By Ahmad Husseini, Past President of the Rotary Club of Tripoli-Maarad, Lebanon
In 1999, some of my friends invited me to join the Rotaract Club of Tripoli. I spent three years in Rotaract serving as club secretary, club president and then going onto serve as Vice District 2452 Rotaract Representative for Lebanon.
In 2000, I was selected to be part of a Group Study Exchange team to District 5300, Nevada and South California, United States. During this trip, I met many Rotarians who inspired me to join a Rotary club. In 2003, I joined the Rotary Club of Tripoli Maarad and became club president five years later. Since then, I have held various roles in my district and region including Group Study Exchange and District Alumni Country Chair, District Conference Secretary, Assistant Governor, The Rotary Foundation Country Chair, Deputy District Governor, District Annual Fund Subcommittee Chair, District Grants Subcommittee Chair and Assistant Regional Rotary Foundation Coordinator. Rotary has given me so many opportunities to grow as a leader and give back to my community since my earliest days as a Rotaractor.
In 2013, then-District Governor Jamil Mouawad wanted to conduct a community assessment in our region and appointed me as a member of the strategic committee to work on large-scale projects in Lebanon. 27 Lebanese clubs voted on various project proposals that took into account the findings of the assessment and a water filtration project was selected as the project the district would implement since polluted water is a major problem in the country and the project would benefit the most people.
An ambitious team of Rotary members from different clubs in Lebanon came up with a great system for carry out sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) projects/programs in Lebanon. The project was planned after members visited schools and met with experts to discuss the systems needed to provide the schools with a clean source of water. The water that reaches the schools in Lebanon needs to be filtered to become potable. Moreover, the schools are poorly equipped and their tanks and pipelines are in very bad conditions, which makes the water contaminated. Therefore, in order for children to drink clean water, we decided to change the entire infrastructure and add filtration systems that would turn the water into potable water. We added hygiene management training to supplement the new infrastructure components and help our students keep water clean and their bodies healthy. The project aimed to support 1200 public schools attended by Lebanese students and Syrian refugees.
At the start of the project, I struggled to get our first global grant approved, but with the proper experience and knowledge, I have been able to initiate and support many grants. In the last 5 years, we received 79 grants in our district (more than half for Lebanon alone) and the total funding was more than 7 million USD; 30 of these grants were to support our water project.
After the success of our first project, it became easier to find new partners and donors, as they were able to see tangible results and believed that WASH projects were a necessary need in our communities. In February 2018, we hosted a Presidential Peacebuilding Conference on Water, Sanitation, Hygiene and Peace which was attended by more than 1000 Rotarians from 33 countries. Our theme was peacebuilding through access to clean water, which was discussed by national and international stakeholders.
Currently, we have installed the water filtration project, which includes changing the tanks, the pipelines, the taps and installing UV lamps and filters to provide potable water in nearly 1000 public schools all over Lebanon. We have also started to implement the project in prisons and other public institutions. As there was also a need for awareness sessions about hygiene and water conservation, we have started a second phase that includes training public school teachers who will in turn train their students. The third phase of the project will include sanitation and hygiene, such as installing proper sewage systems, pipelines and toilets seats in the school toilets.
As for the sustainability of the project, we have signed Memorandums of Understandings with the Ministry of Education and the municipalities of each area who will overtake the project after the second year to ensure the proper maintenance of the system’s equipment.
Currently, I am traveling all over the world conducting presentations about The Rotary Foundation, grants and fundraising opportunities. My wife Rym is also a Rotarian, a former Rotaractor, and founding president of the Rotary Club of Tripoli Cosmopolis. We have three young children. Rym travels with me throughout our zone to provide trainings on Rotary’s brand and to spread awareness about our water projects.
Rotary has transformed my life and exposed me to new thoughts and opportunities. It has helped me develop my personality and my skills. Rotary has become a way of life for me, and my family.