I'm not the first person to say it, and I'm not the last person I'll hear say it. While in Dubai to help my family pack up and move to quaint J-town, I have spoken to at least two non-Saudis this week alone say how much they love Jeddah.
I like the paradoxes more than anything. Similar to noticing babies everywhere when a family member is pregnant, it opened my eyes to how the whole world uses just as much doublethink.
At about this time last year, an interest I didn't realize I had manifested. I started subscribing to eco-friendly news and keeping up with the founders of Friends of Jeddah Parks¹ and Muwatana². It got serious when I revamped the environmental club at Effat and founded Faseelah³ about five months later. Since then, the extent of Saudi productivity has been gaining my understanding of it, especially when it comes to the environment.
Muslims (and thus, Saudis) know it's important to be a grateful for nature, so it isn't startling for kind-hearted initiatives to sprout amongst diurnal protocol. However, maintenance has been monetarily produced in Jeddah for as long as can be remembered by the recent generations.
And without sustainable maintenance, there's little chance for improvement. Little chance of growth or change. Evolution isn't something planned in Saudi, it's spontaneous. An act of God, if you will.
Saudis, and correct me if you don't agree, are a passionate people who get swept off their feet easily by marriage, careers, status, mingling, etc., so the initiatives tend to dwindle and die out.
I've been contemplating registering Faseelah as its own organization, so I head over to the JCCI⁴ website to see if they have any information on who to contact. To my pleasant surprise, they had a "Health-Environment" circular!
|Last one dating December 14, 2006|
So I see there's a specialized center for social responsibility. It's probably for businesses that are already up and running, and it was, but I thought I'd check it out anyway.
|I didn't see any followup to these activities|
It happens a lot, but not because they're stagnant. I've noticed PR isn't a prominent strength here.
Many people I speak to don't even know that Saudi Wildlife⁵ exists or that Saudi Arabia has many nature reserves.
Old dogs [apparently] don't learn new tricks around here, but a fresh wave coming with the Saudi Green Building Council⁶ and Saudi Water Savers⁷ (amongst many many many others) are embracing the power of interaction with its followers and following through personally.
There are many posts to come about each of the organizations, eco-happenings, and Faseelah updates.
* In all fairness, I did find some general information and random applications (which were hard to find) that could be helpful later.
¹ Friends of Jeddah Parks (FJP) is a non-profit organization that lobbies for parks to be built in Jeddah. They mostly find pieces of land in high-risk neighborhoods that were originally intended to be parks and, when given permission, raise funds to build and maintain interactive communities. They've already built three successfully, and I'll leave more information for another post. Check out their site and Facebook page.
² Muwatana is a non-profit organization under the umbrella of the JCCI that focuses on volunteerism in Saudi. "Muwatana" (مواطنة) means "citizenship". It's an acronym for Mushārakah (مشاركة), Walā' (ولاء), 'Amānah (أمانة), Ṭamūḥ (طموح), Namū (نمو), Taṭwīr (تطوير). Which means participation, allegiance, trust, ambition, growth, development (respectively).
³ Faseelah is my organization based in Effat University for the Effat community. It's based on the principles of Islamic environmentalism, with its name being derived from a hadith which states the importance of planting a date palms sapling (a very long process that we'll get into later) in regards to the day of judgement. The site and Facebook page are coming soon.
⁴ JCCI, the Jeddah Chamber of Commerce and Industry, is where a lot of volunteer organizations start. I'm not sure why they're always under their umbrella, but there you go. Most initiatives are started up by women, and the AlSayedah Khadijah Bint Khowailed (AKBK) center helps train and support women's startup businesses. The people who are responsible for the center tend to know the founders of organizations (this may not be the reason, but it's the pattern. Correct me if you know otherwise).
⁵ Saudi Wildlife is (correct me if I'm wrong, please) a company that mostly takes people to nature reserves and raises awareness about the environment. They supported Earth Hour Jeddah '10, are associated with the World Wide Fund for nature, and are supported by the National Commission for Wildlife Conservation and Development. Check out their site and YouTube channel.
⁶ Saudi Green Building Council is a non-profit NGO under the Saudi Environmental Society (yeah, we have one of those). Active on Facebook with links and news, they have potential. Check out their site and Facebook page.
⁷ Saudi Water Savers is a governmental initiative led by the Ministry of Water & Electricity in collaboration with a number of big companies. So far, they have held seemingly scattered and vague campaigns, but their website is pretty. I met the deputy of the Ministry of Water & Electricity, who was very enthusiastic to listen to my colleague's very blunt criticism of what can be done to make the campaigns stronger. Check out their site and Facebook page.