Alumni Spotlight: Sam Bencheghib '19
You may have heard of Sam Bencheghib in the last year or so. After graduating from Lehigh in May of 2019, he embarked on a 3,000+ mile run across America to raise awareness about plastic pollution. Sam and his family startup, Make A Change World, was our Davis Project for Peace recipient in 2018. He is now returning to New York City to focus on growing Make A Change World.
We caught up Sam to learn more about his run and what he's up to now:
Why a run to raise awareness?
At Make A Change, our motto and mindset is that no idea is crazy enough. Our planet is in a state of emergency and sometimes, you have to go to the extremes to change it. By combining our passions for adventure and the environment, we hope to inspire behavioral and policy change. So for me, by running 117 marathons back-to-back and bringing the oceans to middle America, I saw an opportunity to hopefully raise as much awareness as possible about plastic pollution.
How did you apply lessons learned through Baker and your work with Chris Kauzmann (Baker's Innovator in Residence) while preparing and planning your run?
The Baker Institute and Chris Kauzmann have always been there to support my ideas. I remember the first time I met Chris, he talked to me about identifying the “why” behind my projects and ideas. That conversation still fuels everything I do today. While preparing and planning my run, I would always go back to the “why” and sometimes re-structure the logistics of my run to make sure that I was always sticking to the bigger purpose and the “why.
What was the most impactful moment of your run?
I look back at my run after a month of being done, and what impacted me the most was definitely the encounters I had along the way. I spoke to 10,000 people face-to-face during my 3,055-mile journey and every time I left a school, I felt inspired and encouraged to keep going. I witnessed a huge lack of awareness, education and action when it comes to plastic along my run but after sharing my story with the people I met along my run, so many of them told me that they would start to make conscious efforts to reduce their plastic consumption. It all starts with a single step - My first step was in NYC on July 26th and I was so inspired to see that my run made a difference in those people I spoke to.
Can you describe a time you had to think entrepreneurially during your run?
Along the run, I lived a zero-waste lifestyle (consuming nothing that could end up in landfills) and many times, unfortunately, everything the grocery stores offered was wrapped in plastic. Even fresh produce had plastic stickers on them. This really opened my eyes to how behind this country is and the importance of promoting zero-waste living. I therefore reached out to all the zero-waste stores and bulk stores along my route to help promote their products through our social channels. I strongly believe that collaboration is key to fight this plastic epidemic.
What's next for you and Make A Change World?
We have a lot planned this year at Make A Change but our two biggest projects are to build out our Make A Change environmental media NYC branch and our Sungai Watch project to clean-up 100 rivers in our home-island of Bali with a system that we recently engineered to intercept trash in our rivers before it goes out into our oceans. I’m moving to NYC next week to build our NYC media branch and my brother Gary and sister Kelly will be helping from overseas as well as take the lead in the Sungai Watch project.