Water project unites Lebanon clubs across all divides

A student in Lebanon enjoys clean drinking water at his school, the result of a project by the country’s Rotary clubs to replace old water tanks and purify the water with new filters.

A project to provide clean water to all of Lebanon’s schools is uniting leaders from many of the country’s diverse religious, cultural, and political divisions.

In 2011, Rotary members in northern Lebanon decided to install new tanks and water filters in a few nearby schools with the help of a Rotary Foundation grant. The idea caught on and a few other clubs followed suit.

Two years later, District 2452 Governor Jamil Mouawad and other district leaders saw the potential of creating one giant water project that could reach every school and involve all 24 of the country’s Rotary clubs. They formed a committee to handle publicity and gather technical knowledge, while each club was asked to provide volunteers, contribute funds, apply for grants, and secure contributions from outside organizations.

“Every student has the right to drink clean water. It goes without saying that clean drinking water leads to less diseases, healthier students, and consequently, better education,” says Mouawad. “The bigger the challenge, the greater its positive impact on humanity.”

While clean water is the main objective, the leaders also saw the effort as a means of helping heal Lebanon’s long history of sectarian strife. A civil war divided the country from 1975 to 1990, leaving an estimated 120,000 people dead. In recent years, Lebanon’s government is a shifting coalition of religions, political parties, and sects.

Lina Shehayeb, president of the Rotary Club of Aley, is a Druze by faith. Shehayeb says working alongside club members who are Catholic, Maronite, Greek Orthodox, Armenian Orthodox, and Muslim to promote the project has deepened her understanding of those with different religious or political views.

 “We are building peace and understanding,” she says. “There has never been anything quite like this in our country.”


 
 
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