By Sally Bisharat, Communications Specialist at Generations For Peace

Environmental issues are a huge concern in Jordan. Desertification, waste management, air pollution, and water scarcity are some of the challenges facing the country, and the impacts of climate change are likely to further exacerbate the problem.

The negative effects of climate change are already here and getting worse. Beyond the increase in temperature, climate change is affecting the ecosystem, agriculture, water, and human health. Even though the government has set certain policies and measures to help protect the environment, the true foundation lies in the awareness of the population and relevant organisations.

Born to a Jordanian family in Al Balqa’a governorate, Majdoleen Salahat lived a happy childhood with her three sisters and brother. She recalls the days her parents would take her and her siblings to play in the nearby fields and enjoy the beauty of the area in which they lived. These experiences have developed a deep connection in Majdoleen with the environment and the outdoors which increased her awareness of how to take care of it.

Majdoleen’s passion for nature opened her eyes to the role she plays in preserving it. Therefore, she decided to study Agricultural Engineering in university as she believes this sector is both a scientific and a humanitarian career. She spent her time learning about the land and how she can contribute to its benefit as a professional and a citizen.

After graduation, Majdoleen was not able to secure a job immediately so she joined several volunteer organisations in support of her community. However, last year a chance encounter sparked Majdoleen’s interest in volunteering with Maharati Programme (“My Skills Programme”) which is implemented by the Jordanian Ministry of Youth in partnership with UNICEF Jordan and Generations For Peace. While scrolling through Facebook one day, she came across a post highlighting the programme and its work in promoting lasting positive behaviour-change in youth. She was inspired to join in hopes of finding a new way to spread her message about preserving the environment.

After participating in a set of trainings which focused on using creativity to spread awareness in communities about local problems, Majdoleen received the tools and knowledge needed to contribute to her community. “The most important skill I learned from these sessions was creativity. I enjoyed how the content was delivered in a unique way which encouraged me to think outside of the box,” says Majdoleen.

Through her research, Majdoleen found that plastic pollution is one of the most pressing environmental issues in Jordan, especially in regards to climate change. Therefore, along with a few other volunteers, Majdoleen launched the “Exchange for the Sake of our Country” initiative, which aims at reducing plastic waste by urging people to use fabric bags instead of plastic ones in grocery stores to help save the environment. The bags used included drawings with inspiring messages to encourage local citizens to make the switch.

Fellow volunteer drawing awareness raising designs on the bags

The project received a lot of support and acceptance from the community. Over 250 bags were distributed to different stores and people immediately started using them instead of the plastic bags.

“I was so happy with the positive reaction to our initiative! Many people have reached out to us asking for the bags when the stores ran out of them,” says Majdoleen.

Despite the challenges the volunteers faced during COVID-19, including a delay in the start of the project implementation, the volunteers were able to preserve and used this time to improve their digital skills and spread their message online during the lockdown.

Majdoleen and her fellow volunteers hope that their initiative will expand to reach other cities and communities in hopes of teaching environmental awareness and empowering people to make their own decisions about how to protect the local environment.

“Volunteering really broadened my view on the world and encouraged me to live a more sustainable lifestyle,” says Majdoleen. “It taught me the importance of each individual doing their part to protect the environment for the generations to come.”