Tuesday, 10 May 2016

International Coastal Clean Up Day and the Let's Do It Philippines World Clean Up Movement!

International Coastal Clean Up Day combined with the Let’s Do It Philippines World Clean Up Movement was one of the most intense times for me physically and emotionally during my Peace Corps service. My counter-part and I had just 5 days of planning. Despite the small amount of time for organizing, the clean-up came together better than any of us anticipated. In just five days, we organized 5,000 plus volunteers who collectively removed 4,369 KG or approximately 10,000 pounds of trash from local beaches. I weighed most of the trash myself on my bathroom scale, which later broke.

In this picture I am weighing trash on my bathroom scale

There were many challenges during the clean up. At one school it took 45 minutes for teachers to organize their students, and when the students finally started picking up trash, the clean-up stopped after just 10 minutes. The students spent more time writing their names on the Sign In sheet than cleaning. In this case it would have been appropriate to establish a walking route previous to the actual clean-up. Another problem occurred (at another school) when the teachers had un-intentionally instructed students to remove ORGANIC debris such as leaves, grass, and twigs instead of trash. When we arrived for weighing and trash pick-up, the school had bags of leaves and grass clippings to give us, which we were unable to accept. Visiting the school previous to the clean-up and speaking directly with the teachers would have helped with this miscommunication.

One of 20 elementary schools in San Jose that participated in this World Clean Up effort

However, the positive moments were long lasting! I had never been more happy to engage in my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer and "Environmental Enthusiast" as on this occasion. Working alongside a counter-part as equally empowered and exhausted as myself made the event even more memorable. One particular high-light for me was when we arrived to one school and the children ran out to greet us with smiling faces. In just a few minutes this group had picked up nearly 300 pounds of plastic. Thus, I observed that each of our 22 clean-ups took on a life of its own!

These children did an amazing job removing trash from the beach down the road from their school

After the event, I brainstormed in my journal ways I can help my community improve organizing and implementing this large-scale clean-up drive for next year! The following is a short list of some ideas:

1.) Begin organizing at least 2 months before the event. For the 2015 clean-up my counter-part and I had just 5 days of planning, which resulted with almost 5 tons of trash. I asked her to imagine what 1 or two months of planning could accomplish?

2.) To bring awareness for this event it is my aspiration to have a large tarpaulin printed and hung in a public place promoting International Coastal Clean-Up Day and the Let’s Do It World Clean Up Movement. During our 2015 clean-up drive, concerned residents observed large groups of children cleaning, but they did not understand why the children were doing this during school hours. An awareness campaign or promotion geared toward parents and community members is necessary if we are to engage students during class hours.

3.) It is important to work with teachers and principals to establish a walking-route before the event, instead of just “winging” the clean up on event day. School’s that picked up the most trash had formerly worked out a plan and had informed their students to bring sacs.

4.) It is my hope to work closer with San Jose's LGU to establish a more defined schedule for trash pick-ups, and to organize a team of 3 to 5 workers to assist with bringing trash to the dump. Myself and the driver did a lot of the trash loading and unloading, hence, my extreme exhaustion at the end of the week.

5.) It is important to teach future coordinators the significance of weighing trash and collecting and submitting these numbers as world data to the appropriate agencies.

Approximately 2,000 children helped from this school

Our local goal was to encourage around 12,000 volunteers to participate with this clean-up

Another school poses for the camera just after their morning beach clean up

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