2019 SDG Pioneer – Lebanon
On July 1, Global Compact Network Lebanon recognized its 2019 SDG Pioneer: Mr. Marc Torbey Helou, Senior Banker at Banque Libano-Française.
His main achievements include being a volunteer leader for Offre Joie for more than 15 years where he encouraged over 1,600 youth to help disadvantaged people. His actions improved the quality of life of over 20,000 citizens in the poorest areas across the country. He is also an active member at Donner Sang Compter (DSC) where he helped inspire over 10,000 people to provide blood units. Marc Torbey Helou was also the one who pushed the Grand Serail to make their premises accessible to people with special needs and pushed forward the implementation of the article number 85 of the law 220, which stipulates that shipping an accessible modified car to Lebanon is free from custom fees for its owner, although this wasn’t the case in reality as he experienced it firsthand.
Despite being injured in an accident that left him tetraplegic, he never stopped inspiring the young and not so young to make a change around them.
Marc Torbey Helou was chosen after a rigorous and competitive selection process by a multi-stakeholder selection group comprised of representatives from the Lebanese civil society, academia, Global Compact Network Lebanon Board, the UN and Gov representatives. Three pioneers from Indevco, Kristies and Holdal made it to the final stage as well.
About Marc Torbey Helou:
“God did not let me live to torture me.” That was Marc’s serene confidence, awaking paralyzed from a coma in hospital. A carefree dive into the Mediterranean had immobilized Lebanon’s youngest-ever branch manager at age 27. But Marc’s life as a civil society dynamo, branch manager, and business professor had already modeled how to bring dreams to life. Now a quadriplegic, his passion for the less fortunate burns ever brighter.
Marc’s civic values took root early at age 8 during an integrated summer camp hosted by Offre Joie, a volunteer youth movement that emerged from the civil war. Volunteers from all confessions gathered the entire family of Lebanon by serving with and for the “Other”. Animated by the Offre Joie values of love, forgiveness, and respect, Marc countered the stereotyping of strangers by developing lifelong friendships.
Throughout his youth, Marc mobilized Offre Joie volunteers of all confessions in solidarity together, hosting integrated camps, rebuilding bombed homes, renovating seven prisons, and rehabilitating 21 public schools and poor neighborhoods. During the 2006 war, Marc innovated a call center to accelerate aid delivery to families displaced from Southern Lebanon, and organized volunteers to rebuild two public schools and seven abandoned villages.
Since 2009, Marc has also served as a founding volunteer of the association Donner Sans Compter (DSC), encouraging voluntary donations of blood for holistic peace. In 10 years, 820 blood drives have distributed over 32,000 blood units in every corner of Lebanon.
After his graduate management studies at Saint Joseph University (USJ) in Beirut, Marc found a partner for his civic values serving as a manager at Banque Libano-Française (BLF). When an anonymous car bomber killed and injured 114 people and destroyed 84 homes in central Beirut, BLF granted Marc a month of paid leave to rebuild the entire neighborhood with 1,600 Offre Joie volunteers. Then in 2013, Marc helped Offre Joie lead a national coalition to mobilize 172,000 volunteer workdays, and the President of Lebanon recognized Offre Joie with the nation’s highest civilian award.
Marc’s accident in 2016 left him immobilized from the neck down, confining him to a customized wheelchair. BLF demonstrated its commitment to Reduced Inequalities (SDG10) and core value of Humanism by paying all Marc’s medical expenses, including specialized rehabilitation in the United States. BLF also renovated Marc’s office, adjusted his work schedule, and funds his ongoing therapy.
Marc has also taken on disability accessibility as a human rights issue. He lobbied for implementation of duty-free import of accessibility modified vehicles and advocated for wheelchair accessibility to Government Offices. Marc’s newest initiative consists in collaborating with all 120 businesses, restaurants, and pubs in the high-profile Badaro district of Beirut to ensure disability access in this high area. BLF has been participating in the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) since 2014 and became a founding board member of the Global Compact Network Lebanon (GCNL) in 2015. It works in partnership with other business and non-business leaders to support the advancement of the Ten UNGC principles. Moreover BLF sits on board of the GCNL SDG Council and champions Reduced Inequalities (SDG10), considering it as pivotal to achieving other SDGs. Therefore, BLF enthusiastically supports Marc’s mounting list of achievements to reduce inequalities and to advance the goals of No Poverty (SDG 1), Zero Hunger, (SDG 2), Quality Education (SDG 4), Gender Equality (SDG 5), Decent Work and Economic Growth (SDG 8), and Peace
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