FARAYA, Lebanon: It’s a simple, timeless business model that elementary school children try out summer after summer to earn some extra pocket money. But at the Faraya Mzaar summer festival Tuesday, six teachers were the ones selling lemonade at a stand sponsored by the 8-month-old non-governmental organization, Juice for Charity. The volunteers are all new fellows at Teach for Lebanon, a nonprofit that trains a new generation of educators for positions at chronically underfunded schools across the country.
Fresh from a monthlong course on educational methods at Balamand University in July, each member of the tight-knit group will start teaching jobs at public and semiprivate schools scattered throughout Lebanon in the fall.
But in the meantime, they gamely took turns selling LL4,000 cups of fresh lemonade and hand-pressed orange juice at the six-day mountain festival to raise money for next year’s class of Teach for Lebanon fellows.
The organization is the sixth to partner with Juice for Charity since it was launched in December with a basic, but effective fundraising model that 27-year-old founder Hany al-Hassan characterizes as a “lean startup.”
A hospitality consultant by day, Hassan’s speech is peppered with the terminology of a business school graduate. Yet Juice for Charity is a purely idealistic endeavor, borne from the belief that people of all socio-economic backgrounds can make a difference by buying a cup of lemonade.
The seeds of Juice for Charity were planted when a friend of Hassan’s had a broken leg that his health insurance would not pay to treat.
Since Hassan wasn’t able to personally pay for the procedure, he solicited small contributions from a group of friends and realized that the model of collecting small amounts of money could be replicated at a nonprofit.
“I did this with my friends,” Hassan recalled. “It’s like a lemonade stand on a larger scale. We all made small contributions and bought machinery and did it in a really humble way. The product is simple. The idea is simple: making value out of juice for a charity.”
Hassan, with the help of his sister and friends, decided to establish a parent NGO for Juice for Charity called CAUSES: care, act, unite, serve, empower, sustain. He hopes Juice for Charity will be the first of many nonprofit projects under the CAUSES umbrella that share the objective of promoting “individual responsibility, which is lacking in Lebanon,” he said.
He’s already developed a business plan for a second CAUSES project that would hire impoverished people to launder donated clothing and distribute them to those in need.
First Hassan is focusing on finding sponsors to scale up Juice for Charity’s operations so it can ultimately have ten year-round juice kiosks selling at different locations in Beirut.
Every kiosk would bear the name of the NGO Juice for Charity partners with each month. Hassan said he has already started negotiating with different well-known Lebanese designers to create each kiosk, but he won’t name names until they’ve nailed down the funding needed to expand and the necessary permission from the Beirut municipality.
Like any good businessman, Hassan has already crunched the numbers on the revenue the kiosks would generate for the different local charities it teams up with.
"We expect to sell 200 cups per day at each kiosk. Doing math it would be $8,000 per day. In this scenario we would employ 4 underprivileged people per kiosk, 40 total, and we’d employ them and pay their salaries and give profits to the NGOs.”
Juice for Charity has already lined up BETA and One Wig Stand, a women’s breast cancer charity, as beneficiary organizations for the next two months. The sums Juice for Charity has raised might seem paltry, but they have a tangible effect on people’s lives.
The organization first teamed up with Tamanna, a local nonprofit for terminally ill children similar to the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and raised $2,600 over 21 days. That was enough money to let a 6-year-old boy with lung cancer realize his dream of riding a Harley Davidson motorcycle and grant the wishes of four other young patients.
One month’s worth of proceeds allowed the environmental group, Operation Big Blue, to make a Lebanese beach wheelchair accessible.
Four days’ profits helped the Lebanese Society for Children’s Capacity Building pay five students’ tuitions and allowed Juice for Charity to hire its first full-time employee.
Hassan has since hired a second staffer. Both of the employees come from poor backgrounds and needed to be reintegrated into the job market. They spend their days making juice at the cafeteria of an old school in Basta and making deliveries to customers in the Beirut area.
They also man a weekly Juice for Charity stand outside West Hall at AUB and sell at public events in the capitol, such as the Beirut Marathon.
Juice for Charity has also raised $1,000 each for the drug treatment center Skoun and for Foodblessed, which collects food donations and prepares meals for the needy.
Summing up his project, Hassan said: “We wanted to show that if you want to do a community project, it’s as easy as selling juice. If you want to help, it’s as easy as buying juice.”