TORONTO -- After the massive explosion in Beirut nearly three weeks ago that left 135 people dead and about 300,000 homeless, a Lebanese-Canadian business leader has travelled to his home country to offer help on the ground.  

Mohamad Fakih, the CEO of the Lebanese cuisine franchise Paramount Fine Foods, initially thought he could help the people of Beirut by cooking meals or providing food supplies. However, he said the aid required in Beirut extends beyond warm meals.

“People are giving sandwiches but people do not want food,” he told CTV’s Your Morning on Monday from Beirut.

“It’s not food, its not supplies, it’s just rebuilding and at least putting up doors or glass onto windows and restructuring homes again.”

Fakih is currently on a five-day trip in his home town of Beirut with the newly-organized Lebanese Canadian Coalition (LCC) working to fundraise $2.5 million that will aid in rebuilding the many homes that were destroyed by the blast.

“We are giving away tarps for people to cover their windows and their doors so they’re able to sleep inside and people are saying ‘why would you give me food supplies if I don’t have a kitchen? How will I use the oil and the rice?’ …It’s heartbreaking,” he said.

While some Beirut residents have told Fakih they are grateful to be alive, the scramble to rebuild the city is only elevated by the already struggling economy and ongoing pandemic.

Lebanon has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases since the explosion as more than 400 cases were added on Sunday, bringing the total 8,881.

Fakih said since his arrival to Beirut he has been reminding others to take precautions from the virus. However, he said many are more worried about having lost their homes or tending to their injuries from the explosion.

“The Lebanese are in dire need, a lot of time is needed here before they can go back to even 50 per cent of their normal life,” he said.

The LCC has raised $430,000 in funds so far. Fakih said they are hoping to not only reach their goal but have other organizations and countries try to match it.