On Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday it is a tradition for our family to volunteer. By 7:30 I was working on a project at an inner-city school. This event reminded me of a volunteer opportunity I learned about while visiting Lebanon. Ashghalouna (meaning "our work") is the name of the program that helps provide a source of income to the war widows. After WWI a social welfare organization was established to help care for and educate orphans. In the 1930's the organization was named Dar Al Aytam Al Islamiya (meaning "the Islamic Orphanage"). Today the organization has expanded some of its social services, thanks in part to Mrs. Sana Towili (pictured) and services now include a training program as a means to give widows a source of income. Ashghalouna now houses an atelier where on any given day 25 or more women are working and learning needle arts of every sort - embroidery, knitting, crocheting, quilting, applique, etc. In addition there is a kitchen where women prepare traditional sweets, jams, jellies for sale. On Fridays, the women operate a lunch room that serves classic Beiruti dishes to the general public.
I have included a picture of the location where the workshop, restaurant and gift shop are located. The building is across the street from the British Consulate's home. It is actually the former home of the Consulate's driver (okay, I might be in the wrong profession given the size and beauty of the building). Also note in the photo that Sana is wearing a galabiya over her street dress. If you don't have a galabiya, I suggest you get one. These garments are robes made of thick wool and they might be considered similar to a house coat only you can wear them in and out of the house. The are extremely warm but are not confining or restricting in any way. I own two and when "the weather outside is frightful" I pull out the galabiya.