JEDDAH: Student Lama Jamjoom wanted people to change the way they treated the environment, as well as putting an end to the Kingdom’s littering culture.
But she was bothered by the lack of initiatives as well as the lack of information on social media about opportunities to roll her sleeves up and get stuck in. So she used Instagram to introduce her ideas and started Cleanup Jeddah as a graduation project, although she did not expect the level of interest she received.
“It is not your litter, it is your planet. You have to take responsibility,” she told Arab News. “I felt like we needed an account that would spread awareness and be active with frequent events so I started this account and it just blew up.”
The Instagram account @cleanupcommunity_jed has 279 followers and around 30 people have volunteered in the fledgling initiative. She realized there were others like her, people who did not have the right tools to put their ideas into practice.
Shahad Jaber, who is 25, learned about Cleanup Jeddah through the “power” of social media. “I decided to participate because we have to do something for this planet," she told Arab News. "It is the only planet we will ever live on.” She urged people to dispose of their garbage correctly rather than leaving it on the street, telling them not to be lazy.
The first target for Cleanup Jeddah was a plot in Jeddah’s Muhammadiyah district. The goal of Jamjoom and her fellow volunteers was to clean it up and rid it of rotting garbage. They wore hi-vis vests and face masks to protect them from dust and debris as they went around the site picking up rubbish by hand. By the evening the group had filled 43 trash bags with waste.
Shahad Babtain, a 19-year-old student, found out about Jamjoom’s project through mutual friends. “We admired her efforts as we are also seniors and we have all gone through the struggle of personal projects so what she is doing is great,” she told Arab News. “I participated in the first event and it is always an honor to be volunteering for such a great cause.”
The Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan seeks to safeguard the environment by increasing the efficiency of waste management, establishing comprehensive recycling projects, reducing all types of pollution and fighting desertification. It says preserving the environment and natural resources fulfilled people’s Islamic, human and moral duties. Preservation was also a responsibility to future generations and essential to the quality of life, it adds.
“This isn’t a situation where adults are forcing you to clean up after yourself ... The adults are the ones throwing garbage and we are cleaning up after them,” Cleanup Jeddah volunteer and student Ghala Al-Hajri said about the Muhammadiyah blitz. “At the beginning, I thought I would be quite tired but instead it was a lot of fun to be with your friends and to actually have a feeling that you are doing good for your community.”
Jamjoom wanted the project to be successful enough to influence other people and eventually get the government support they needed as a group. She said she always heard people saying that it was not their garbage so why should they pick it up. “But in the end, the garbage is harming our home.”