29 August 2005
by Sara Dominoni
I joined the UNV Programme as an intern few weeks ago. And I wouldn’t miss the chance to experience a real event “on the field”. And 11,000 volunteers apparently were thinking the same.
Last 22-23 July, thousands of volunteers trooped to the Syrian coast – from Lattakia to Tartous – and took part in a national campaign on environmental awareness, starting with cleaning up its 175-kilometre beach.
Organized by the MAS Economic Group, a private company, in cooperation with local government of Damascus and other volunteer-involving organizations from all around the country, the event is considered as the most extensive environmental campaign because it ranges from Syria’s borders to Lebanon on the north to Turkey, to the south.
When the campaign was first presented to me, I was a little skeptical, especially because the plan was to leave very early in the morning, a daunting task especially on a weekend. But I thought it would be a good occasion to meet other volunteers and witness volunteerism in my host country. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I made in a long time.
We started moving very early in the morning, travelling some 360 kilometers to Lattakia from Damascus.
Once in Lattakia, I was really surprised to see all those buses parked -- at least 100 of them! Indeed a lot of people have decided to join the campaign. I felt immediately excited to be part of it. Soon the coordinators assigned a particular beach in the city surroundings to be cleaned by each different group. Our UNV bus, followed by another group, travelled to Al-Sanaubar beach, another 20 kilometres.
By the time we reached our destination, we were all ready and impatient to start the job. However, a surprise was waiting for us: the beach was huge, at least four to five kilometres, and completely filled with rubbish. T-shirts and caps with the campaign logo, in addition to plastic bags and plastic gloves were then provided to everyone before we embarked in our tasks.
I hadn’t realize until that moment how long the day would be and how hard it would be working in the increasing heat. We all exchanged meaningful glances: the job was tough to accomplish but nothing would stop us!
Exhausted but happy, after many hours of work under the hot Syrian sun at about three p.m., we were led back to the stadium, where we finally pulled ourselves together and relaxed for a while, thanks to a delicious packet-lunch and cold drinks. On the way back to Damascus we were all very tired but I could breath the lovely atmosphere of complicity that we built up during the day.
Looking back to that day I remember all the friendly faces I’ve met, conversations and opinions we shared about the great importance of volunteering to sustain the environment.
Of course, the aim of the campaign was to minimize the negative effect of garbage on marine life, by cleaning up the trash the effects of such efforts are not sustainable. In fact, proposal was to promote public’s awareness on the various environmental problems.
I believe that the campaign was particularly successful as it promoted the spirit of volunteerism, revitalized interaction amongst young people and stressed the necessity of protecting the environment from pollution.
Nobody will easily forget this event that perfectly matched commitment and solidarity with good fun!
Sara Dominoni is currently doing her internship with UN Volunteers in Syria.