A woman showing a group of students an exhibit about plastic pollution.

Harmony’s Voyage: Towards Sustainable Living by Racha Abou Chakra

Harmony's Voyage: Towards Sustainable Living

By Racha Abou Chakra

I feel a profound connection to the environment around me that would shape my journey in ways more harmonious with nature. My transformative experience began when I joined an international environmental project called “Out to Sea: The Plastic Garbage Project.” I was aware of the extent of the damage we face as approximately 80% of all marine pollution is composed of plastic, with an estimated 8 to 10 million metric tons of plastic entering the ocean annually, resulting in catastrophic effects on species diversity and socio-economic challenges. The ‘Out to Sea?’ exhibition provided awareness of the pollution caused by plastic garbage and rallied public consciousness towards responsible plastic usage. Since its debut in Zurich in 2012, the exhibition has toured Europe, enlightened the pollution threats, and motivated change. The exhibition’s success prompted the Drosos Foundation to extend its reach beyond European countries in 2014 and 2015 as it made its mark in the MENA region.

The project featured a collection of plastic debris gathered a year before the exhibition’s launch from the sea and its depths from north to south by a team of divers, local and scouting associations, and volunteers, aiming to inform the public of the magnitude of the hazard. The volume of plastic waste in the sea resonated as Lebanon struggles with inadequate waste plastic management systems and consumption habits. The project made a difference by targeting universities and schools to reach the younger generation, becoming a driver for change, establishing school awareness campaigns and notifying them through administrative departments and directors to visit the exhibition and explore the program’s content.

A woman showing a group of students an exhibit about plastic pollution.

I found myself at the heart of the improvement endeavor, which motivated me to contribute my best efforts towards the success of the campaign, driving me to engage in volunteering and internships with IndyAct, a local civil society organization dedicated to environmental, social, and cultural activism, implemented this project for a healthy, safe, and beautiful planet. My experience was more comprehensive than participating in executive administrative tasks. Additionally, I raised awareness about sustainable practices, empowered others to adopt more responsible behaviors regarding plastic usage, provided insights into plastic chemistry, and explained the lifecycle of plastic garbage in the sea, emphasizing the alarming transformation into microplastics that remain in marine environments and pose significant risks to human health and the aquatic environment. I provided alternative solutions, such as recycling methodologies like upcycling and downcycling and equipped students with the information and motivation to make appropriate choices. I also encouraged participation in panels and sessions led by expert panelists specializing in environmental fields in presentations to foster discussion, cooperation, and public engagement to raise awareness and advocate for positive change.

This journey taught me about the power of leadership, teamwork, and mentoring in addressing crises and sharing responsibilities toward community development to protect our environments and societies. I realized it was more than just an internship; it’s a healthy system accompanying us throughout our lives and touching every person as I conveyed my experience to my Canadian community while studying at the Centre for Skills Development and Training. I worked on presentations that included my involvement in collaboration with the teachers. This experience fueled my commitment to safeguarding our planet’s natural resources and the progress of my practical skills in administration and development. We can stand together at the water’s edge, united against plastic garbage pollution in lakes, rivers, seas, and oceans.

Story by Racha Abou Chakra
OCIC Associate Member

“The Mediterranean Sea holds a special place in my heart due to its profound connection to Lebanon, my homeland, which extends along its coast. As I gaze upon its shimmering surface, I am reminded of the countless memories made along its shores and the timeless beauty that inspires generations.”

Stories of Water and Change

In honor of World Water Day 2024, this online feature is dedicated to celebrating the profound connection between individuals and water, while shedding light on pressing global water issues. This diverse collection of personal narratives and photographs serves as a testament to the multifaceted relationships we share with this vital resource. As we immerse ourselves in these accounts, we are not only inspired by the depth of individual experiences but also reminded of the urgent need for collective action to safeguard our planet’s most precious resource.