Leaders of Change – Maya Terro
Maya Terro is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of FoodBlessed, a hunger-relief and food rescue organization.
For Maya Terro, the work of her organization Foodblessed is entirely community-based and volunteer-driven; the very essence of the initiative is to rekindle the lost bond between the people of Lebanon. She believes that volunteering has tremendously shaped her, personally and professionally, and that by consistently trying to make this world a better place for her community and herself, she became a better person in the process.
She recalls how it all began: “It just happened to be at the right place at the right time and I decided to jump in with both feet! It all started in 2012. I signed up to a one-week workshop on corporate social responsibility organized by CSR Al Ahli. Back then, I was working as a research assistant and the workshop seemed like a great opportunity to expand my knowledge in the field. At the end of the workshop, we were divided into teams and challenged to come up with social projects that tackle a social problem of our choosing. My team’s idea of finding a sustainable and viable solution for the twin problems of hunger and food waste ended up winning first place and that frankly was the sign my team and I probably needed to move forward with this project. I guess if we hadn’t won back then, FoodBlessed might have never been born.”
Maya says that poverty and food insecurity have always been prevailing issues in Lebanon. One-third of all the food produced in Lebanon is lost or wasted daily. This inefficiency has enormous economic, environmental and social consequences but also presents an opportunity for tackling food insecurity. The latest estimates have revealed that more than 55% of the country's population is now trapped in poverty and struggling for bare necessities. That’s almost double last year's rate which was 28%. Extreme poverty has registered a threefold increase from 8% in 2019 to 23% in 2020.
Fighting against injustice and working to improve the lives of underprivileged and marginalized communities helped Maya realize early on in her life that “all this time, we have been asking ourselves the wrong questions. Instead of asking our kids what they ‘want to ‘be’ when they grow up’, what we should be really asking them is ‘what they want to ‘do’ when they grow up!”
She adds, “In the long term, I strive to create a cultural shift fueled by mindful consumption. It is only when people see and appreciate the value of food, will they stop wasting it and start sharing it.
[The movie] ‘Mulan’ changed the way I perceived gender from a very young age. Mulan might be a young girl in ancient China; but to me, she is a role model because she defied cultural and gender stereotypes, made a contribution to her country, was brave, and not to mention empowered a whole generation of girls to follow her lead, including myself. In my opinion, she was neither a man, nor a woman, she was a human.
And at the end of the day, I think the best thing we can do or be is to aspire to be better humans; not better men nor better women, just better humans.”
Maya Terro, 34, is Co-Founder and Executive Director of FoodBlessed, a hunger-relief and food rescue organization that seeks to provide a solution to hunger while addressing the growing problem of food waste in Lebanon. Over the past eight years, the initiative has distributed 1,350,200 hot meals, 25,000 Food Assistance Packages, recovered and donated 1,000,000 tons of food waste, and involved more than 3800 community members. In the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion, they prepared 100,000 hot meals and 3,238 food boxes for families affected by the blast and people in need across Lebanon. In 2019, Maya was chosen by OCHA as one of the top 24 ‘Women Humanitarians in the World’ on World Humanitarian Day.