Lebanon’s Answer to D.A.R.E.: Joseph Hawatt of J.A.D.

Photo: Sarah Abdella-El Kallassy

For the past 36 years, Joseph Hawatt and his organization, J.A.D. (Jenuesse Anti Drogue, Youth Against Drugs) have been combating addiction of all types in Lebanon. While J.A.D. primarily focuses on drug and alcohol addiction, the organization also raises awareness about gambling and internet gaming addictions. Seeing no formal program in Lebanon to inform youth and communities about the dangers of addiction, Mr. Hawatt formed J.A.D. in 1981.This past week, Joseph kindly sat down with me in his office in Hboub Jbeil to discuss the initiatives J.A.D. has taken to combat addiction in Lebanon and the challenges still being faced.

The main J.A.D. facility houses Mr. Hawatt’s office, and an impressive center dedicated to training and combatting addiction. There is a large museum featuring exhibits for all age groups on the effects of misuse of alcohol and use of drugs, and a gallery comprised of paintings by local and international artists, all depicting the damaging effects of addiction. The facility also contains a separate area used for police and army training, that displays various ways drugs are smuggled into Lebanon, and how they may be concealed once in the country. Mr. Hawatt and his team travel all over the world collecting paraphernalia and drug related artifacts to conduct such training and keep Lebanon’s army and police informed. J.A.D. also offers parents an opportunity to increase awareness as to the signs that their children may be using illegal drugs.

While the museum and training center offers a formal means to combat addiction, J.A.D. also sponsors a basketball team, to give youth a positive outlet. Several recovered addicts credit the discipline and companionship of the team with aiding them in their journey to being drug-free. As we toured the museum and training area, Mr. Hawatt proudly pointed out the trophy case, filled to the brim, celebrating the accomplishments of the J.A.D. team.

J.A.D. does not charge for entrance into the museum, the training space, or its programs and has the capability to bring a mobile exhibition or training program to local schools and groups requesting such services. Instead, the organization relies on donations, fundraising, and small sales from their shop of anti-addiction merchandise. To run campaigns and programs, J.A.D. relies on a cadre of volunteers across Lebanon, including doctors, lawyers, teachers, and students.

Surprisingly, J.A.D. does not hold a connection to any political party or religious sect. In a nation where religious affiliation and political party determine most aspects of life, an organization deliberately refusing connection to either is an anomaly. Joseph stated that this refusal to associate with any party has made securing funding difficult, however, he feels that the organization’s independence from political association is necessary to serve the greatest percentage of the Lebanese population. Lobbying by J.A.D. has recently resulted in new legislation banning smoking indoors at restaurants and cafes. Although this law is facing challenges in implementation, passing the law was an important first step toward reducing smoking.

The mission of J.A.D. is an admirable one, however, those who seek to make money from the drug trade have historically harassed Mr. Hawatt and others involved with the NGO. Recently, Joseph’s car was damaged by one such group and he has continually received threats to cease his work with the organization. Despite such opposition, Joseph Hawatt and J.A.D. continue to work toward an addiction free Lebanon.

 

Academic and Activist: Dr. Fifi Nassif Kallab of Byblos Ecologia

Photo: Sarah Abdella-El Kallassy

Dr. Fifi Nassif Kallab has spent the majority of her life dedicated to protecting the environment and increasing awareness of environmental issues in local communities. In her serene North Amchit home, surrounded by immaculate gardens, Dr. Kallab and I spoke at length about her life and work, both abroad and in Lebanon.

A lecturer at the Lebanese University, Lebanese American University, and Balamand University, Dr. Kallab is no stranger to the world of academia. Far from sitting in the proverbial ivory tower, she emphasizes the responsibility of the academic to support and inform the activist. Dr. Kallab believes that when academics support and work alongside activists, even engaging in activism themselves, the community will benefit.

After years of living in France and a full career that includes consulting at numerous United Nations agencies, such as the UN Development Program and the UN Environmental Program, Dr. Kallab returned to Lebanon, with her sights set helping her country. She has been so influential that she was honored in 2009 by the National Commission for Lebanese Women for her work in addressing environmental issues.

Dr. Kallab’s organization, Byblos Ecologia for Development and Environment, has launched numerous programs designed to improve local awareness of environmental issues in the community. She is also actively involved in training NGOs and their staff to more effectively propose and execute projects, increasing their professionalism and capacity.

Currently, Byblos Ecologia has a pilot program to educate households on how to separate their waste (organic, general, hazardous). The program provides the necessary resources to do so, such as free bins for each home, and free pickup of waste. Predicated on the idea that making it easier to be environmentally friendly will increase participation, the program has met with success so far. Youth at the university level act as outreach for the program and are earning community service hours for their participation.

Along with the Zero Waste Coalition, composed of over 80 NGOs, Dr. Kallab has been an outspoken opponent of incineration, lobbying members of the Lebanese Parliament to oppose the use of such methods for waste management, citing the danger of the practice. She recalled a memorable occasion in which she had worked tirelessly to convince Lebanese politicians to vote against the use of incinerators. Dr. Kallab stated that while many promised her they would oppose the incinerators, at the time of the vote, each one voted in favor of the dangerous waste management method.

Projects funded by the international community for environmental protection and waste management, while well intentioned, often do not take into account the infrastructure or capability of Lebanon to successfully deliver such projects. They are also not immune to the Lebanese bureacracy or politics. Dr. Kallab cites rampant corruption and skimming of funds as constant sources of ire preventing such projects from being successful.

While Dr. Kallab decries corruption, as do most Lebanese, she refuses to be crippled by complacency. Her no nonsense, community-based approach to tackling Lebanon’s environmental woes make her a formidable force of nature.