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Al-Monitor's article on #TripoliLb by Florence Massena featuring "We Love T...

Al-Monitor's article on #TripoliLb by Florence Massena featuring "We Love Tripoli"
Before these cultural initiatives started flourishing in Tripoli, in 2007 a group of Lebanese started the Facebook group We Love Tripoli, which became a nongovernmental or
ganization in 2009. The idea was to share pictures that documented life in Tripoli. “We found out there were big gaps between the communities in the city, for example, the new part and the old one, which is the old city and where the poorest people live,” said Taha Naji, a co-founder of We Love Tripoli. “We decided to break that gap — that fear that even prevented us from going to these areas. We believe that if we don't change the mindset of people from Tripoli themselves, we can't expect to change it in the rest of the country.”
The founders of We Love Tripoli started their group by organizing picture tours in Tripoli. They gradually expanded their activities to three categories: social, cultural and environmental. The activities — including movie screenings, lectures on the city, recycling events and festivals for kids — are all organized on a regular basis by around 450 young volunteers from Tripoli. “We are about to open a youth community center in the harbor city of Tripoli, al-Mina, to reunite kids from difficult communities in the city,” Naji said.
He noted, “We believe that a real change in the city can only happen if young people are involved, as they will become future leaders in their community. It brings them a sense of responsibility and entrepreneurship, which are essential for a long-term project like this one.”
Naji himself was feeling hopeless before starting the initiative. “We wanted to change everything, but it's not possible. We could only create a base to inspire others to do so, keep kids busy and build their self-esteem,” he said.
After the twin bombing of two Tripoli mosques, al-Taqwa and al-Salam, in August 2013, hundreds of volunteers arrived to help with the cleanup. Islamist groups arrived and threatened to kill the volunteers if they continued with their activities. “That's the biggest impact I think we had in the city,” Naji said. “Our activism, not based on politics or religion, prevents them from recruiting kids. We open their eyes about how they can be useful for the city.”

FLORENCE MASSENA
Contributor, Lebanon Pulse
Florence Massena is a journalist based in Beirut who writes about economic, cultural and social matters. She studied political science and journalism in Toulouse, southern France, and has traveled in the region since 2010. She mainly focuses on heritage and women's issues, as well as positive ideas for Lebanon.
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