NAYA| Rita Rhayem: Caritas Lebanon’s first woman General Director of Caritas
BEIRUT: Rita Rhayem marks in 2020 her fifth year for serving as the General Director of Caritas Lebanon.
In 2006, Rhayem joined Doctors Without Borders for a short period of time. Although this experience was very short, she perceives it as a life-changing opportunity as well as an eye opener that helped her acquire a unique overview on the humanitarian field and discovered an implicit sense of passion towards it.
“Working for social change gives meaning and purpose to our life especially the moment we start witnessing how our work is impacting the life of many people shaping and changing their future,” Rhayem told Annahar. “We are not working to increase the financial capital of a firm but instead to touch a life and change the world even if it’s on a smaller scale.”
During her professional career, Rhayem worked at the American University of Beirut Medical Center as a clinical pharmacist. Afterwards, she directly joined Caritas Lebanon and served as the Head of the Health Department in which she managed ten main health care centers as well as multiple mobile medical units.
Caritas Lebanon operates in 60 centers to respond to the needs of a large number of vulnerable people, both refugees and locals. These centers offer sustainable and needs-based services that mainly concentrate on people’s development, livelihood, economic standing, health, social standing, protection, education, and lifesaving.
Through Rhayem’s scope of work, she continuously strives to promote Caritas’ impact and represents the organization by attending distinct forums that take place nationally and globally. For instance, in 2016, Rita visited the Vatican City as a main representative of the Caritas MENA members at Caritas Internationalis Humanitarian Committee. In 2018, Rhayem also contributed to outlining the Voluntary National Review (VNR) of the 2030 Agenda for SDGs as well as attended the official Lebanese delegation to the UN High Level Political Forum.
“I’ve been involved in this work for around 13 years, and as a General Director at Caritas Lebanon, I work on different social problems that impact the quality of life of many individuals, families, and communities,” said Rita Rhayem. “We are trying to provide a social safety net for people to be able to build their life once they have encountered a problem so they can break the cycle of inequalities.”
Rhayem’s extensive academic experience has also played an indispensable role in orienting her vision and building her sense of dedication towards the humanitarian field. She has obtained a Doctorate in Pharmacy in 2006, a diploma in hospital and clinical pharmacy in 2008 and an MBA in 2011. She was also accredited and trained by SPHERE to become a humanitarian worker at national and regional levels who’s able to operate during emergencies to manage humanitarian crises.
Today, Rhayem is pursuing an MA in Interdisciplinary Gender Studies at the Lebanese American University.
Assisting marginalized individuals, responding to their needs, and supporting their rights have assured Rhayem that she was taking the right path in her professional career. A reason that also triggered her to publish a book entitled “Accreditation of NGOs Health Care Centers.”
“My work addresses the cause and the consequences of social issues detected in my country. Hence, raising awareness, implementing projects that create job opportunities, facilitating access to health and education services, working at the community level, and implementing outreach activities will always remain major parts of Caritas’ scope of work.” Rhayem told Annahar.