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AUAB Airmen are “Good Neighbors” through environmental volunteerism

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Jenna Lenski
  • 379th Air Expeditionary Wing, Public Affairs

Each year more than 1 million sea birds and hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, whales and other marine mammals die from ocean pollution. Manmade marine debris, rather our trash, is being ingested by or entangling animals throughout the world. The number one culprit, plastic, makes up approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean’s surface, according to EcoWatch, a leading environmental news source.

Airmen deployed to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, helped contribute to their host nation’s environmental cause by cleaning up the beach of Al Jemaal, Qatar, Nov. 19, 2017.

The Airmen teamed up with Doha Environmental Actions Project to pick up trash at the UNESCO-protected, old fishermen’s village in northern Qatar.

Jeanne Bedard, an expatriate hailing from Canada and founder of the Doha Environmental Actions Project, has been living in Qatar for two years. She’s enjoyed everything the Arab country has to offer, especially exploring the outdoors of her temporary home country.

While snorkeling in the Persian Gulf, she noticed the incredible amount of trash floating through what should be clear, cerulean salt water.
“It's a global environmental problem,” said Bedard. “Plastic in the ocean doesn't really stop at border rights.”

A dietician by profession, Bedard sprang into action by cleaning up beaches and other natural environments she visited. Through spreading awareness for environmental preservation, animal protection and personal health effects of pollution, she created a following of more than 1,000 people from more than 25 different countries who live in Qatar.

Since founding the Doha Environmental Actions Project, Bedard and other volunteers have conducted over 30 clean-ups and collected nearly 1,200 bags of trash.

Master Sgt. Marina Espinoza, first sergeant with the 379th Expeditionary Operations Support Squadron here, reached out to Bedard knowing what a difference Airmen could make in joining the environmental clean-up effort.

Motivated by her own passion for environmental awareness, Espinoza, who is a member of the Desert Diamonds First Sergeant Council, worked with another on-base council called Jar Saleh to organize the event.

Jar Saleh, which translates from Arabic to “good neighbor,” is an organization at AUAB that strives to develop good public relations between members of the coalition community and the local population by working in concert with the stated goals of the U.S. Embassy in Doha.

Eighty-nine “good neighbors” from AUAB reached out and participated in the clean-up. In just a few hours, a significant expanse of the area, once littered with netting, bottles, ragged articles of clothing, cigarette butts and aluminum cans, looked like an image from a beachscape calendar.

As the sun set and peaked through the sand-colored abandoned buildings in the village, the Airmen walked back to their starting point.
The event boasted a collection of 220 bags of trash that were scheduled to be picked up by Qatar’s Ministry of Municipality and Environment.

Bedard hopes to make an impact on Qatar’s growing interest in environmental awareness.

“When people see that we are expats and that we're not necessarily here for a long time, but that we do care, [hopefully they will care],” Bedard said. “Because at the end of the day this is not just a local concern.”

As Airmen rotate in and out of AUAB continually, Espinoza’s hope is that Jar Saleh will continue to help with Qatar’s environmental clean-up efforts and foster the relationship with Doha Environmental Actions Project.

“Somebody needs to take over this effort on the next rotation,” Espinoza said. “It’s too important of an issue to ignore.”