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Al-Kafaat Partnership

SUNY Partnership with Al-Kafaàt Foundation

2012-13 Recipient: Raif N. Shwayri, CEO, Al-Kafaàt Foundation, Lebanon

Raif Shwayri is the CEO of Al-Kafaàt Foundation, having held various positions within the Foundation since 2001. Al-Kafaàt was started in 1957 to serve the disabled and socially disadvantaged populations in Lebanon. Today, the Foundation serves over 5000 students daily within 7 different centers, focusing on education and social welfare of the Lebanese people. In addition, the foundation houses Al-Kafaàt University (AKU).

Mr. Shwayri studied Mechanical Engineering at the American University of Beirut and at Kings College, University of London, and holds a Master of Business Administration from the Cardiff Business School, University of Wales. Mr. Shwayri published his first book in 2008, which chronicled the story of the founding of Al-Kafaàt by his father, Nadim. Using the medium of a novel, the book provides an opportunity for the story and mission of Al-Kafaàt to be told to a wider audience. Published in French, it is still in circulation (

As the project director in Lebanon for the BMENA (Broader Middle East and North Africa) project with SUNY, Mr. Shwayri has been an integral part of planning and implementing grant funded activities. He has lead Al-Kafaàt’s participation in this endeavor. Recently, SUNY implemented the Lebanon Project, which integrates funded programs and independent, collaborative educational programs among several SUNY campuses and Al-Kafaàt University.

The SUNY partnership with Al-Kafaàt began in July, 2010 to develop a collaborative project through Higher Education for Development (HED) in cooperation with United Sates Agency for International Development (USAID). The Broader Middle East and North Africa-U.S. Community College Initiative: SUNY Community College Consortium began withfour founding community colleges: North Country, Monroe, Onondaga, and Nassau Community College as lead institution. In developing capacity building entrepreneurial initiatives focusing on curriculum, English as a Second Language, student services and small business development, SUNY partners worked collaboratively with Al-Kafaàt to develop a successful proposal that has now been funded for three years.

SUNY and Al-Kafaàt have partnered to align education at Al-Kafaàt University with curricula and academic programs currently offered on our campuses. As such, SUNY Administration, through the Office of International Programs (OIP) and the Research Foundation for the State University of New York submitted a proposal with Al-Kafaàt University (AKU) that would fund scholarships for Lebanese students. If funded through USAID, scholarships will include a semester abroad at participating SUNY campuses.

Reception held at Al-Kafaàt University in Lebanon, as a celebration of the SUNY Community College Consortium and Al-Kafaàt partnership through the BMENA initiative.

Reception held at Al-Kafaàt University in Lebanon, as a celebration of the SUNY Community College Consortium and Al-Kafaàt partnership through the BMENA initiative.  The partners met in Lebanon for a week of planning and learning about Al-Kafaàt Foundation schools and programs. From left to right:  Amine Matar, Al Kafaàt University, John Striebich, Monroe Community College,  Emmanuel Awuah, Onondaga Community College, Maureen Sayles, North Country Community College, Nada al-Sardouk, Director General, Lebanon Ministry of Tourism, Prof. Ramez Aouad, President of the Board of Directors, Al Kafaàt University, Rosemary Ortlieb-Padgett, Nassau Community College, Prof. Ahmad Fathi Oueida, President, Al-Kafaàt University, Raif Shwayri, CEO, Al-Kafaàt Foundation, Lynn Mazzola, Nassau Community College, Chef Ramzi, Al-Kafaàt Foundation

The Story of Al-Kafaàt: History, Ethos and Vision

Al-Kafaàt Foundation was founded in 1957 by Nadim Shwayri. During this time, Shwayri was a young MBA graduate working in the financial sector of Lebanon. He came from a wealthy family; his father had immigrated to the United States, living there for 17 years before returning to Lebanon as a successful, self-made business man. When his father passed away, he declined lucrative work opportunities and opened a small leather factory in an economically depressed area of Beirut, manufacturing and exporting leather goods to American and European markets. To operate his business, he hired workers that were considered unemployable: poor and disabled people that were rejected and ignored by society.

By 1972, the leather factory had expanded and employed 170 people: Shwayri had devoted his life and fortune to serving the undeserved. The same year, he was honored with the Order of the Cedar, the highest of distinctions from the President of the Republic of Lebanon. Shwayri's undertaking was proof that given opportunity, all people, regardless of physical or learning differences, could be productive and valued members of society.   “Potentials, not handicaps," became the mission statement of Al-Kafaàt, which itself means "capabilities" in Arabic. Today, as the basis of all initiatives at the Foundation, education in all forms has been adopted as the fundamental means to social rehabilitation.

Current Structure: Sectors

Al-Kafaàt Foundation is organized into various centers, which are supported by the financial resources accumulated by both Nadim Shwayri and his wife, Lily. Most of the Foundation centers (6 of 7) have been erected on land owned by the family. In addition, family monetary funds have been organized into an endowment that covers a portion of the Foundation’s yearly operating costs. Over the past 55 years, Al-Kafaàt has served over 40,000 people who are disabled and/or socially disadvantaged. It provides essential social, medical and educational rehabilitation, and fosters integration to some 5,000 daily beneficiaries from all communities and walks of life (

Sector One: Special Education and Rehabilitation Services

Education and Rehabilitation at Al-Kafaàt provides daily services to 1500 children and adults with disabilities: 1,200 resident beneficiaries and 300 served on an out-patient basis. Services are orchestrated by a multi-disciplinary team comprised of education and rehabilitation specialists. The approach is holistic and allows close monitoring of the progress of those served, from early intervention to adulthood. Services are individualized and comprehensive and are designed to follow the educational and therapeutic strategies that stem from each beneficiary’s aptitudes and capacities. Specialized programs include a school serving those with Cerebral Palsy; a pre-vocational school for the mentally disabled; a program for the learning disabled; an integrated school for the physically and socially disadvantaged; school for the deaf; structured education for autistic individuals; program for individuals with multiple handicaps; care for the elderly; sheltered employment programs.

Sector Two: Education, Training and Support to Employment

University Education ( focuses on academic majors that lead to specializations in demand in the Lebanese labor market. Four schools are present today: the School of Education, Business Administration, Arts and Technology. AKU is unique in that it draws students to alternate between their studies on campus and work, with a career path identified and supported by advisors at the University Employment Office. For instance, the Special Education Program has students work at the Rehabilitation centers of Al-Kafaàt in the morning and study on campus in the afternoon and evening. The students, themselves from economically disadvantaged families, earn salaries as of their first year of study. Through service learning and real life experience, students have the opportunity to work at the University-based rehabilitation programs.

Vocational Training Programs ( have affiliations with business sector employers (Al-Kafaàt is a member of the Commission for Vocational Training at the Association of Lebanese Industrialists), and training standards are set by market demands. There are two different pathways housed by this program: (1) Non-academic Vocational Programs: Qualifying students as operators in industry sectors, non-academic programs are organized into short training cycles of 9 months in duration, and (2) Formal Technical Education Programs:   Requiring three years of secondary education in technology prior to program commencement, these programs prepare students to be skilled industry technicians.

Technical training at Al-Kafaàt is embedded in real enterprise in Lebanon. For example, at the printing school, students execute jobs outsourced by the Al-Kafaàt-owned iPrint company. Students gain hands-on experience, which boosts their employment propensity. The profit from the sale of goods covers the training costs for students. Al-Kafaàt refers to this as the School-Enterprise model. The beneficiaries of vocational pathways are economically disadvantaged, young people considered to be at risk. However, after program completion, 76% of beneficiaries gain employment within three months after graduation.

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