This is the story of a Bahrain-based teenager who goes ‘green’ with pride, at her amazing collection of thrown-away plastic bottles – 2444 bottles to be precise. Grade 11 student Alaia Khalil Rafea started it as part of her school project to help raise money to buy wheelchairs for the challenged. She expanded her objective of the project beyond the purpose, to ensure a greener earth. Alaia of Bahrain’s Abdul Rahman Kanoo International School joined around 130 classmates to collect plastic bottles for charity, as part of the school’s International Baccalaureate’s creativity, action and service (CAS) program.
When they ended up collecting a total of 20,196 used bottles, it was more than a matter of surprise for the organizers, teachers and parents.
The students presented the bottles to the Al Areen Lions Club as part of its charitable endeavor to raise money to buy 10 wheelchairs for the Bahrain Association for Parents and Friends of the Disabled.
Sixteen-year-old Alaia said that she started collecting bottles with a passion towards the cause for the disabled. “But soon I wanted to ensure that I spare no efforts towards yet another equally important cause – saving our environment,” said an enthusiastic Alaia.
“I wanted to help play my part and try to get my local community involved,” she said. Alaia said she has a recycle facility at home in Riffa Views and her friends and their families do so as well, which she felt was a good start.
The group, at first, had approached a few restaurants like Roma Cafe and Senor Pacos for all the bottles that they threw away. The golf club near their houses was yet another place where they went and it proved no big deal for Alaia and friends to amass bottles.
Alaia observed that the amount of litter in terms of these bottles which people toss out on streets were too many and described it as ‘crazy’.
She also went on trips with her mom and siblings collecting bottles in big bags. Fatima Al Khawaja, the school’s CAS co-ordinator, said that the response they received for this drive has been fabulous.
“I think our kids are awesome. I have yet to apply any program such as this and be disappointed. Every single time, they have impressed us,” she said.
“The International Baccalaureate is not only about achieving academic excellence but also growing as a person by engaging in activities related to community service.” The collected plastic bottles will be sent to a recycling factory.
BAPFD has set a target of 10 tons of plastic bottles as they need 10 wheel chairs, one ton per wheelchair.
Yousif K Hubaishi, immediate past president of the Al Areen Lions Club, said that he was very touched by the huge amount of bottles that the children collected. “The children had put in an exceptional effort. We expected then to collect from school grounds only. But they went beyond that and it’s a genuine gesture and is truly appreciated,” he said.
The school’s involvement in the initiative was suggested by assistant CAS co-ordinator Ellie Harding after she read about the charity drive.
Ellie, also from Riffa Views, said that the students were set with a target to collect just 100 bottles but were hopeful that they would get beyond this number.
“However, we never dreamt the students would do so well. They far exceeded our expectations,” she said.
Ellie noted that the dedication of the students to the twin causes was impressive.
Alaia said she left no stone unturned and wanted to thank her neighbors, friends and the colleagues of her mother, Laura McLaughlin, a teacher at the Madeline’s Pre-School, for their support. Her little sister Gaia, 10, also spread the message amongst her friends.
This experience has inspired Alaia to continue with the campaign with support from the Lions. She said that she would continue collecting bottles and sending them to the factory.
BAFPD will soon host a dinner reception to honor and express their gratitude to the children, said officials.
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