Holy Cross kids join our monthly trash attack

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First Friday gang assembles for our traditional pre-trash pickup picture. Not that is how you attack trash! Students from nearby Holy Cross Anglican School swelled our ranks today.
First Friday gang assembles for our traditional pre-trash pickup picture. Not that is how you attack trash! Students from nearby Holy Cross Anglican School swelled our ranks today. That is their school in the background.

They came, they saw, they picked up trash.

I’m talking about 100-plus kids from Holy Cross Anglican School here in San Mateo who joined our growing band of First Friday Roadside Cleanup volunteers yesterday.

As we gathered in front of the Paradise Cinema, as we have on first Fridays for half a year now, the students came walking out of the nearby school, one form at a time. Soon we had three grades, eagerly grabbing rubber gloves and black plastic trash bags.

Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.

The youngest students stayed around the bridge area, off the busy road. They cleaned from the bridge, along the waterfront, to the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood and right up to the entrance to their school.

The next older group walked up to The Cloisters and began cleaning along the road and beach. The oldest kids were driven up to the Marbucks/Palapa Bar area on a fleet of golf carts and worked their way south along the beach and road.

Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.

Our regular group of volunteers fanned out, some working with the students and their teachers, some just walking the road picking up beer bottles, plastic bags and water bottles and sundry castoffs.

Some of the students recognized me from the short stint that I did volunteer teaching in summer school. It was so great to hear “Hi Mr. Bob! Remember me?”

Sometimes you have to look hard to see signs that we are winning the war on trash but they are there. For example, the San Pedro Town Council’s recently placed roadside trash barrels are generally full to overflowing. And the number of trash cleanup events on the island seem to be increasing. The number of local residents on their way to work who shout out “thank you” or stop to compliment volunteers is also on the increase.

Some things are beyond our immediate control — like the volumes of plastic and Styrofoam that float in with the winds and tide.

Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.

The other day, some visitors to the island commented on how clean they thought the island looked. That was a first. True enough, the Sargasso no longer inundates our beaches and they are looking cleaner for sure. The roads, too, seem cleaner.

Sure, there is so much more that needs to be done. I took a long walk up the coast a couple of weeks ago and it was a bizarre mix of pristine resort beaches, side-by-side with vacant lots piled high with rotting Sargasso and plastic.

Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.

For now, I’ll hang on to the images of laughing children working along side us old codgers with a single purpose — to make the Ambergris Caye we all love so much as beautiful as we can. And hey, we made a difference. I’m told that we and the student volunteers filled 60 trash bags!

Here are some more photos from Friday’s cleanup campaign:

Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
Holy Cross students tackle the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
See how hard they worked? Students were showing off their worn-out gloves. We completely ran out of gloves and bags -- in case anyone wants to donate more for the new year . . .
See how hard they worked? Students were showing off their worn-out gloves. We completely ran out of gloves and bags — in case anyone wants to donate more for the new year . . .
Fashion statement among our young volunteers.
Fashion statement among our young volunteers: Talk to the hand!
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
Holy Cross students tackled the trash near the entrance to the San Mateo neighborhood.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.
The older Holy Cross students tackled the Tres Cocos beach path and the road.

More pictures and stories on First Friday:

By the way, this event cleaned us out of rubber gloves, plastic trash bags, trash pickup sticks  and water. If you would like to help supply our volunteers next month contact me at robertj.hawkins2012@gmail.com or Sue Blair via Facebook. Thank you!

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10 thoughts on “Holy Cross kids join our monthly trash attack

    Cheryl Taylor Bowen said:
    December 5, 2015 at 8:36 am

    This is SO AWESOME!! Great educational opportunity for the kids and great way to develop those positive relationships across generations.

    Like

    Tom Cawthon said:
    December 5, 2015 at 8:43 am

    This is great. Keep up the good work.

    Like

    Randi Donselar said:
    December 5, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Hey Robert, this is Randi…you may remember me from the fire one and a half years ago at Boca del Rio. I was the crazy lady trying to organize the women and kids to return the empty buckets for the bucket brigade. I have read your column…every one of them..since then. I think this is the first time I have commented. You are making a difference, a big one. As someone who has been coming to San Pedro once or twice a year for six years, and has a place south of town just waiting for retirement, I am amazed at the difference we see each time we visit! My husband, our son, and I see improvements in leaps and bounds each time we visit! You may have the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” outlook because you see it every day, but believe me, the forest is improving! The trash was always a down side of the island for me…and I had planned to start something like your group when we move to San Pedro on the south side of town (and you know we are a family of doers, your pic of my son in the lagoon filling buckets is testimony to that) and getting the kids involved was always the plan. With maybe a cookout at our condo afterwards as reward for the kids helping. Cannot wait to be there and help! Great job, and love reading your blog!
    Randi

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Hi Randi,
      Great to hear from you. I remember that fire and you and your son being on the front line as well. If that is “crazy,” gimme more!

      There once was a south island clean-up campaign. I don’t know if it is still ongoing but I’m sure your energy and organizational skills will be most welcome! There does seem to be a lot of change going on right now –three and four story buildings in town, new businesses, etc. There are also the simple improvements to existing buildings — new wood, fresh paint, nice addition that keep the small town character but enhance the appearance. It is always a good question to ask: How much and what sort of change is good for San Pedro? I sure don’t know the answer.

      Give a shout next time you guys are here!

      Like

        Randi Donselar said:
        December 5, 2015 at 1:18 pm

        I will do that!…wasn’t sure about part of your reply, so I re-read my own! Every comment I made was in relation to the trash! The leaps and bounds was meant in the way of cleaning up the island, and keeping it that way. But you made me read my comment in a different light, and that is a good thing! lol! We have also seen the construction, road improvements, and bigger businesses over the past couple of years, and are really not sure what to think either. Part of the charm that captured our hearts was the small simplistic life people seemed to lead. (We live between Baltimore and Washington, DC) Although progress in trash pick-up, clinics, and potable water are always good change, not so sure about some of the other changes! I guess neither of us can predict where it will go! Just hope we get a few good years in paradise before it changes too much!

        Like

    Susan said:
    December 5, 2015 at 10:56 am

    Great job as always!

    Like

    Linda Young said:
    December 5, 2015 at 11:22 am

    This is a Fantastic idea! I hope other schools follow suit.

    Like

    DDD Jr said:
    December 5, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for all you do, Robert! We enjoy keeping up with the goings on and learning more about life in San Pedro. My wife and I just committed to a condo that may be rental property or our retirement home someday, but we love visiting for now.

    We would like to help with the clean up efforts. You mentioned needing gloves and garbage bags. Is it better for us to send these items from the US or to somehow donate $$ to fund the First Friday group?

    I would enjoy participating in the challenge of determining the source of all the trash that washes to the beach and then help in finding a way to eliminate it. I’ve heard all sorts of theories – cruise ships, Guatemala, local residents – do you tend to believe one over another, or do all contribute? Is anyone working to fix the problem so that we won’t be picking up on Fridays forevermore?

    looking forward to hearing from you, and of course your next post!

    Dave and Sherrie Dickens

    Sent from my iPad

    >

    Like

      robertjhawkins1 responded:
      December 6, 2015 at 9:25 am

      Thanks for the message, Dave. And congratulations on your purchase. I wish I had done something similar, like 15-20 years ago! In retrospect, putting a condo in the rental pool until retirement seems like a good way to go. Not all condo projects can cover their cost with rentals but if they can it is a free home it’s the time to retire. Well, ideally.

      As for the trash — so many sources. From simple liter to floating plastic coming in over the reef to dumping in the lagoons. The country now has a centralized waste management site on the mainland for all of Belize. Trash on the island is taken to a modern facility where it is sorted and shipped to the centralized site. This is a huge breakthrough. It will take time to see how effective it can be in ridding the island of waste.

      I have heard so many theories about the floating trash — from other Caribbean islands; from rivers in Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico; trash barges and cruise ships (perhaps the same thing?), and massive floating gyres of trash between Africa and South America and off the US coast. Maybe it is all of this. I suppose trash forensics might yield some of the sources. There are some studies and even a program that shows the currents that move trash around he Caribbean. Maybe somebody could put markers on these floating islands of trash and track their journey….

      As for our small effort, I see it just as a demonstration project that will hopefully spread around the island. In some areas, the issue isn’t aesthetics but the health of the people, marine life and crocodiles. I’d love to see the residential neighborhoods on board and now with the central dumping site perhaps there will be fewer dumps on vacant lots in San Pedro.

      And thanks for the offer to assist. Shipping stuff down will be costly with shipping and duty. Financial contributions can be spent in the community and thus have a double impact. If you wish to make a contribution, you can send it to me at

      Robert J. Hawkins
      c/o Mail Boxes Etc.
      Suite 186
      San Pedro Town
      Ambergris Caye, Belize

      Thanks again for the kind words and your support! Let me know when you are down next!

      Bob

      Like

    […] Sometimes you have to look hard to see signs that we are winning the war on trash but they are there. For example, the San Pedro Town Council’s recently placed roadside trash barrels are generally full to overflowing. And the number of trash cleanup events on the island seem to be increasing. The number of local residents on their way to work who shout out “thank you” or stop to compliment volunteers is also on the rise. Excerpt from Robert Hawkins Belize Bound blog – Holy Cross kids join our monthly trash attack. […]

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