He grabs his guitar and starts singing his wisdom. A warm energy dissipates in the air. His passion and enthusiasm are contagious. You feel captivated. You cannot help but engage and start singing with him. His songs are composed with a purpose; a lofty purpose of saving nature, animals, and the future of human beings. Paul Abi Rached, an environmental and health activist; he combines education and music to promote the understanding of these vital issues. He calls them “conference songs." He explains, “Basically, it is singing the lecture."
With a portfolio of around 70 songs, Paul has addressed various health and environmental topics, such as smoking, healthy eating and drinking, nature conservation, waste management, recycling, and organic farming. “These songs deal with the most basic human rights: breathing clean air, drinking safe water, and living in a conducive environment," Paul says. He skillfully combines three languages, Arabic, French and English, sometimes in one song. He uses a simple and appealing language to charm his audiences and to persuade them to stay healthy and take action to conserve natural resources.
Ever since his youth, Paul has been captivated by human rights, animal rights, and environmental education. He would read books and journal articles on health, environment, and peace education. When he finished high school, he wanted to enroll in the Environmental Health Program at the American University of Beirut, but he couldn't because of the political and economic challenges in the country at the time. He ended up choosing to study law as it is linked to human rights.
Paul's journey as an educator started in 1992, after he completed a Bachelor's degree in law. A training at UNICEF changed his perspective on education and enticed him to adopt the concept of active education. He started as a civic education teacher in a local school in Lebanon. He opted to combine animation and education. Thus the 'conference songs' concept was born. Paul chose to work on youth education because there lies a genuine hope for change. In Paul's own words, “Education is a fertile field where I can plant the idea of conserving the environment or new ways of thinking in the minds of youth. It might work. If I tried to change the law, there is a high possibility that I would fail." He adds, “You cannot catch the attention of a child for too long. But children will sit for two hours listening to my songs. And they picked them up easily." After working several years in Lebanon, Paul decided to spread his mission throughout the countries of the Arab World.
His songs have changed the lives of thousands of people throughout the years. Paul declares with pride, “The majority of 'T.E.R.R.E. Liban' members used to be my students. They actively take part in any environmental movement we call for."
In 1994, Paul established “T.E.R.R.E. Liban," a campaign for civic education that became registered in 2002. In 2012, he launched along with ten other environmental organizations in Lebanon, the “Lebanon Eco Movement" that aims at forming a stronger alliance to solve environmental problems in Lebanon. Paul's law degree has proved useful in the many environmental battles he has been engaged in.
Paul knows that his battle for conserving natural resources and promoting healthy behaviors is a long one. Quoting him, “When you speak the truth and abide by the law. You are destined to win. When I bring evidence that someone is hurting the environment. Even though they are in powerful positions, and they were not brought to justice, I know for sure that one day justice will be served. It may take some time. It may take lots of efforts. It may backfire on me. But I will persist. I will continue speaking about it and one day, good will prevail." Paul has made a pledge never to lose hope, and never to surrender!
To reach his audiences and create the impact he aspires to, Paul had to come up with an innovative and appealing strategy. His charisma and sincerity mesmerize everyone who listens to him. Paul has created this common language to protect nature and human beings. He has used the universal language of music, and has combined it with simple educational messages. This is the art of public health!