Egyptian Teen Helps Change School Mindset and Create Green Club
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Egyptian Teen Helps Change School Mindset and Create Green Club

The Climate Leaders Fellowship program teaches students about climate change and environmental sustainability, and guides them in designing and launching a volunteer project in their own communities.

The online program is offered in a collaboration between the Stanford University Deliberative Democracy Lab and the Rustic Pathways Foundation.

Read our interview with Jana below.

Jana Zaki
Age 16
Metropolitan International School
Cairo, Egypt

Tell us about yourself!

Hello, I’m Jana Zaki, a junior in high school who is driven by her extreme passion for sustainability, and climate forward actions. As an Egyptian who also happens to be 16 years old, it is hard to have a word put out in the world that would inspire and aspire others around me to follow the path of going green, therefore I’m willing to take upon the challenge. This challenge is something we all face on a daily basis, and for the first time I’m proud of my competitive personality. This time it plays out as an advantage of allowing me to help the environment around me.

My interest in the environment and its ongrowing dilemma was heightened after my trip to the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP 27 last year here in Egypt. As an egyptian citizen I was enlightened with joy knowing that my country and my people have finally started to recognize the crisis that is occurring globally. From there my passion and love for the earth arose. I hope to incorporate as many people into acts of service that would allow the earth to recover from all the pollution we are contributing. Therefore I believe that hosting events such as shown in the pictures are what change society!

What specific problem were you addressing in your community?

My community suffers from a severe lack of knowledge on the climate crisis occurring in our nation, therefore addressing the issue and putting out a call to action plan immediately after was the best solution.

Both food waste and air pollution are two things our country suffers from the most. Resources are being thrown out into the streets and food isn’t being eaten or decomposed well. These dilemmas don’t only affect the health of the planet but also the purity of the hearts of the country’s citizens. “How could you wake up knowing that you’re part of the reasoning behind this crisis we’re all facing?” is a question I frequently asked people, and I believe this changed many mindsets.

What did you do for your project?

My group and I were delighted to get permission from our school principal to host an event regarding our very first green club in our school. Our beautiful campus was open to the community and many people were invited to help throughout the process.

We hosted an Iftar (fast-breaking meal) during the holy month of Ramadan in order to connect the community, then followed by presentations on how they should recycle the materials used for the catering. This experience was encouraging. It showed what each citizen could possibly do in their daily lives right after eating lunch. The learning process followed many activities that “motivated the society and students” as said by one of the parents, to start thinking green!

Which groups of people did you try to get to engage with your project?

Our project targeted teenagers in our community, at the very end we are youth! We are the future! Educating the young community is the solution towards a better future, therefore we decided to target our generation–the generation that will hopefully surprise us with the results of a breathing happy earth.

Why did you do it?

“Why?” is a great question. There’s two ways of answering this question, I could either say the obvious, “The help is needed in our community! We must go green!”, but truthfully this is not the right answer.

Yes, going green should be a movement that is encouraged through society, school, and communities, but it is not encouraging enough. Targeting our generation must be followed with something in return, a happy future.

So, the answer would be we did this to change the cultural mindset of our nation, we did this to evolve. And this time the only way to evolve happened to have stemmed through social connections and I’m glad to say it worked out.

Almost all of the high school is now a part of our founding green club in our school, recycling bins are now being used reasonably, and most importantly the mentality has changed.

How did participating in the Climate Leaders Fellowship make you feel?

Participating in the Climate Leaders Fellowship was nothing but a pleasure. It was a wake up call to every passionate teenager to get up and do something about the crisis they were all dearly hoping to put an end to. The sense of fulfillment I have achieved after this fellowship is beyond amazing, and I am proud to say that I will be joining the next upcoming fellowship.

About the Author

Kayla Anzalone