After a nearly a week of preparation, it was here. Our Cleaning Campaign (La Campaña de Limpieza). Ideas had been flying around alongside paint brushes, games were at the ready, bags of sweets and bubbles to hand, and the banner looked perfect. We were off.
At 7am we commenced our cleaning expedition to rid rubbish from the streets, initiated by Christina, our community liaison officer, and Anna. Our expedition led us to El Tablón, one of the communities we are working in. Having set up a meeting with the Headmaster of the local school (Oscar), our aims were; to help the school achieve a cleaner community, to educate about climate change and promote suitable changes that could be implemented within the community to slow down the process of climate change.
Living in the rural communities, there is no rubbish collection. Bottles, plastic wrappers and paper are all left to “rot” on the road side - Option A. Option B - you are surrounded by the all-encompassing stench of toxic gases, aka the carcass of burning waste. Here dropping litter is an equivalent habit to washing your hands having gone to the toilet. Everyone does it, unthinking and engrained. But this habit has a polar opposite effect, harmful and hazardous for both the environment and health. Yet small changes make a big difference, and our challenge was to change this, starting with the minds of the young, aka the new leaders of the future.
Taking a swift right turn into El Tablón at 8am we were greeted with what can honestly be described as a pile of rubbish. It was clear to the group why we were there.
Speech prepared, Oscar the Headteacher warmly greeted us with a sweet ‘hola’… whilst pruning the plants. This was followed by a flurry of inquisitive faces, each child responsible for creating the visual pleasure that shone from every façade. Whether it be sweeping the floor or watering the plants it was great to see such a good ethos being embedded in each child’s education. Communally it was evident to us that we were in the right place to kick off our cleaning campaign.
La campaña de limpieza fue todo un exifo. The campaign was a great sucess
From presenting to litter picking to entertaining, each volunteer, Honduran and those from the UK had an individual role to play.
Introductions over and presentation complete it was time to start the main job - litter picking. As a team we were slightly apprehensive to how the children would respond to litter picking, however we had no need to worry. Splitting into teams the excitement and enthusiasm reeling from every child could not be measured. Here is what team Gracias had to say.
“I loved spending the day running around with all the kids, picking up litter, exchanging translations of our surroundings (I told one kid 'señorita' meant 'miss'- he immediately went round delightedly pointing and shouting miss at every other boy he saw!) and eating bags of frozen milk (we think) in the blazing sun.” Mel.
“Half way through I decided that my team need a little bit of energy, bringing out the bubbles, was the best idea I could ever had, not only did the children love blowing, catching and jumping for bubbles, but the teachers and myself did too” (Ceri)
“When I was taking the pictures I was able to capture the enjoyment felt by everybody” (Joe)
“Afterwards I was surprised how much the children enjoyed themselves and they said they had learnt a lot from the cleaning campaign” (Anna)
Litter picking over, each child was rewarded with sweets, teachers included. Our day not quite finished, it was time for games. Merlyn taking the lead, we all got involved. Singing songs about teapots and trains (I think, well the actions looked similar), it was so much fun. Seeing how positively the school and community responded, we can only look forward to the following Wednesdays in El Tablón, having “definitely made an impact on the community” (Richard).
Written by ICS volunteer Ceri Lloyd
Photographs by ICS volunteer Joe Georgiou