With a huge help of local people, including a warm hearted George (our waiter) Kasim (owner of a small shop) and my parents, we have managed to organize a clean-up with local children. Kasim had 5 kids, who brought their colleagues, who then brought their friends and siblings. A total of about 20 kids came and waited impatiently in front of our balcony, while I and my dad were sharpening pencils with our Wenger knives. They started to sing Jambo Bwana, a popular song in Kenya. While we were ready with our prizes, we went out to the kids. They already knew what we would be doing and literally jumped on the bags prepared for collection of garbage. In splits of a second all the bags were gone and the kids were already picking up some litter. I did not even have to encourage them to do it! That was the biggest surprise. We went to the village and started to clean it up. All the inhabitants were truly surprised with our action. Some kids were so curious about what we were doing, that they joined us on the way.
When we’ve reached a primary school, where I wanted to give a short presentation about Pangaea and conservation, the bags were already full! And we hadn’t even started a beach clean-up by that time!
Let’s BUUUUURRRRN THEM!!!!!!!!!!!!
We had to empty the bags and burn the rubbish (on this island, it is the best thing you can do with them, to assure that they will not go to the ocean and pollute mangrove forest and the reefs). I talked to the kids about our project in Borneo and showed them pictures of Young Explorers cleaning up the beaches there. They were very happy to see me on the screen (probably first time they have seen a computer with their own eyes!). We talked a little about sharks and their importance in a healthy marine ecosystem; I taught them a phrase Shark – RAFIKI, which means: shark – FRIEND. Or Shark – KARIBU, – welcome.
Then we briefly talked about the harmful effects that all the litter in ocean has on marine animals. The kids felt very sorry for all the turtles dying because of eating plastic bags. (Yes, I did pretend to be a dying turtle, to make it more interesting and easy for them to understand. No my Swahili is not so perfect yet, but George was my translator). To my surprise, they still had a lot of energy and when we were done with the presentation and a talk, they grabbed all the bags again and run to the beach. We found many shoes, a tire, plastic bottles, broken Chinese porcelain, pieces of carpet and many more interesting items. This rubbish could not have been burned, so we could bury it in an old well. This well Is no longer in usage, because the water became salty. People in the village have big problems with access to fresh water, and all the water they drink is rain water!
The world is unfair, so why should we cry? (heard from one lady, when she whispered those words to a crying son).
After the second part of the clean-up, we went to the primary school I thanked them for their support and gave away some prizes (sweets, pencils, notebooks, toys, games). It was easy to know who deserved which prize, because all kids were working very hard. But I did not have enough toys for everybody and that was horrible. Every kid could get the same amount of sweets, pencils, colored pencils and a notebook, but with the toys, I had to decide. And I will never forget them trying to get those toys, begging me to choose them. Such a sad memory. These toys were mainly my old toys, which I did not use anymore. They meant almost nothing to anybody in Europe, and those kids wanted them so badly! I did my best to distribute them evenly and the rest I decided to give to the teacher. He will know better who needs an extra notebook or a pen.