I know I've done my fair share of complaining about how dirty, unkempt, full of rubble, and run-down parts of Jeddah can be, so a couple of days ago I decided to put my money where my mouth is and joined in with a group of Jeddah's youth to clean up a beach here. The event was organized by Jeddah's Young Initiative Group (YIG), which evaluates where there are needs in the community and then seeks to help or make improvements.
My husband thought I was nuts for going out in the late afternoon heat (it's still hitting the low 100s here), and I was probably the oldest person there helping, but he did drive me there, since I cannot drive in this country simply because I am a woman. This two-hour clean-up campaign covered a stretch of sandy beach along the Corniche on the Red Sea where there are swings for children and not much of anything else. The beach was littered with soda cans and pop tops, plastic eating utensils, paper, plastic bags, shards of broken glass, cardboard boxes, straws, and other various types of debris. The water's edge was afloat with lots of seaweed, which was also removed by our group.
Participating men and women were divided into small work groups and were assigned to work in separate segregated areas, so that there would be no hanky panky happening while we were all there working and sweating, plus there were several police patrol cars on hand to ensure there was no gender mixing. My group had a couple of female medical students from Batterjee Medical College, a reporter from the Saudi Gazette and her sister who was a teacher, and an adorable 7 year old who had volunteered to help along with her older brother. We were all provided with plastic gloves and large garbage bags. There were also a few rakes on hand for those brave souls who waded into the water to collect the seaweed.
Luckily there was a slight breeze which staved off the heat, but that breeze also caused us all to be lightly dusted in a coating of fine sand which then clung to my sweaty face. Nice and gritty!
As someone who has witnessed firsthand how many of Jeddah's residents litter as if someone else will come along and pick up after them, I think educating the residents, young and old, to this problem is key. When I first moved here three years ago, I was appalled at the filth and litter here. I remember sitting in a car in a parking lot and seeing a young boy get out of the back seat of a huge GMC Yukon. The front window rolled down and the boy's mother handed him a load of garbage (McDonald's fast food), which he then proceeded to just throw on the ground in front of our car! I was shocked and disgusted. And there was a garbage can sitting on the sidewalk about ten feet away! This kid's mother is the problem for not teaching her son about taking pride in his city and keeping our planet clean.
At over 400 members and growing, YIG has been instrumental in filling in the gaps in this community where there may not be social causes or government organizations actively solving the many problems and issues of this city. "Cleaning the Streets of Jeddah" is one of their ongoing programs, along with "Emergency Medical Help Assistance," "Fixing Under-Privileged People's Homes," "Teaching Orphans," and "Distributing Essential Home Appliances."
If you are interested and able to offer your help by volunteering your time or donating equipment or money for any of these worthwhile projects, you can find YIG's contact information on this page.
Here is the link to an Arab News article about the Anti-Litter Clean-Up event I participated in, and here is a link to the Saudi Gazette article about it as well.