The devastation caused by the Beirut explosion, which ripped through the city on 4th August 2020, continues to impact Lebanese life every day. A combination of economic stagnation and personal struggles means the country and its people face a daily fight. Though the situation is extremely challenging, there are moments of compassion and solidarity that provide hope for a brighter future.
On seeing the scale of the impact caused by the explosion via TV screens around the world, members of the Funktion-One community naturally thought about their friends in the country. Founder of Think! AV – Funktion-One distributor for the Netherlands – Remco van der Werff acted, setting up a crowdfunding campaign.
“When I heard about the explosion, I immediately thought of our dear friend Nabil Choueiri from Audiotec Group in Beirut,” he recalls. “I contacted Nabil and his son Karl, who lives in Amsterdam, to ask how they were. Nabil mentioned the bad situation, but his son Karl gave a more realistic view which was way worse. Nabil didn’t want to be too distressing but, of course, he had every reason to be!
“In the beginning I wanted to keep the whole thing private and just send an email to the Funktion-One distributors worldwide, but Nabil was ok putting it publicly, so I set up a fundraiser. I thought since the Funktion-One people are like a big family we could help him. It was a tough time because of Covid, all of us were in a bad financial situation, but you could donate privately and everybody could do what they felt was ok. The campaign raised a total of 5,520 Euros for them and that helped a bit with repairs and other costs.”
Audiotec Group’s warehouse, which is only 700m from the explosion site in the Port of Beirut, suffered extensive damage and remained without any windows or doors for three weeks afterwards.
Choueiri comments: “I’ve been running my business since 1980 and, suddenly, I couldn’t go there for two weeks. Seeing pictures sent by my staff was very upsetting but it wasn’t until I could return to the warehouse that I fully understood the devastation. I’m so thankful to everyone who donated to the fundraiser, whether it was £5 or more. I thank them until the end of my life.”
Funktion-One rental partner Wicked Solutions was also severely affected. It was immediately clear that the Funktion-One system in AHM club that is 1km away from the blast was damaged. But it wasn’t until a year later that the company discovered how the stock in its warehouse has been also affected.
Owner Woody Naufal explains: “Life in Lebanon has been extremely challenging. The Lira collapsed, the banks hold on to our money and everyone feels demoralised by the situation. There were no parties until summer 2021. That’s when we discovered the Funktion-One system in our warehouse was also damaged by the blast.”
Naufal explained the situation to Funktion-One, who offered to help repair the speakers. Naufal recalls: “When Funktion-One offered help with repairing the speakers, I was speechless. I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed tears. When you’re really struggling and someone reaches out a helping hand, it means everything. This is what our industry is, this is what we’re all about, not corporate robots but human beings.”
It will take years until life in Lebanon returns to something close to normal. In the meantime, there are various ways to support the recovery efforts.