Youth Participation – November 21 2020

Interview with Michel Rizk of SOS Children’s Villages Bhersaf, Lebanon and co-founder of the Go Green initiative.

The Go Green initiative was founded by young people to introduce improved recycling to their community in Lebanon. The initiative is part of the Youth Power programme supporting young changemakers in realizing innovative ideas that contribute to sustainable development. 19-year old Michel is one of the co-founders of the initiative.

      How have you come up with the Go Green initiative?

About a year ago, there were protests in the street, after which we felt we need to clean up and start recycling in a more sustainable way. We wanted to start to take action in our SOS Children’s Village and discussed our plans with the YouthCan! partnership for employability. We decided we would need to build partnerships and train others.

This is how the Go Green initiative was born.

What does Go Green do?

We started by teaching the children of the SOS Children’s Village Bhersaf how to recycle and take care of the environment. We decided to teach children to achieve lasting change and not repeat mistakes of previous generations. The trainings expanded and also included the caregivers and educators.

We conduct the trainings ourselves with the help of the YouthCan! Coordinator, who also supports us in building partnerships. Partners include the Spinneys grocery store, BiClean, Sanita, the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, and we also engage with the municipality.

Volunteers are at the heart of the initiative. Without them, it would not be possible to grow the Go Green initiative. There are eight volunteers of the initiative living in the SOS Children’s Village Bhersaf. This includes young people who can help keep the legacy, once we move out.

What are the next steps and the change you want to see?

The initiative is getting more and more integrated in the SOS Children’s Village. Every house has their own recycling monitoring system, to continuously teach the children. They are helping us this way to grow the initiative.

Due to the pandemic, we cannot access the houses as before, and instead receive feedback of progress via web calls.

Our objective is to make a change, even small actions can make a difference. Our ultimate aim is to create a movement. We would like to see a Green Committee within SOS Children’s Villages to evolve out of the initiative, in Lebanon and beyond. We would like to increase the number of participants, volunteers and children in the programmes who change their attitude and make recycling a habit of their daily lives.

It starts with small changes and is a step-by-step process.

Have there been any unexpected outcomes?

Yes, there have been positive and negative unexpected outcomes. It was great to see the positive reaction and engagement of the children and caregivers at the SOS Children’s Village Bhersaf. On the other hand, the difficult economic situation and the COVID-19 pandemic posed challenges for us. However, we try to adapt and do not stop because of these challenges.

What are your personal learnings?

I definitely gained confidence through engaging with so many people and teaching children and mothers at the SOS Children’s Village. It allowed me to be able to have dreams that I can pursue but also learn to be realistic.

Being a first-year student of social sciences at university, it is also a practical experience supporting my studies.

Learn more:

Find here also a video of the young people explaining the Go Green initiative.

About Youth Power: Youth Power is a programme for young changemakers – young people who are working on youth-led initiatives, trying to make a positive change in their lives and communities and contributing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The programme features a total of 18 initiatives led by young changemakers from across the globe aged 15-24 years old and offering them the opportunity to develop innovative ideas with peers, receive trainings, tools and support to drive for a more sustainable future. Youth Power is supported by Ashoka, ChangemakerXchange, Deutsche Post DHL and Allianz.

About YouthCan!: The global partnership empowers young people by helping them transition to independence and decent work. In 2019, it reached more than 5,000 young people in 31 countries around the world. For more information, click here.