Writer: Tosheena Robinson BSc, MSc
Armed with gloves, trash bags, masks and tally sheets, participants in the Governor General Youth Award were among scores of volunteers helping to remove more than 5,000 pieces of waste and debris at a Coral Harbour waterway during a synchronized coastal cleanup exercise taking place around the world.
“I can’t believe people were polluting this area. It was bad. I was shocked by the amount of trash I saw. It was a lot to cleanup and there’s still more out there,” said Carlicia Brown, a twelfth grader who collected bags of plastic, glass bottles and even parts of an air condition unit with her team of five.
The R.M. Bailey Senior High School student signed up for the outing as a means to relieve boredom and got more than she bargained for.
“I haven’t been out the house in quite a while. I saw an opportunity to volunteer and thought sure, why not? I didn’t realize people brought out their dump from home and just left it in the back here, which was wrong. Stop polluting the area. Keep it clean, green and pristine.”
The Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean’s health. It’s observed annually on the third Saturday in September.
In New Providence, Beach Buddies – the non-profit organization attached to Blue Lagoon Island, home of Dolphin Encounters – recruited volunteer organizations and individuals to remove trash from Coral Harbour’s canal. Blue Lagoon serves as the ICC coordinator for The Bahamas.
Typically, the initiative attracts around 300 persons. This year, the September 18, event scaled back in line with COVID-19 protocols, said Teshalla Clarke, one of its organizers.
About 93 persons from Rotary, Rotaract, Boys Brigade, Toastmasters and GGYA collected 5,392 items. The garbage included building materials, appliances, plastic bags, food containers, bottles and cans. It took two workdays to tally up collection records and measure their cleanup impact.
According to Ms Clarke, Beach Buddies goal is to focus on pollution awareness through education and action resulting in cleaner and healthier marine environments. International observers say the data collected from cleanup crews around the world could lead to new research and policy changes.
“I feel proud of myself because I actually did something,” said Brown, the high school student. “We helped the environment.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has decreased or in some cases stopped in-person volunteer activities, which is a key component to young people receiving a Bronze, Silver or Gold pin from GGYA, the local affiliate of the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award, the world’s leading youth development award programme.
Available to all young people ages 14-24, GGYA motivates youth to undertake a variety of voluntary and challenging activities.
“Undoubtedly, the scale of the dumping made an impression upon them,” said the programme’s national director, Jacquetta Lightbourne-Maycock. “They learnt how they can be the solution and not the problem.”
Kenvaughn Mortimer, a 14-year-old participant from C.R. Walker Senior High School got roped into the exercise by his uncle. He signed the young man up for GGYA so he could be active on weekends when he’s not involved in Boys Brigade or taking part in the Royal Bahamas Defence Force Rangers.
“This made me think about coastal cleanup and taking a more active role in taking care of the environment.”
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