The Jana Island beach cleanup is an extension of the work Bechtel volunteers have done with NCW, including a mangrove area cleanup on Abu-Ali Island and a cleanup to prepare for turtle nesting.
We recently sat down with Rami Halabi who organized the cleanup to discuss the details of the effort, including how the project got involved and their recognition from the NCW.
Interviewee: Rami Halabi (RH)
Interviewer: Lexi Corral (LC)
LC: Hi, my name is Lexi Corral from Bechtel's Corporate Affairs team, and today we are chatting with Rami Halabi. Rami works on the Jubail project, which was recently recognized by Saudi Arabia's National Center of Wildlife for their cleanup efforts. Thank you, Rami. It's great to chat with you.
RH: Thank you. It's my pleasure.
LC: I want to congratulate you on this wonderful recognition. Can you tell me more about what it is that you're being recognized for?
RH: We are being recognized by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Wildlife CEO. He is the CEO of wildlife for the whole Kingdom, and he recognized us for our volunteering effort in cleaning one of the protected islands, which is called Jana Island, which is near Jubail. It's like 45 kilometers outside of Jubail, so we took some boats to go to the island. We clean up the beach, and we did some scuba diving to clean up underwater on the National Day of Saudi Arabia. So, we did a small celebration about the national deficit of Saudi Arabia, so he recognized us for that effort on that day, specifically on the island, by Bechtel volunteers.
LC: Oh wow, that's awesome, and you did scuba diving. That's great that you in the ocean as well. So how did the National Center of wildlife find out about your volunteer efforts, and have you volunteered with them in the past?
RH: It all started in 2016. One other friend/colleague in Bechtel engaged them because of another event where it is a mangrove trees plantation. We had one protected area here in Jubail. They have some mangrove trees, so he went there to engage them about if they would like to have volunteers planting some mangrove trees. So, they really welcomed the idea, and then they got introduced to our team. And I was a member on the volunteering team that time. After that, when they visited the wildlife center in Jubail, I found out that there is a lot of marine life and a museum for marine life. There were skeletons, samples – everything. Then I introduced myself. I'm a scuba dive instructor, by the way. So, I introduced myself as scuba dive instructor and volunteer at Bechtel and that I really care about the ocean and about the beaches and about the environment – marine environment. They said we should do something later about the marine life and the beaches. This is where we became engaged and introduced our volunteering effort with Saudi wildlife.
LC: Great, that's awesome that you were also a scuba diver. So how did the Jubail project get involved in the Jana Island beach cleanup?
RH: After the mangrove plantation worked out well, they were really happy. They got like a lot of my credit on it because wildlife is their job to protect their areas, and Bechtel volunteers did well in the mangrove plantation. So they were really happy about us about how we are organized, how we are like providing a manpower. How we were really excited and doing the volunteering work, happily asking for nothing, only doing the good things there, so they said we should do more, and then I engaged them again. This is a message for anyone who would like to do volunteering effort. We can easily engage the entity who is concerned like we did with Saudi wildlife, for example. They care about the wildlife, the environment. So, we just jumped there. We said we are volunteers. We asked for nothing. We just came to help. And they offered the dive center here in Jubail and in Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia. They offered free gear for anyone who would like to clean the ocean. And Bechtel's volunteering group offered volunteers everything like snacks, transportation, and everything. They really welcome the idea, and they said, okay, let's do that, and they volunteer themselves with one boat, and we rented a very big boat for us. At the first event, we had 40 volunteers, and they had ten. We had 15 on the beach in 2016. So, we were divided as a group on the beach for cleanup, and then we had ten divers who would go under the water and did the cleanup from under the water. After that one, we got a lot of debris from the island and were called the year after that to participate. So, they were happy with us, and they said anytime you would like to do a cleanup, we can give you access to these protected areas. Because Jana Island is protected area, no one can land on that island because it's an island for turtle nesting. They have a season and for birds as well so. Like three times after that, and the last time was the Jana Island in National Day, which was in 2020.
LC: It seems like you have a great group of volunteers consistently through these efforts. So, what was your specific role in this effort?
RH: The first event, I was only arranging the boats, the scuba gears, and taking care of the scuba divers because the instructor arranged the access to the island with Saudi wildlife. After that, my colleague took over the event. Like the last three events, I was arranging it all with Saudi National Wildlife. So, we arrange the access with the Coast Guard to leave Jubail and access to the island because protected area and arrangement with the team. I have my team in here. We have we have two groups in Jubail. We have group called SRC, which is Social Responsibility Committee, and we have the NextGen, Jubail NextGen, so both are involved in this kind of event because we have a lot of volunteers. And we arranged the food tent because shared here is important. In Saudi, it's hot. And, also we rented some entertainment because you know people came from morning time doing cleanup. So, after finishing, we just chill out. We did some entertainment events like one time we brought like doughnut or Banana Boat so that the guys have fun after this huge effort.
LC: Great to have fun after volunteering your time. So how does the team feel being recognized for their volunteer work?
RH: Our volunteers always came with a good intent, and they are willing to help anytime. They were really happy with the event itself. But after this recognition came, they were happier because this is like in the Kingdom living, right? Some employees have been here for five, seven, ten years, and to receive something official from an official entity here in Saudi Arabia was good, and we were really excited for them to continue contributing in these kinds of events.
LC: That's great. So, are there any other cleanups or volunteer activities you participate in?
RH: Yeah, a lot for volunteering events, we just finished. You know that today is the last day of Ramadan month, and we did that like before Ramadan. We did something called Ramadan Basket, where we collect like essential food items for needy family like oil, rice, sugar. And we distributed to the needy families here in Jubail, and the employees participated in that as well. They did like a fund donation to cover hundred families, but our employees didn't let it go and reach over 140 families. That was good. Even before that, we did a cleanup, and in the mangrove area I mentioned earlier, we did plantation early in 2016, and that is really growing. But there is another area in the same island it called Abu-Ali Island. They have grown a mangrove area, and it's open to the sea area, and when it's open, there are these trees coming from the water, and there is a lot of debris coming with the waves like water bottles, fishing nets. These things stuck between those small trees, and these trees are to protect the small fish is small crabs, and this debris is really hurting them, so we did a cleanup in that area as well. So that's what we did so far in 2021. In 2020 we did the Jana Island cleanup, and we didn't do much in 2020 because of COVID. And we did also like a mangrove cleanup on Jana cleanup and the year before that. So, these two events were like constant events every year with Saudi wildlife. We did beach adopting here in Jubail, where it's easy, so we don't have to take boats or ride to islands. So, we have a beach here in Jubail; whenever we get volunteers, we go there, and that is close. It's like 10 minutes from the accommodation, and we did clean up in that area.
LC: It seems like you guys have a ton of opportunities to volunteer your time, specifically with beaches, so I completely understand why you guys were recognized by Saudi Arabia's National Center wildlife for your cleanup efforts. Is there anything else you would like to add?
RH: Yeah, just for anyone who would like to volunteer. Just don't be afraid or hesitate to contact entities like wildlife because this is win for them and for us as well. For them, when we clean up the beach, they get like a lot of achievement by the area prepared for them like one year when we did the turtle nesting, we clean the whole area for turtle nesting, and they have like percentage increased in in their turtle nesting that year. And they get achievement. And for us, we get access for protected areas we would never get in as if we go and engage and talk to these guys. So, there is opportunities everywhere you can just go engage and ask for it, and everyone will be happy for volunteering. Volunteering is a free effort and win, win.
LC: Always want to volunteer, so thank you so much, Rami, for sharing about the great work you are all doing in Jubail, and congratulations again on your recognition.
RH: You're welcome, and thank you for the opportunity.
LC: I hope you enjoyed listening to Rami discuss his volunteer efforts amongst our other Bechtel colleagues and how they earned the wonderful recognition from Saudi Arabia's National Center of Wildlife. I'm Lexi Corral, and thank you for listening.