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London copywriter scripts ‘Yalla Beirut’ plan to aid blast-hit people in Lebanon
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London copywriter scripts ‘Yalla Beirut’ plan to aid blast-hit people in Lebanon

As part of her efforts, Gemma Champ has come up with T-shirts in multiple colours with unisex and women's cuts. The profits from the sale are going to ‘Impact Lebanon's Disaster Relief Fund’

Mehre Alam
Doha
As the Beirut port explosion rocked the picturesque country on August 4 killing at least 180 people, Gemma Champ’s heart ached for the people of Lebanon and their families beyond the scene of devastation.
Nearly 3,457.20 km away (this is the shortest airline distance between Beirut and London), she wanted to act soon and provide succour to people living in “the most beautiful, vibrant, resilient, historical and exciting country I'd ever visited,” as she put it on her social media account.
The result of her efforts: ‘Yalla Beirut’!
Explaining the ‘Yalla Beirut’ drive, she wrote on her social media account: “Please donate to help them rebuild their glorious country again. I've done some new T-shirts, with all profits going to Impact Lebanon's Disaster Relief Fund. Unisex and women's cuts available, in multiple colours. All organic, sustainable sourced and ethically made. Please buy and share!” 
When Qatar Tribune approached her to seek more details about her efforts, the copywriter based in London stated: “I wouldn’t call this a campaign, so much as an expression of solidarity with the people of Beirut and Lebanon. Because I’m not trying to make money from the company, I’m able to do ‘not for profit’ T-shirts that hopefully send some funds to good causes.”
She went on to add: “When I saw what had happened in beautiful Beirut, my heart absolutely broke for this wonderful city, and the whole country, which has so much to offer the world, but is always at the mercy of its neighbours.”
Of course, she donated immediately, but she knows how quickly events move on and are forgotten, so she wanted to do something more – a kind of call that would remind people regularly of Beirut. It needed to be positive, and full of hope, and instantly the word ‘Yalla’ came to her mind. “Whenever I was going somewhere or doing something in that region, ‘Yalla, let’s go!’ was a signal to stop procrastinating and start DOING,” she said.

Impact Lebanon 
“The profits from the T-shirts are going to Impact Lebanon, which when I researched charities, seemed to be one that seemed to be most likely to direct funds to the right places locally,” she added, in an email exchange with this writer.
Gemma, who lives with her Arabian Mau, Frankie, a rescue cat (She describes the cat as “a little bit of the Gulf in Hackney!”), started a T-shirt company, The New Normal, when the UK locked down due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, “to find a way to respond to such a crazy and confusing time”. 
“The one thing everyone kept saying was, ‘This is the new normal’, but there was nothing normal about it! It’s not there to make money, but just to try to encapsulate the era.”

Strong connect 
Gemma feels a strong connect with Lebanon, where she says, she has been at least four or five times. “I absolutely loved it [Lebanon]. Growing up in the 80s and 90s in the UK, you have an image of Beirut as being a bombed-out wasteland, and when I finally got there in 2007, I truly understood why they called it the Paris of the Middle East. It’s a cliché to say, ‘the people are so friendly’, but they truly are incredible, helpful, creative, resilient, and above all huge fun. I could see, of course, that while the commercial districts were having money lavished on them, there were many areas that needed help, but it felt like a very positive time in the country, with a real sense of hope.”
How has been the reception to her campaign for Beirut so far?
“Whenever you take a word from someone else’s language, there is a fear that you’re missing some nuance or getting it wrong, so I was a bit worried, but thankfully I’ve had really positive responses not just here but from Lebanese and Middle Eastern friends, former colleagues and strangers, so I’m hoping it’s hit the mark. 
“I wouldn’t say it’s sold many, but that’s not its purpose really – if people want to send the £20 directly to a charity rather than the £4.17 that I can send from the T-shirt profit, that’s fine by me. I think, at least, it has resonated with people and given them a sense that they are not forgotten or ignored. But equally, I would love people to be wearing these T-shirts, which are ethically made and organic, for the next few years, so they are always reminded of the spirit of Beirut.”

Down memory lane
When asked about some unique memories of her time in Lebanon, she said, “Oh, so many…!”
“I think the first time I went was to interview Elie Saab at his studio. I stayed at the Mayflower in Al Hamra, and got this rickety shared taxi, in the blazing heat, but when I went into the atelier it was so chic and cool, with all the artisans calmly working away, surrounded by the mannequins of the rich and famous! It was a dream interview. 
“Another time I went was for the opening of the Louis Vuitton store, and then a launch party, where Catherine Deneuve and Christian Louboutin were on the dance floor with us.”
But perhaps even more cherished were the quiet moments – things like eating incredible regional Lebanese food at Beit Al Tawlet or queuing for shawarma at Baba, exploring the ancient ruins at Byblos and Baalbek, driving past the beautiful farmlands, wandering round the craft and fashion shops of Saifi Village, drinking coffee in a courtyard café, skiing, and more.
“Whatever Beirut is, it’s never, ever boring,” she summed up.

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