by Sanjana Deshpande, Features Reporter
photo illustration by Kaila Hanna
On the afternoon of August 4, an explosion devastated Beirut, Lebanon. As news of the disaster spread on social media, senior Anais Mobarak, who has family in Lebanon, took action to translate public awareness into tangible support. Anais created Kibbeh Kitchen with her two brothers, selling homemade authentic Lebanese food and donating all proceeds to the Lebanese Red Cross. Kibbeh, a popular Middle Eastern baked dish with layers of beef, bulgur and spices and filled with beef, onions and nuts, is the main dish that the siblings sell, along with other side dishes. Initially, they hoped to raise $1,000 — meeting that goal within less than a week, they’ve now donated over $10,000.
Anais said that she has learned more about Lebanon through her cooking.
“It’s been hard, but it’s also been extremely fulfilling. We’re spending four to six hours during the day preparing orders for the following days,” she said. “It’s definitely a lot of work, but it’s brought me a lot closer to Middle Eastern heritage and culture.”
Anais’s brother, freshman Diego Mobarak, said that the initial goal of Kibbeh Kitchen was to motivate people to support Lebanon while learning more about its culture.
“When we saw the explosions in Lebanon, we really just wanted to do something to help out and educate people,” he said. “We wanted to get the conversation about issues in Lebanon started and inspire people to donate.”
Kibbeh Kitchen’s website details the three crises — political, economic and social — facing Lebanon.
“The goal is to help out as much as we can and to raise awareness about all of the crises that are happening in Lebanon right now, even the ones that aren’t talked about as much,” Anais said.
Diego said that working on Kibbeh Kitchen has brought him closer to his siblings.
“We had some struggles in the beginning, but after a couple of days we really hit our stride and it’s been going smoothly ever since,” he said. “She empowers me and my brother to work as hard as she does, which is really inspiring.”
Senior Maya Makarovsky said that Kibbeh Kitchen demonstrates the power of youth-led initiatives.
“Anais and her brothers have raised a huge amount of money,” she said. “It shows how the youth can start individual projects with groups as small as their families.”
“Sometimes there’s a sense when you’re in high school that you can’t really do much, since you don’t have a vote or a steady source of income and don’t really know how to make change,” senior Dana Silvian said. “But something like Kibbeh Kitchen, just putting some ingredients together and making something amazing, really shows that you don’t have to be an adult. You don’t have to have enormous amounts of resources to make a change. You just have to have a good idea.”
Anais said that in the future, she and her brothers would like to expand Kibbeh Kitchen past donating to victims of the Beirut explosions.
“Hopefully later on in the year they’ll have recovered from the explosion, so we’ll be able to have multiple nonprofits that we’re donating the money to,” she said.
Chemistry teacher Suzy Drurey said that founding Kibbeh Kitchen was consistent with Anais’s desire to help others.
“She has this combination of leadership and compassion where if something is not fair or equitable, she wants to make it right,” she said. “She wants to understand what’s wrong so that she can make things better for everyone else.”