Gary and Sam Bencheghib have been fighting to protect the island of Bali, Indonesia for nearly a decade. Their latest initiative was to paddle across the country's most polluted river in kayaks made out of plastic bottles.
The younger generation is fighting to protect the planet using the tools they know best: image and social networks.
This is a story about two brothers, Gary and Sam Bencheghib. Their family left France for Indonesia when they were respectively 9 and 7 and Bali became their home. Bali is a natural paradise where they have watched mountains of waste accumulate over the years. Nothing could be more effective to forge ecological awareness from an early age... and inspire you to take action!
Everything began in 2009 when, at just 15 and 19, Gary and Sam created their association, Make a Change World and organized beach clean-ups and awareness concerts. They kept on fighting when they went to the USA to study. Their new idea was to use the power of social networks and storytelling to encourage people to take action in favor of the environment.
In 2016, Gary had just finishing his training as a documentary film-maker; this was perfect timing to launch a series of thirty videos showing the initiatives of Bali's population to manage the island's waste better. These videos were posted on the Make a Change World's Facebook page with the hashtag #PickUpAPieceOfTrash. They were viewed about 80 million times and were used by the press.
Raising awareness with paddle strokes
Encouraged by this success, the brothers decided to go a step further. In 2017, they embarked on a new adventure: paddle up the most polluted river in Indonesia to raise awareness on the importance of waste management.
The Citarum is 300 km long. It is the longest river on Java Island and one of the ten most polluted sites in the world. It is the only source of water for 15 million people who use it to wash, cook, drink, and grow rice but they also ... throw their garbage into it. Wastewater, toxic waste, and, above all, household waste are dumped into it every day, heavily polluting the water.
In August 2017, Gary and Sam Bencheghib spent two weeks paddling up 70 kilometers of the river in two kayaks entirely built out of plastic bottles. What better way to prove that waste can have a second life!
Each leg of the journey was an opportunity to meet the local population to raise awareness of the importance of properly handling waste. They obviously documented their adventure in photos and videos which were posted on their Facebook page. The repercussions were immediate and reached the ears of the Ministry of the Environment which quickly implemented an emergency plan to clean up the Citarum river.
This was certainly a small victory for the two brothers, but, above all, it was an original initiative that illustrates the importance of image and social networks in raising awareness about protecting the environment. Ecological and digital revolutions have never been so connected!