The climate champions who saved a beach

5 June 2019

Young people clean a beach in Lebanon

Young people clean the beach in Aamchit, Lebanon. Photo: Pavel Blaha / CAFOD

Around the world, people are being inspired by the #trashtag campaign on social media. To celebrate World Environment Day we tell the story of some young people in Lebanon who took it one step further.

Weekend beach clean

On a hot day in May, a group of over 50 young people gathered in the seaside town of Aamchit. They were not there to do usual beach activities – go for a swim, play volleyball or attend a beach party. Instead, armed with bin bags, gloves and litter pickers, they were there to do a beach clean.

“Garbage is a huge problem in Lebanon, especially on beaches."

Peter Mahrouz, a Field Coordinator for Caritas Lebanon

“Garbage is a huge problem in Lebanon, especially on beaches,” explains Peter Mahrouz, a Field Coordinator for Caritas Lebanon, who had helped organise the event. “The whole idea today is to have the beach accessible and ready to use by people in Aamchit. Yesterday we cleaned the stairs to the beach and today we are cleaning the garbage.”

Join our climate lobby on 26 June

The young people, who included students from International College Beirut and young Syrian refugees who live in the area, opted to give up their weekend to collect bags of rubbish and clear walkways because many want a change. They believe this is a practical way they can help improve their environment.

Plastic bottles lying on a stony beach

Plastic bottles on the beach in Aamchit. Photo: Pavel Blaha / CAFOD

Many feel disappointed by the attitude of other people in their country, especially after the garbage crisis of 2015. A lack of collections led to streets being impassable due to rubbish, much of which was eventually burned or buried. The environmental effects are still being felt today.

“People in Lebanon are irresponsible. They think the garbage will go away in the water. It makes me angry. It is my country too,” says Jessica Tawk, a 17-year-old volunteer from Caritas Youth.

A space for everybody to use

Many beaches in Lebanon are private – meaning you have to pay to access them. This beach, littered with rubbish, is one of the few public beaches in the local area.

“Public beaches are not common in Lebanon”, explains Peter, “many families cannot afford to pay for the entrance. This beach will be free to use, and now that it is clean of rubbish, they can spend their time here.”

Changing attitudes to the environment

Following the beach clean, the group helped to establish a memorandum of understanding with the Aamchit Town Municipality to help secure the sustainability of this project. The local council will ensure that the area remains clean and they have also promised to recruit a caretaker to maintain the condition of the beach.

"I hope that people will see what we have done, and it will inspire them to be more responsible and take an action."

Jessica, Caritas Youth Volunteer

Jessica is hopeful for the future. She believes that the example of young people working together around the world will prompt further action.
“‘The image of young Lebanese and Syrian people working together is important to bring our communities together," she says. "I hope that people will see what we have done, and it will inspire them to be more responsible and take an action.”

This project was undertaken as part of Youth Resolve, a programme supported by CAFOD and Caritas Lebanon, and funded by the EU 'MADAD Fund', which aims to bring young Lebanese and Syrian people together to improve social cohesion.

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