A campaign led by a medical student from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine has raised enough money to send about $2 million worth — so far — of much-needed medical supplies to Lebanon.

More than $2 million in medical supplies headed to Lebanon through OUWB student led-campaign
An image of OUWB student Majd Faraj and World Medical Relief CEO George Samson
Majd Faraj, a second-year medical student at OUWB (left) talks logistics of shipping medical supplies to Lebanon with World Medical Relief President and CEO George Samson, Ph.D.

A campaign led by a medical student from Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine has raised enough money to send about $2 million worth — so far — of much-needed medical supplies to Lebanon.

Through the “Medical Relief to Lebanon” GoFundMe page set up by Majd Faraj, a second-year medical student at OUWB, a total of more than $63,000 has been contributed by more than 2,300 donors (as of Thursday afternoon).

Most of the donations have been in the last 48 hours, following the enormous explosion in Beirut on Tuesday that left at least 137 dead and more than 4,000 injured.

The $63,000 raised is enough to cover the cost of four large shipping containers, each packed with up to $500,000 worth of medical supplies  from Southfield-based World Medical Relief (a nonprofit and OUWB community partner).  Faraj said it’s important to note the campaign continues and more donations are needed.

Further, about 40 people from metro Detroit have volunteered for this Saturday and to help prepare the first shipment set to head out on Monday.  (Volunteers also will be needed to help prepare future shipments at World Medical Relief.)

But for Faraj the success of the campaign is bittersweet given the devastation caused by the explosion in the country where he was born and raised.  On Thursday, Faraj said he is “still struggling to process this and really feeling numb.”

“Beirut really taught me everything and made me the person that I am so it’s very, very hard to see this,” said Faraj.  “The whole tragedy is very awful.”

Faraj’s mother and father live near Beirut and are OK, but felt their house shake as a result of the explosion.

“They’re alone so it really hit me differently,” he said.

inaya-hajj-hussein

Hajj Hussein

Inaya Hajj Hussein, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Foundational Medical Studies, OUWB, said her mother and sister live in the area. The explosion broke windows on their house. She said no one in the home was seriously injured.

Both Hajj Hussein and Faraj also said the tragedy can and should also be used to raise awareness of global health care disparities.

With regard to the current tragedy, Hajj Hussein said it’s too early to process because people are still dealing with the immediate impact.

“Grief is not something we have time for at the moment,” said Hajj Hussein. “I wish I could go there and help, but I can’t.  Maybe the best way to help is to continue what we’re doing.”

Fundraising effort quickly grows

Faraj earned his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan. When the COVID-19 pandemic struck in early 2020, Faraj was wrapping up his first year at OUWB.

During the summer, he watched what was happening with COVID-19 in Lebanon and began exploring ways to help.

Faraj started the GoFundMe page last month with hopes of raising $15,000. The campaign raised about $6,300 prior to the explosion.

The goal of $15,000 came from the costs associated with sending one big shipping container of medical supplies worth up to $500,000 to Lebanon from World Medical Relief.

World Medical Relief, established in 1953, collects and distributes excess medical supplies, medicines, and recycled medical equipment and redistributes everything to those in need.  Donors include the likes of Beaumont Health, University of Michigan Hospital, and more.

To donate to the GoFundMe page started by Faraj,visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-relief-to-lebanon

To volunteer at World Medical Relief to help prepare shipments, email volunteer@worldmedicalrelief.org

George Samson, Ph.D., president and CEO, World Medical Relief, said the organization has a strict application process to ensure recipients of medical supplies are registered and/or recognized as official health care facilities.

Additionally, those who lead campaigns like Faraj are heavily involved in coordinating delivery of the medical supplies to the intended recipients.  In this regard, Faraj  has been working directly with Firass Abiad, M.D., head of Rafik Hariri University Hospital.

Concurrently, nearly all of World Medical Relief’s current efforts and supplies are now going toward the effort spearheaded by Faraj. That includes cancelling shipments to other countries like Yemen and Kenya so that those supplies can be redirected to Lebanon.

“With our normal flow of scheduling, we look four or five months out,” said Samson. “Yesterday, we decided to stop other shipments and concentrate on the most immediate need in Lebanon.”

Samson said one of the primary reasons for Lebanon being given priority is because of Faraj.

“I can see with Majd’s heart that he cares about the sick and the poor, especially the country where he and his parents are from,” he said. “I think that’s very important.”

Faraj expressed appreciation for the efforts on the part of World Medical Relief.

“I’m elated to say the least,” he said to Samson. “I’m very, very thankful because you also have a heart.”

OUWB community urged to donate

OUWB Stephan Sharf Interim Dean Duane Mezwa, M.D., said the response to Faraj’s campaign reflects OUWB’s commitment to community.

“The response so far really exemplifies how the OUWB community comes together to support its members, especially during these times of tragedy,” said Mezwa.

Though orientation is taking place at OUWB this week for the newest class of medical students, Mezwa said it’s important to remember “we still have to address world events and respond as a community.”

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For example, as orientation for the school’s new class began Thursday morning, Sandra LaBlance, Ph.D., associate dean for Student Affairs, OUWB, led students in the moment of silence for the Lebanese community.

LaBlance asked students to “take a moment of silence and reflect and pray on how you can take care of those your community here and abroad who are suffering.”

Mezwa urged the new students — and the entire OUWB community — to take their support for the Lebanese community a step further.

“We welcome our new students but at the same time need all the help we can get to immediately support members of the OUWB family with connections to Lebanon,” said Mezwa.  “If you haven’t already, I urge you to visit the GoFundMe page and contribute.”

To donate to the GoFundMe page started by Faraj, visit https://www.gofundme.com/f/medical-relief-to-lebanon

To volunteer at World Medical Relief to help prepare shipments, email volunteer@worldmedicalrelief.org

For more information, contact Andrew Dietderich, marketing writer, OUWB, at adietderich@oakland.edu

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