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Beirut Blast Victim’s Foundation Helps Kids Stay in School

Krystel El-Adm had a love of life and a ready smile for everyone, her brother Cedric said. (Photos: Courtesy of Cedric El-Adm)

Out of Tragedy, Some Hope Comes

PROSPECT HEIGHTS — Two years after she was killed during the Port of Beirut explosion, Krystel El-Adm’s name lives on in the form of help given to students in Lebanon.

The Krystel El-Adm Foundation, established by her family six months after the explosion, provides scholarships to students and donates supplies to schools in the Middle East nation. The foundation, which has raised between $100,000 and $200,000 to date, also arranges for vision exams and eyeglasses for kids.

As the second anniversary of the explosion approached, Cedric El-Adm, Krystel’s brother, gave The Tablet an update.

Since its inception, the foundation has provided full scholarships to 120 students and has provided books, notepads, pens, and other supplies to 12 schools throughout Lebanon, helping some 1,500 kids. 

And the scholarships aren’t a one-time thing, he explained. 

“These are pupils that we follow year by year,” he said. “Obviously, the worst thing is to have them one year, and then if we can’t help them afterward, they’re out of school.”

The foundation, which subsists solely on donations, has launched a new project — raising $70,000 to retrofit school buildings with solar panels. Since the electrical grid in Lebanon is unreliable, as El-Adm explained, solar energy will ensure that schools continue to operate.

Krystel El-Adm, then 36 and head of the private banking division at the Bank of Beirut, was one of at least 200 people killed when ammonium nitrate stored at the port exploded on Aug. 4, 2020. More than 7,000 people were injured. The explosion caused an estimated $15 billion in damage to Beirut, leaving an estimated 300,000 people homeless, and collapsed buildings and shattered glass for miles around. 

Krystel, who lived in an apartment near the port, had just returned from donating a laptop computer to a neighborhood boy when the explosion happened. Her father, Dr. Nazih El-Adm, a cardiologist, rushed to the scene from his home on the outskirts of Beirut and held his dying daughter in his arms. After she was taken away via ambulance, he raced from hospital to hospital, frantically searching the morgues for her remains. He was eventually able to find her.

Krystel’s death haunts the El-Adms, who are Maronite Catholics and have been relying on their faith to cope. To this day, no one has been held accountable for the blast. Cedric, 43, said the foundation offers some measure of comfort to the family. 

A clock, set to the exact time the explosion took place, sits on the balcony of Krystel’s apartment. The Port of Beirut can be seen in the background.

It is dedicated to education because that was close to Krystel’s heart. 

“She always wanted to help kids,” her brother said. She had left a successful career with Goldman Sachs in Geneva to move back to Lebanon, where she had grown up, to help children who she believed would grow up to build a better future for the country.

Krystel’s family and friends had a monument to Krystel built in Daroun Harissa, a village outside Beirut. The funds for the memorial did not come from the foundation. The stone memorial contains a cross, an image of Krystel, and affirmations meant to inspire optimism. The family hopes it will be used as a space for prayer and meditation.

El-Adm described his late sister as “an amazing person” who loved water skiing and spending time in nature.

“She had a great quality which is that she never took things seriously,” he recalled. “She was very serious with the job, but she saw the fun side of life. That was something I really loved about her.”

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