ideas that would contribute to changing the status quo of their northern hometowns. The graduates were divided into groups based on their fields of specialization and interests, and they set out to answer Frangieh’s intriguing question, “how can I make things better?”
The different ideas that materialized were gathered under the umbrella of a newly developed NGO, “Al-Midan.” This NGO covers a wide array of activities, and since its emergence, many innovative ideas and initiatives have popped up.
Another very well branded program that aims to celebrate life was the Ehdeniyat International Festival. This festival focuses on developing rural areas, attracting more tourists to the fabulous area of Ehden, and bringing people together around music, in addition to introducing culture and art to the region. All the profits of this festival go to different humanitarian causes in Lebanon. Ehdeniyat 2016 was a green festival introducing the 3,500 attendees of every concert to sorting at the source.
Cinemaiyat, a student film festival that started out of Frangieh’s belief in the cinema as an industry in general, and in the Lebanese talent in the seventh art, which, according to her, can “charm the world.”
Christmas by the Lake Festival is one of the initiatives to celebrate the Christmas season around the astonishing lake of Bnachii. The Christmas tree of the year 2015 was voted as the sixth most beautiful tree around the world. This is accompanied by initiatives like “Let’s Green,” an environmental program that spreads environmental awareness, implements ecological projects, and initiates environmental practices. For instance, sorting at the source will start September 2016 in twelve villages, targeting 1,700 households and 300 commercial institutions over a period of six months to implement the concept of waste management. The North Autism Center (NAC), which is a specialized autism educational center, is an indispensable initiative that started after an assessment of the needs of the region. Besides raising awareness in the north and all over Lebanon, a new milestone in the center is launching a sensory gym that kids with autism could benefit from in unprecedented ways.
When asked about the networking efforts that take place between NGOs and corporations, Frangieh considered that a lot more could be done, as this kind of synergy is not mature yet. This does not negate the fact that there are a few networks established with embassies, international NGOs, ministries, and some corporations, in addition to the sponsorship provided by some banks and companies to the big festivals and events or even to the above-mentioned sensory gym. “However, the present needs require further networking,” says Frangieh. Listing some examples about this kind of cooperation, Frangieh mentioned the partnership with Grand Cinemas that opened its cinematic theaters for three weeks for screening the winning film in Cinemaiyat’s competition, supporting the talent of Lebanese fresh graduates on the national level. “Let’s Green” is collaborating with local and international NGOs and receiving grants from international donors such as LRI, which is funded by USAID, and Mercy Corps, which is funded by Ukaid.
Rima Frangieh has become an exemplar in Lebanon for starting innovative social initiatives that have an impact. Such initiatives can be even more impactful when NGOs rub elbows with corporations, who, in their turn, have solid CSR programs. Such cooperation is indispensable to offset the government’s deficient role and to soothe the needs of many communities.