From Italy to Lebanon working for the circular economy in the Mediterranean: meet Valeria, Interreg Volunteer Youth


This article originally appeared on the 'Interreg Volunteer Youth' website. 

"Interreg Volunteer Youth" (IVY) is an action that offers the possibility to young people aged 18-30 to serve as volunteers in EU-funded cross-border, transnational or interregional programmes and related projects. The initiative managed by the Association of European Border Regions has opened its doors to the ENI CBC community allowing young people to volunteer outside of the European Union. Discover the story of Valeria from Italy in charge of supporting the implementation of the SIRCLES project in Lebanon.

Hi! I'm Valeria, and I'm an 'Interreg Volunteer Youth' (IVY) Project Partner supporting the implementation of an exciting project under the ENI CBC Med Programme, that promotes cooperation across the Mediterranean. What is unique about my experience is that I am actually volunteering outside the European Union, specifically in one of its neighbouring countries: Lebanon! 

The objectives of the SIRCLES project, notably the establishment of employment opportunities in the circular economy for NEETs and women, immediately sparked my curiosity. As an International Relations master's student, I had the opportunity to study in Lebanon for a semester through the Erasmus+ program, so I was quite familiar with the context and aware of how problematic waste management and unemployment are in the country. Just in 2015, a real waste crisis prompted thousands of people to take the streets to protest against waste collection mismanagement; aside from these structural problems, I could see with my own eyes how little the population is used to - and has access to - proper recycling services or resusable, zero-waste alternatives. Furthermore, Lebanon is currently experiencing a terrible economic crisis, which has made it difficult for the most to find employment. 

My host organization, René Moawad Foundation, is providing capacity - building training on a variety of subjects, including biowaste composting, soft skills, and entrepreneurship, in order to improve beneficiaries' ability to identify innovative solutions. As an IVY volunteer, I'm in charge of identifying potential stakeholders (hotels, farms, restaurants etc.) for the project's next phase, known as the Green Label Campaign: businesses which adopt green practices (reusable materials, proper waste management, etc.) will be awarded a Green Label, hopefully inspiring others to follow their example and raising awareness about the need of making sustainability an habit.