Star and the Light
Atop the left shoulder of the Water Bearer sits a “star of mighty destiny” called Sadalsuud. It is the third and brightest star of the Aquarius constellation and embodies the end of winter; a time when the sun starts to cast its warmth and ushers in the revival of spring, signaling a season of anew.
Akin to this celestial body, so aptly named Luckiest of the Lucky, comes the Sadalsuud Foundation, and like this star of great fortune, the organization is a revival of spring, aiding those caught in a perpetual winter of displacement. It is a time of second chances for Syrian and Lebanese children living in destitution in Lebanon, and works to provide these little stars with education and opportunities that they have long been denied access to due to ongoing conflicts and violence. In 2014, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) released a distressing find stating that 41 percent of Syrian youth living in Lebanon, from the ages of 15 to 24 have contemplated or attempted suicide.
One family in particular shines in our story of the Star and the Light.
Following the destructive violence that has raged across Syria for years now, Reem and her family were forced to flee Damascus to Lebanon as refugees seeking sanctuary. For some time, they struggled to find a place to call home when, finally, with the help of other displaced Syrians, they moved into a cramped house shared by two other families, and there, they lived in a room, unsure what was to become of them.
For many families like Reem’s, finding a job has proven to be a challenge. There aren’t many opportunities and many have hopelessly struggled to find some form of employment that could sustain and support their families.
Unable to find work, Reem’s father made the brave decision to return to Syria in hopes of finding work so that he could feed his loved ones. Two months went by and his family hadn’t received any word from him. With only the answer of silence, they presumed he had either been kidnapped or killed. More than two years have now passed, and Reem still hasn’t seen her father again.
Following the disappearance of their father, Reem’s brother, who was 16 years old at the time, had no choice but to become the sole breadwinner and began working 80-hour workweeks. He earned $25 dollars a week.
Two of Reem’s older siblings suffer from inherited blood disorders called thalassemia and anemia. Due to these disorders, their bodies lack a healthy amount of red blood cells, or hemoglobin, thereby causing extreme fatigue since the vital organs are not fully receiving the oxygen they need to function adequately, making it extremely difficult to maintain a regular job. Additionally, one of the older siblings suffering from anemia is also deaf, and Reem’s younger five-year-old brother was recently diagnosed with the same blood disorders.
While they have finally moved into their own apartment and Reem’s brother has continued to work his long 80-hour a week job (fortunately earning more money), life has still proven to be a tremendous struggle for Reem and her family.
Her oldest sister managed to receive a scholarship to attend university and has dedicated a lot of time and effort towards her education. Her other sister Latifa also desires to go to school to become a doctor in order to find a cure for thalassemia. Regrettably, this has proven difficult since she does not speak English and therefore cannot be granted a scholarship. But, all of this hasn’t stopped Latifa! Like other members of her family, her spirit and passion for learning has charged on against all odds, and she has been working tirelessly to pay for English lessons, and will soon be eligible for a scholarship in Lebanon.
While this world is filled with loss and overcome with disaster, there are still those, who like Reem and her family, demand change in the face of disparity. And in the spirit of fortune and destiny, in 2015 the Star and the Light would cross paths and join together in a partnership, fervently working to raise money to help Syrian and Lebanese children.
Brant Stewart, the founder of the Sadalsuud Foundation, initially approached the Generous Light Company in 2015 when he asked them to create the logo for his foundation. The same logo that TGLC created for Brant was also used to launch a series of bracelets to raise funds, all of which is donated to Sadalsuud to help promote and secure educational opportunities for children in Lebanon, both Lebanese and Syrian alike.
Several months later, the Generous Light tribe traveled to Lebanon to visit Brant and had the chance to meet several families, including Reem’s. They traveled to a number of refugee camps and spoke with Syrian refugees who told them that they desired to find work and acquire skills to help support their family, but due to the destitution and xenophobia many of them face, refugees remain trapped in an ongoing cycle that prevents them from breaking through a barrier of struggle.
The money raised by the bracelets have continued to fuel Brant’s incredible foundation and has improved countless lives in Lebanon, whom otherwise, would not have had the chance to educate themselves and help their families.
In June 2016, Brant visited the ladies of the Light in Bahrain to continue their allegiance of furthering the funding for his non-profit. During his time spent here, Brant noticed that the TGLC Headquarters had been delightfully overtaken by a kaleidoscope of crystal beads and beaded bracelets that the ladies were restlessly trying to finish. Suddenly inspired, Brant asked to be shown how to create beaded bracelets in order to take back the knowledge of this craft and teach it to the refugees.
It was a success. Reem’s older brother Faisal, who courageously carries the burden of anemia and deafness, and his sister, Latifa, picked up the skill rather quickly and soon began creating beautiful colorful strings of beads that the Generous Light now purchase from them to make delicate pieces of jewellery that are being sold. Faisal is so good at creating these wonderful bracelets, that it put the ladies of the Light to shame with their skills.
Today, the Sadalsuud Foundation steadfastly upholds its mission to educated Lebanese and Syrian children, not solely for the sake of teaching them lessons, but also to offer them the skills of the heart and the prowess of building a sustainable community. Over the summer of 2016, Brant opened a summer school program in Tripoli that brought a range of Syrian and Lebanese children together. They came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, religions, gender and ages, and more importantly they came together without reservations or fear of one another.
While some of the children’s parents find it challenging to overcome difference of religious beliefs or issues of race, these children are able to gracefully transcend judgments and interact with one another from a place of acceptance and love.
Sadalsuud has continued to work fervently to improve the lives of refugees, educate children, mend ties and forge new bonds of reconciliation. They have recently launched a literacy program for 12-20 year-old girls, and the foundation also plans on opening a bakery in Tripoli using local Lebanese ingredients to make sourdough breads and other scrumptious baked confections. Along with creating delicious breads and goods, this bakery is also about strengthening the community as they ‘break bread’ with another, bringing them closer and overcoming discord.
From beads to bread, the Sadalsuud Foundation, alongside its allies like the Generous Light Company, steadfastly upholds its mission to educate Lebanese and Syrian children, not solely for the sake of teaching them lessons, but also to offer them the skills of solidarity and the prowess of building sustainable communities.
Written by: Laila Al-Yafi