Every year, the Ocean Conservancy runs an International Coastal Cleanup -- environmental activism that has become the largest volunteer event in the world, with more than 400,000 volunteers in over 100 countries. This year, thanks to...well, us...it's happening in Liberia.
The 24th International Coastal Cleanup, Robertsport-style, will be a relaxed community event with community members volunteering and a few dedicated ex-pats showing up to help me with photos, organization and just participate in general. The beach has gotten really dirty over the rainy season, with lots of plastic washing up to color the shoreline with juice boxes and detergent bags, thin plastic bags that sea turtles eat because they look like jellyfish and then die (did you know Liberia has 4 of the 5 species of sea turtles in the world?) and sometimes an empty vaccine stopper or two that wash up (or down from the nearby hospital).
We're going to put something like this together on the second Saturday of every month, meeting in the morning to organize into teams lead by our Surf Liberia sponsored surfers. There will be a small competition for who picks up the most trash on the surfing beaches between Shipwrecks and the campsite, and a community meal served under the cotton tree for local volunteers.
We've gotten good reactions from the community, partly because I suspect they're intrigued by anything we do and we've been talking about this for months, and they actually care a lot about how their beach looks. Over the last week or so, the children who walk with me to my surf sessions have been pointing out the new trash washing up in the water, which they tell me comes from the ships that pass and dump their garbage. Some of it is foreign, but I suspect most of it is not.
The formal sector in Robertsport is also very supportive. Musa, the owner of Nana's Lodge, is supporting us wholeheartedly, paying for the purchase of bowls and spoons, and the community meal to be shared by the local volunteers. The Superintendent of Grand Cape Mount County may be attending, and so may the Mayor -- a lovely elderly woman who lived in Robertsport all through the war and who I look forward to sharing about in the future. I wrote a press release, so we'll see if we end up in the local news!
The team leaders and I will be keeping data on what the trash we collect and, over time, we'll be able to inform a thoughtful trash-reduction program with the community, maybe replacing some single-use plastic items with more durable ones, or providing plastic alternatives.
If you'd like to support our efforts, visit The African T-Shirt Company -- our new fund-raising site that sells merchandise -- and buy a Clean the Beach t-shirt!