“Let’s Imagine Saida” was an activity conducted by Saida Municipality in partnership with Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human development, the Schools’ network in Saida and its neighborhood, to promote the USUDS project, as well as to engage the students of Saida in expressing their opinions and vision about the city.

Orientation sessions on the project were conducted in 34 schools during the month of October 2013, to explain to the students how to participate in the activity and how to take the images. Students were asked to take pictures of the two locations representing their favorite and least favorite places in Saida in a simple straightforward manner: “What are the two places that you like and dislike the most in Saida?” We have noticed that some students whose family origins are not from Saida don’t consider Saida as their city although they are residing in it. The students have started the interactions and discussions on the facebook page of the project where about 113 images were uploaded.

The workshops of the activity were conducted by a selected number of trainers with around 400 grade 8 students in 24 schools during November and December 2013. Each workshop was constituted of an approximate number of 35 students and divided into two parts where the first part was a discussion on the pictures taken by the students for the best and worst places in the city, and the second part was the collage activity using the available tools and newspaper in order to change the best and worst places as the students dream to be. The resulted collage pictures were not so professional; however, the most essential outcome of the activity was the dialogue that was conducted among the students that enabled them to express their ideas regarding most of the places in the city. Most of the images that were taken by the students were within the heritage and environmental topics with a focus on the sea castle as the best historical place and the waste dump, garbage, and polluted seashore as the worst places in environment.

There were 148 images out of 669 for the sea castle where 145 images as the best place and 3 as the worst place. The discussions and comments of the students were focused on the sea castle as a symbolic site in Saida that they are proud of and that attracts tourists. We have noticed the connection between the sea castle, sea, and the civilizations and wars that have passed on the city among the students, and their pride of it where all of them visited it for several times. However, there wasn’t a unified historical background and information about the castle among the students. Some of the students’ recommendations were to light the castle at night and organize there cultural events and activities to reactivate it as a touristic site.

Regarding to the environment, there were 67 images for the garbage mountain, and the discussions with the students were focused on the projects related to the garbage mountain and the students’ recommendations on the piece of land that will result after removing this mountain. Some of the recommendations were as the following: garden, shopping center, university, mosque, stars observatory, opera theatre, musical institute, circuit of horse race, restaurants and shops on the seashore. Moreover, there were 16 images for the sea shore as the best place and 30 images for the polluted sea shore as the worst place. This proves the connection with the sea and its emotional importance to the students. Most of the students’ recommendations were to clean the seashore and the remove all the mobile cafes from it in order to stay for promenade and sports.   

There are other images taken for various places such as private places (homes, gardens, buildings..), the conflicts in Abra that occurred in June 2013, the traffic in the city, and other centers and entertaining places such as the stadium, malls, schools, institutions…

In conclusion, the outcomes of the activity were taken into consideration by the experts that have included them in prioritizing the places and ideas in the action plan phase.

On the other hand, the municipality will be working on the tackled issues and promoting the highlighted sites and the environmental and cultural heritage projects that are being implemented in the city in the meantime, as well as implementing some of the raised ideas and recommendation by the students as an enhancement of the sense of accountability and ownership in the city.

The success of the activity’s methodology will be also introduced in the action plan as one of the systemized dialogue and methodology that can be adopted as a tool with youth. The next step of the activity will be presenting the outcomes of “Let’s Imagine Saida” activity to the Schools’ Network in Saida and its Neighborhood. Finally, a grand event will be organized with all the students that participated taking into consideration the activities and ideas that they expressed.