Nadeem Shwayri and Lily Stephan made the lifetime commitment to preserve the human dignity of those afflicted with physical, mental, or social challenges. They donated their own wealth and lives for that purpose.
This is their story.
Nadeem works in a prominent financial company in Beirut while sitting for his MBA at the American University of Beirut. He is moved by the situation of women who fall into prostitution. He feels the need to help them.
He sets up an academic school for girls with social and financial challenges at the Notre-Dame des Apôtres Convent in Salima.
A girl with quadriplegia asks to integrate the school. He had never seen a person with a disability before. He was moved, especially that the country lacked proper services to serve people with special needs.
He realizes that he needs to do something about it. He starts researching about rehabilitation and care locally and internationally.
The Salima academic school becomes a success, and the number of its student-girls increases.
Nadeem starts a Catering School in Salima to secure the future of the students graduating from the academic school. The girls find immediate employment in the most prominent hotels in Beirut.
He pursues his research on rehabilitation and is inspired by what is done internationally.
He starts on August 15 an entrepreneurial social enterprise with only three workers: a leather workshop that only employs people with special needs.
His objective was to find international markets for the products and from the returns produce prosthetics and orthotics at cost to people with special needs.
Located in a humble neighborhood in Beirut (Karm El Zeytoun), the workshop gradually picks up. Nadeem finds international markets for the produced goods.
The goods are successfully sold in Scandinavia, Europe and North America. Nadeem resigns from his job at the financial company and commits to Al-Kafaàt.
Nadeem receives the “Said Akl Award”. His movement starts to create momentum nationally.
The number of workers climbed from three workers in 1963 to eighty. Sixty of the workers have special needs.
The workshop produces 75,000 leather goods per year.
Nadeem marries Lily Stephan. She accepts the mission of Al-Kafaàt and like him, she chooses to commit her personal wealth and life to serving others
At a close vicinity to the leather production workshop, Nadeem finally sets up the intended rehabilitation workshop and medical unit
He opens the prosthetics and orthotics workshop, and sells them at cost to people with special needs.
The “Beirut Bag” produced by the workshop sells over 422,000 pieces in Stockholm alone, at the Indiska stores
Nadeem starts an academic school for children with special needs in a rental in Baabda
Nadeem decides to build his vision of an ideal pilot rehabilitation center that combine entrepreneurship and employment of people with special needs, with their rehabilitation and education
He builds the center on a land he donates from his own wealth to the then-established Al-Kafaàt Foundation. He names it The Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center.
The Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center is inaugurated by late Prime Minister Saeb Salam, who grants the Lebanese Knight Order of the Cedars to the Foundation.
The Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center hosts the academic school for children with special needs, relocated from the Baabda rental
The Center includes the rehabilitation unit and the prosthetics and orthotics workshop
On one of its floors, the Center includes the leather production unit relocated from Karm El Zeytoun and which had become a full-fledge industry exporting to the whole world. Its proceeds are invested in the education and rehabilitation delivered on-site.
The Center proved to Lebanon that people with special needs were Potentials, not Handicaps. This developed into the Mission Statement of the Foundation.
In partnership with the World Rehabilitation Fund, Al-Kafaàt launches at the Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center the very first training session in the production of prosthetics and orthotics to technicians from the Arab world
Al-Kafaàt starts the school for the deaf and hard of hearing
War erupts in Lebanon. The Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center is destroyed and occupied. The leather industry is entirely looted. Nadeem decides to focus on rehabilitation and care.
The leather industry is entirely looted. Nadeem decides to focus on rehabilitation and care.
In the sixteen years of the Lebanese civil war, the Center was destroyed and occupied on fifteen different occasions. Nevertheless and after each attack, Nadeem persevered, picked up the pieces, and kept the Al-Kafaàt Mission going.
Al-Kafaàt starts vocational training and technical education in electricity, electronics, and secretarial studies
Vocational training workshops are developed in the Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center where the leather factory was located
Jean Vanier visits the premises of the Al-Kafaàt Village Rehabilitation Campus and its first sheltered employment workshops
Al-Kafaàt launches the second training session in the production of prosthetics and orthotics, this time for the Lebanese technicians.
The first Board of Trustees of the Foundation is formed: Nadeem and Lily Shwayri, Msgr. Gregoire Haddad, Dr. Ramez Aouad, Samir Khairallah, Laure and Joseph Moghaizel
Nadeem builds Our Lady Center on a land he donates to the Foundation, to welcome the Catering School from Salima. Because of the war and the inability to go to the then-occupied Lily Shwayri Center, all training, educational and rehabilitation activities are moved into this building
Nadeem publishes his first book, “We are all handicapped”, detailing the history of the Foundation on its silver jubilee. The book receives the Michel Berty Award
Nadeem builds under fire the Myriam Center on a land he donates to the Foundation, to welcome children with Down syndrome and light intellectual disability
Nadeem sets up the Myriam Club for the daily care of Senior citizens
Al-Kafaàt delivers vocational training and rehabilitation services to the wounded soldiers of the Lebanese Army
Nadeem builds the Catering School in Mansourieh on a land Lily donates to the Foundation, to host the original Catering School he had setup in Salima in 1963. More on the Catering School here.
Despite the war, Nadeem starts building the Al-Kafaàt Campus in Ain-Saadeh
The Al-Kafaàt Campus is inaugurated. It hosts the vocational training and technical education institute launched in 1976. More on the Technical Institute here.
Al-Kafaàt receives the Lebanese Officer Order of Cedars on its 40th anniversary
Al-Kafaàt University is accredited. Life members of the Al-Kafaàt Board, Nadeem Shwayri, Samir Khairallah and Dr. Ramez Aouad meet with late Prime Minister Rafic Hariri on that occasion. More on the University here.
Nadeem builds the Beit El Adra Center on a land he donates to the Foundation to deliver medical outpatient services, as well as provide special lodging to the children and adults with special needs of the Foundation
Al-Kafaàt receives the Lebanese Commander Order of Cedars on the occasion of its 50th anniversary
Nadeem publishes his second book, “We are all handicapped”, detailing the history of the Foundation between 1982 and 2007
Nadeem receives the Antonian Gold Medal of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of North America
Nadeem Shwayri passes away. His funeral is held on the Al-Kafaàt Campus and attended by numerous crowds. He is buried on the Campus under the Church of the Dormition of Our Lady of Al-Kafaàt, as he wished.
Al-Kafaàt inaugurates the final building on the Village Rehabilitation Campus, thus completing the construction of the Campus started in 1976
Al-Kafaàt inaugurates the Outpatient Clinics at the Beit El Adra Center to serve the neighboring community
Al-Kafaàt upgrades and inaugurates the Early Intervention Unit at the Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center
Our Lady of Al-Kafaàt welcomes again the academic school of the Foundation in its original place in Hadat, after having been moved temporarily to the Al-Kafaàt Campus. More on the Academic School here.
The main road that connects the Village Rehabilitation Campus to the Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center, known as the Al-Kafaàt crossroad during the mad years of the war, is officially named “The Nadeem Habib Shwayri Street, Founder of Al-Kafaàt” by the Hadat municipality
The Fountain Square of the Al-Kafaàt Campus is inaugurated, completing the phase I of the landscaping renovation of the Campus
The Al-Kafaàt Board officially names the business faculty at the Al-Kafaàt University the Ghassan Barrage School of Business, in recognition of Mr. Barrage’s magnanimous work at the heart of the Board of Trustees.
Al-Kafaàt publishes post-mortem a coffee-table edition of both books written by Nadeem, "We are all handicapped", highlighting in the words of Nadeem the history, mission, and legacy of the Foundation
Al-Kafaàt upgrades the "Bernard Dujardin - Adrinée Arzoumanian Prosthetics and Orthotics Workshop" in the Lily Shwayri Rehabilitation Center, thus developing the initial project started in 1963.