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Assem Badreddine (right) with Robert Andonian during a garbage collection drive at a beach in Dubai. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Lebanese expat living in Dubai is going all out to make the UAE a better place to live. And he is doing it by launching an initiative Brighter 11 that takes up a number of causes within UAE — all with one intention — to make the Emirates a cleaner and better environment to live in.

Born and raised in Dubai, Assem Badreddine, 17, is the co-founder of the initiative. “It was a small project to start off. I live in Springs 11 and so the name Brighter 11 came about. My initial plan was to keep our community clean. But soon I got more volunteers who expressed interest and we started venturing out of Springs.”

Passion for Dubai

Badreddine said he has always been passionate taking action on things to help Dubai a better city. “My friends and I have been working closely with Dubai Municipality too to work on some community projects. For example, we have been addressing the issue with stray cats, car washing, its polluting effects on the lake among other things.”

The young Lebanese expat joined hands with another friend Robert Andonian, 16, an Armenian expat to co-found the initiative and take it to the next level. “The main reason for the project has outgrown itself. From a neighbourhood clean-up we have taken it citywide.”

The boys and their volunteers have been busy in Dubai beaches every weekend. “It’s the perfect weather in Dubai and we know a lot of people will be heading out to the beach. And so we have launched a drive to help keep Dubai beaches clean.”

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The boys and their volunteers have been busy in Dubai beaches every weekend. Image Credit: Supplied

“As an ardent environmentalist, I am a firm believer that we are the last generation with the opportunity to save the world. Since industrialisation kicked off and the globe has functioned towards almost solely economic objectives, it has been at the cost of the environment, causing it to dwindle rapidly. The primary objective in my career, going forward in my life will be to promote environmentally friendly commerce and enterprise, and to strive towards environmental preservation and excellence.”

And so Brighter 11 launched its first ever project — Beach Cleanup Group (BCG Dubai). “We have hosted a number of beach clean ups already and more are planned. In fact we plan to head out every weekend for the next couple of months as we know the beach will get busy.”

He said: “With Dubai’s exponential development, litter has filled the shores of the city. The cigarette butts for example strewn all over the beaches is disastrous to the ocean and marine life. Not just that it does not leave a pretty picture of Dubai’s beaches. And so we are working hard for this.” “If we don’t act now, then when?”.

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Volunteers in the beach cleanup drive. Image Credit: Supplied

According to Badreddine, what was more heartening was the kind of support he received from a group of Dubai students between the age 11 to 25. “Together we took steps towards making our community a better place. Last weekend we had five bags full of garbage from a Dubai beach mostly ripped pieces of plastic and disposables, food packets, water bottles.

“Despite the fact that we had to limit the amount of participants due to COVID-19 restrictions, we didn’t let that get in the way, and were focused on the goal — not the obstacles, as per our philosophy. This is only the start for us, and we will continue to strive towards excellence. For the next few weeks, we will continue to host weekly beach cleanups along the shores of Dubai. The next beach cleanup will be on December 18 at Kite Beach,” he said with much pride.

Future plans for the young expats

“We will be heading to Fujairah. We plan to host beach cleanups in Fujairah where garbage pollution is even more of an issue. Being an open water scuba diver myself, we will also be doing an underwater cleanup, where licenced volunteers along with myself will come together for this purpose. I have seen the impact of garbage on marine life first hand in my past scuba trips in the UAE, and have been keen on making a change on this ever since.”

Other than hosting cleanups, Brighter 11 also has other ambitious plans in the future. “We are currently planning a large food drive for the less fortunate workers of Dubai, where we will provide food to them after the Friday prayer at a mosque (funded by online donations). We also plan to make this a series, where we host the food drive at a different mosque each time. This is of high importance to the vision of the organisation as the less fortunate workers of Dubai, especially the blue collared workers, are a significant part of the communities.”