Audrey pruning roses at Mekse Nature Park

A Rocha Lebanon – a new chapter

Maintenance on the maze at Qab Elias Environmental Project

Colin and Audrey Gibson did not require much persuasion when they were asked last year to join A Rocha Lebanon as National Director and Engagement Officer respectively. ‘It was perfect timing too as our work with another Lebanese NGO had come to a natural end,’ explains Colin. ‘It is a joy to use my environmental experience and skills in project management and fundraising and for Audrey to develop her passion for outdoor education. 

A Rocha Lebanon’s current conservation work is at a formerly barren 3.5 hectare site where we are working in partnership with the local municipality of Mekse – a town in the fertile Bekaa Valley which was once the ‘bread basket’ of the Eastern Roman Empire. It is good to see that wildlife is already returning as a result of work over the past few years: tree planting and the creation of a pond. We plan to complete the tree planting and are consulting with some local partners about developing a community garden to grow organic fruit and vegetables. We are also looking into how best to achieve the long term sustainability of the site, perhaps through other income generation opportunities such as beekeeping. 

Audrey is busy planning educational activities, mostly that children can do at home, as schools have been closed or are operating online. Ideas include a scavenger hunt and nature detective challenge – linking to our Wild Lebanon website – simple ideas to get children outside and enjoying nature. 

We also hope to produce some resources for churches on creation care in Arabic and we are currently trying to develop partnerships, both locally and regionally, to take this work forward. 

However, we have to be flexible with our plans, as Lebanon is in the midst of a political and economic crisis. This is causing great hardship for many and we are very mindful of this as we engage communities in nature conservation.’ 


Connecting kids with nature

‘A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.’ – Oliver Wendell Holmes

For the past 10 years, the Karioi Project has been offering young people aged 6 – 18 the opportunity to connect with nature, their community and themselves. Through hands-on activities and games, kids become familiar and comfortable with a variety of ecosystems and skills.

The younger groups learn to build survival huts in the bush, trap predators that threaten New Zealand’s incredible native wildlife and start fires with flint and steel. At low tide, they discuss the lives of sea-stars and crabs that inhabit the salty pools at the world-famous surf spots in Raglan. Becoming aware of the role of dunes in preventing erosion leads students to encourage friends, family, and even strangers not to walk through this fragile habitat in an effort to conserve plant and animal life. The students often develop an appreciation and love for a variety of habitats and, in turn, become stewards. Older students learn more practical conservation skills such as predator control and monitoring, mapping with GPS and navigating with a compass.

Karioi participants meet many superstars of their community, including world-famous kite flyers, kayak instructors, ecologists and surfers. They explore ecosystems that might be new, or discovered from a different perspective. Many students come back term after term for the changing activities and growing friendships. The programme uniquely combines youth from five different schools, and youth that might live on the same street but have never met. By learning and playing together, the students develop confidence trying and perfecting new skills and expand their curiosity while engaging with the natural world, and develop their resilience to face whatever comes.