November 30, 2022
The streets around the American University of Beirut are bright again, bringing the light of hope to the people of Beirut. This is a story of making a change through vision, teamwork, and determination. It is proof of the power of the people, and an example of AUB's positive impact on the ground, in Lebanon and the region.
What started as a mere coincidence has led to yet another AUB project for the rebuilding of Beirut, and the wellbeing of its communities. It was the team of AUB's Procurement and Contracts Administration (PCA) that was intrigued upon noticing a footnote in an email they received while handling a diesel oil invoice: MEDCO Petroleum Company and the Rebirth Beirut initiative to revive the city have collaborated through the “Light up our Community" initiative which provides incentives to owners of generators through reimbursement for the supply of diesel to light up the streets of Beirut. This initiative launched in May of this year, in an effort to help communities that were affected by the Beirut Port explosion and the economic collapse.
The AUB team immediately took action to bring this initiative home. Two weeks of negotiations and preparations followed the initial meeting with MEDCO and Rebirth Beirut, involving PCA, Physical Plant, and the Office of Protection at AUB. There was evident agreement: This collaboration would light up Bliss Street as a first step and the Corniche of Ein El Mreisseh as the second.
The decision was made to replace the sodium street lamps by LED lamps to decrease the load substantially on generators. Three site visits and several testing trials later, the completion of phase one saw the installation of 30 LED lamps along Bliss. For the first time in very long, since Lebanon has been struck by its economic downfall, Bliss Street was lit up from AUB's Medical Gate all the way up to Kerr Hall dormitories.
Senior PCA Director Hanan Itani told us about the team's drive to see this project to fruition. “In line with PCA's responsibility to support AUB's mission to enhance the lives of its personnel and surrounding community, we are committed to assume our social responsibilities, and undertake initiatives supporting sustainability, community service, and energy efficiency to make a positive impact on the campus life in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders."
Celebrating light and hope
The lighting of Bliss Street was celebrated in a concert event titled “A Spark in the Dark," which was organized by the AUB Neighborhood Initiative. On Bliss Street facing the AUB Main Gate, the concert was performed by the band Teyyarit Waraq, featuring AUB staff member Rami Saleh, who played with the band popular songs around the theme of light and the atmosphere.
More than 120 shop owners, residents, and passers by of all ages joined in the celebration. Crowds danced in the street and sang along with the band, who performed in front of the mesmerizing mural by artist Ghaleb Hawila featuring an Arabic version of AUB's motto “That they may have life and have it more abundantly."
Director of the AUB Neighborhood Initiative Mona Hallak spoke to us about AUB's dedication to serving AUB's community through projects that are aligned with community service, social responsibility, energy saving, and sustainability.
“This is a great step for AUB, giving back to the neighborhood and enhancing the wellbeing and quality of life of our community," said Hallak. “Lighting Bliss Street does not only contribute to better navigation of the street but also to a greater sense of security and safety for our neighborhood community."
The joyous event brought together high level representatives from the collaborating teams, as well as the Governor of Beirut Judge Marwan Abboud, the Minister of Environment Dr. Nasser Yassin, Ras Beirut
Moukhtar Michel Bekhazi. The governor referred to AUB as a beacon of hope as he thanked it for “lighting not only the streets, but also the region with its mission to educate the future leaders of the country and promote critical citizenship." He also thanked the AUB Neighborhood Initiative for all the work being done to improve the pedestrian experience around campus and the urban environment in Ras Beirut.
Founder of Rebirth Beirut Gaby Ferneine, also a member of the Beirut Municipal Council, explained that since its start in May, the “Light up our Community Initiative" has lit around 40 streets including four boulevards. In his turn, AUB Senior Vice President for Advancement and Development Dr. Imad Baalbaki thanked all those who contributed to this achievement and promised to support all future initiatives to make Ras Beirut a better place.
Next is the lighting up of Corniche Ein El Mreisseh from Abdel Nasser Mosque to AUB's Reynold's Hall on the main street by end of year, promising a safer and more inhabitable neighborhood. This step, and this collaboration, are hoped to pull in many similar ones, and with that, Beirut will rise again, one bulb at a time.