The morning after the Beirut blast, Basecamp, a coalition of four entities was created. We believe that “Together we’re stronger” and with the help of hundreds of volunteers we assisted the people affected by the blast. The partnership allowed us to unite our human resources and expertise to clean the streets of Beirut, recycle the shattered glass, offer psychological and medical help, dispatch food boxes, and rebuild housing in Beirut.
Baytna Baytak, a grassroot NGO that started in March 2020 by helping medical workers, has been the entity within Basecamp responsible for the reconstruction. We started in a parking lot under tents, with little resources, no funding and chaos all around us. After first cleaning the streets, our second priority was to secure the houses by repairing windows and doors before the winter.
Without any handbook, Baytna Baytak has been able to rebuild 1,212 homes and commercial spaces for small-medium size businesses. But in order to rebuild, we had to put emotions aside and focus on an aligned mission. We had to organise our way through that mess and think of ways to build with less. We’ve been aiming for quick delivery and full transparency.
Procuring while creating Impact
We first opened carpentry and glass cutting workshops in the parking lot which facilitated the quick fix of partially broken windows and shutters. Also, all subcontractors were to use the “inhouse glass” which reduced our construction cost.
An 85% devaluation, big scope of work and some paint donations meant that building our own team of painters would cost 75% less than subcontracting the work. To date, our 35-member paint team painted in total 181 houses. We’re now aiming to create a women’s team that will be trained to paint Beirut’s houses and get equally paid for it.
Most importantly, the ongoing financial crisis pushed us to rebuild while creating impact. We therefore reached out to contractors from all around Lebanon. It helped us finetune our procurement, get better prices and identify quality-contractors. To date, we have hired 68 contractors, creating more than 600 jobs to rebuild our city.
300,000 people displaced. Thousands of data entry points. We started off with an excel sheet and paper but thanks to our partner we quickly integrated Salesforce. This facilitated and centralized the access to data. We also partnered with Fieldwire, a construction management software that assured the centralization of construction information and facilitated report generation to donors. The processes set and the technology implementation were essential for the development of the team members.
It’s important to note that the initiative was started by strangers who were volunteering for their country. Young people that had no experience whatsoever in this type of situation. Some stayed and others left but most of them were an added value in one way or another. Having a common mission and values was crucial as it pushed for a natural synergy between team members. We learned from each other, we pushed ourselves to get better. We failed, adapted, failed again, pivoted, again and again, to finally succeed.
It is very important to always remember why we started this initiative. To remember what pushed us to work 18 hours per day over six months. To remember the importance of results, transparency and responsibility. To remember that we could not have done this alone. To remember that common values, mission, clear communication and teamwork were key to success. But most of all, it is important to never forget that we are all victims of that blast, that we all lost a part of us on the 4th of August at 18h08. Our fight continues.