28 Feb Beach Cleanup and fun games with Will @Will
One of the highlights of my time on Gili Asahan was participating in the weekly beach cleanup that the kids do. Sadly, due to the location of Gili Asahan and the prevailing currents in the area, a significant amount of plastic and household garbage washes up on the island’s otherwise pristine shores. To combat this, Jana and the Ecolodge do a weekly beach cleanup with the kids of the village. The beach cleanup takes place every Friday, and is an event that is thoroughly enjoyed by kids of all ages. Every week Jana and the kids focus on a new section of the beach to clean, rotating in a counterclockwise fashion. The impact is notable, vast stretches of sand unblemished by plastic indicate which sections have been cleared in the previous weeks.
The event begins in the afternoon when Jana walks through the village, calling out that it is cleanup time. Soccer balls are abandoned, games and conversations are abruptly ended as the kids flock to Jana from all directions. Admittedly, some of the kids may be more interested in the outdoor movie screening that follows the cleanup, but this ulterior motivation has no impact on their performance. Once shepherded to the section of the day, kids of all ages begin chaotically collecting garbage, filling multiple enormous sacks in a span of less than an hour.
I was on the island for two weeks, volunteering as an English teacher, and the beach cleanup that occurred on my second day on the island is a favourite memory of mine. The cleanup was efficient, but it was by no means dull. I cleaned listening to a chorus of giggles and shouts. As I was their teacher, the kids were eager to show off what they knew. Quickly the act of throwing pieces of garbage into the sack was accompanied by a running tally of recently learned English numbers. A child would race to pick up a handful of garbage, and deposit each piece one at at a time, counting “ONE, TWO, THREE…”. Soon they were looking up to me for assistance as their count climbed. “NINE, TEN, um guru?” an eager child would ask, calling me by the Indonesian word for teacher. We had an impromptu beach lesson, learning about eleven twelve and the teens using drawings in the sand, and soon the sound of the waves was drowned out by “thirTEEN, fourTEEN, fiveTEEN…”. The cleanup continued, but this boisterous student enthusiasm had momentarily blended an English lesson with the prevailing lesson of environmental responsibility.
And this is what impressed me most about the beach cleanup. Simply toiling to remove garbage from the beach would have been admirable in its own right, but the way the cleanup involves the kids and families of the village, continues their education, and somehow still remains a fun and enjoyable activity is an example of social responsibility at its best. The work does not feel like a chore, and perhaps even more importantly, a sense of ecological responsibility, ownership and pride is instilled in the inhabitants of the island. This simple weekly activity results in cleaner beaches, but also kids and adults who are more likely to act in ways that will keep all beaches and the rest of the world clean.