Jihad Hendawi - Community Partner Interview

  • May 5, 2022

Jihad is a 3rd generation Palestinian refugee living in Lebanon. Lebanon is going through one of the most difficult periods in its history following the Beirut port explosion, rampant corruption and spiraling inflation. As a refugee Jihad is barred from fully participating in public life, and yet, in partnership with the Beach Collective he and a team of his friends have been cleaning the beaches up and down the Lebanese coastline. Our Director of Partnerships Rob caught up with him here:  

Q. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
I'm a Palestinian, 26 years old psychology student, born and raised in Lebanon. I consider Lebanon as my second country. I’ve been a part of social work and community serveries my whole life, ever since my parents started a Palestinian Lebanese scout troop called Yaabad scouts 15 years ago, and I’ve worked with different educational and social organization including the UN and Seenaryo, and many others. 
Q. What has your partnership with the Beach Collective enabled you to do?
I’m very concerned about the community I live in and I enjoy making it a better place, especially during this tough situation that the country is going through. My partnership with the Beach Collective has enabled me to make a change in the community and the environment that I live in. This has had a positive effect on the community, not only because they now have clean beaches, but also because it has given them hope. It has also made me proud of myself and my work.
Q. What does it mean to be third generation Palestinian Refugee?
It’s never a good thing to be any type of refugee, but it’s even stranger and harder to explain to be a refugee in a country you were born in and raised in and even your parents were born in and raised in. It doesn’t feel like I’m a refugee most of the times because I lived my whole life in this country. In fact it’s the only country I’ve ever lived in - I’ve never been to Palestine, so Lebanon is my country as well. That’s how I feel about it and most of the Lebanese think the same way. It’s only when it comes to legal issues that I remember that I’m a refugee, because the Lebanese laws are very harsh on the Palestinians. For instance there are many jobs that Palestinians are not allowed to do, we are not allowed to own properties in our own names, in addition to many other unjustified laws.
Q. Where were you during the Beirut port explosion? What can you remember that day?  
I was at my parents’ house in Saida so I was nowhere near the port or any of my family thanks to god, but even from Saida we were able to hear the explosion. Right after the sound there was a total silence for a couple of minutes and after that I remember how worried and scared everyone was and we were all making phone calls to friends and family. It was a very sad day and a trauma to the whole country.
Q. What is it like to live in hyperinflation?
I never really understood what hyperinflation was up until it happened in Lebanon, and I was never concerned with economics so I’m not familiar with the causes or the economic consequences. But I know that prices are higher than ever and it keeps on getting higher by the hour. The country currency is worthless: you can have a wallet filled with money but with no value. Everyone is suffering from it. Many people have lost their life savings, and every month there is a shortage in some of the basic needs such as fuel, electricity and bread. You can find lines of people waiting for their basic needs everywhere, from stores to gas stations to bakeries, and the worst part is that it doesn’t feel like it’s coming to an end any time soon.  
Q. When did you first learn about climate change? And how aware is an average person about it in Lebanon?
I can’t remember how old I was when I first learned about climate change, but I know that I’ve had classes and workshops about it ever since I was in elementary school, and I think that everyone that went to school gets some education about climate change. But some people just start being less concerned with it, and other people that didn’t go to school might not know about it, that’s why we need more awareness campaigns and workshops to spread awareness for those who don’t know and remind the ones that do.
Q. How do people in your community react when they see you cleaning the beaches?   
As I said before it’s very rewarding for the community to have its environment cleaned and so usually we get a very positive reaction and people encourage us and motivate us. Me and the team always enjoy those good comments because it makes us feel appreciated and proud.
Q. Where would you like to go next with the partnership?
I’d love to lead more projects in my next role, and maybe lead more teams as well. I’ve enjoyed leading a team to clean our community, but I think maybe we can do this on a bigger scale. Lebanon has many beaches and a coastline that goes all the way from its north to its south. Right now our main focus is the beaches in Saida and around because it’s more convenient for the current team. But maybe in the future we will be able to have multiple teams in coastal cities like Beirut and Tripoli. I could manage those teams and have multiple projects going on in different cities.
Q. If you had $10,000 of funding what would you do?
I would try to solve one problem that I think is causing a lot of trash and making our cleanups less effective, which is not having recycling bins on most of Lebanon’s beaches. As a result beach visitors have less options for where they can throw their trash; sometimes we go to a location that we cleaned a couple weeks before and it’s all dirty again. I think if we placed some recycling bins that separate plastic, paper, metal and glass with Beach Collective logos on them, on different beaches in Lebanon, and we made sure to pick them up once each week then we could have a real impact. The material could be distributed to different recycling institutions, and we can make some awareness campaigns in the areas we place the bins to encourage people to use them. This would make a big difference firstly by making our cleanups more effective and secondly by reducing littering. But it would also be a way to raise awareness about the Beach Collective and what they are doing.
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