Almost 500 youths gather to clean up beach at East Coast Park
The event was part of the WYNIST Mass Coastal Cleanup organised by Outward Bound Singapore and Better Trails.
Close to 500 youths weathered Singapore’s relentless humidity on Sunday (Jul 24) as they trudged the shores of East Park Park, picking up debris and litter which had been discarded on the beach.
This was part of the WYNIST Mass Coastal Cleanup organised by Outward Bound Singapore (OBS) and Better Trails — a social enterprise which promotes environmental education — in an effort to educate youths on the impacts of ocean pollution.
For three youth environmentalists, the cleanup was also an opportunity to put their words into action.
Consistent and continued efforts
The lead project coordinator for the event was 21-year-old student Xavier Ang from Temasek Polytechnic.
Xavier’s environmental journey started when he was appointed the President of the Green Ambassador Club five years ago while schooling at ITE College East. Through this, he found out about Better Trails and started volunteering with the organisation to participate in its different outdoors programme and sustainability efforts.
Currently, he is also the president of the Green Interest Group in his school where they take part in activities like tree plantings, beach cleanups and other various upcycling projects.
As the project coordinator for the cleanup, Xavier’s duty included coming up with a poster with the team, working with various organisations behind the scenes to set up the entire event and making sure that communications were in place.
He shared that despite these preparations, the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be a challenge, bringing about many uncertainties for the team as they were trying to plan the event.
“Even one week or one day before the event, people were down with COVID, so we had to make a lot of adjustments and had to be quite flexible,” said Xavier.
Nevertheless, he feels a sense of accomplishment that the team was able to successfully execute the cleanup.
“While planning this three to four months back, we were very lost but now that the thing is almost completed, we are really really happy to say that we managed to organise this,” said Xavier.
Making a change
Another Temasek Polytechnic student who played a role in organising the cleanup was 18-year-old Miza Masturah — the facilitator and emcee for the event.
Growing up, Miza was heavily influenced by her father who is a strong advocate for causes surrounding sustainability.
This consciousness for the environment prompted her to join the Green Interest Group in her school, where she now serves as the vice-president.
Miza shared that in order to prepare for the event, the team had travelled down to the East Coast OBS campus a week prior to learn from the OBS facilitators on what constitutes rubbish that they can collect.
She found out that objects like coconut husks and seaweed can be thrown back into the ocean, while items such as shells with animals on them should be left alone.
Due to the long distances between the clean-up areas, the participants had to take shuttle buses to the respective sectors they were in charge of which made scheduling difficult and inconvenient.
“Our cleaning time was about an hour but even by the time my group came back, there were still some people waiting to get on the bus to be shuttled to their locations,” said Miza.
Even with these complications, Miza feels that the event has been quite memorable, bringing up how she was able to learn more about the people around her such as her club advisor who took part in the cleanup.
“It was really nice to be able to get closer to the people who care so much about you and help you get these kinds of opportunities,” shared Miza.
In addition, being involved in the project has also given her a chance to forge bonds with the various organisations which she feels is important for networking and to expand her club’s outreach.
More importantly, Miza hopes that the cleanup has been a wake up call for people to be more careful and conscious of how their actions can have an impact on the environment.
“Many people are careless and do not pay attention to what they throw away because they think that it won’t do anything to the environment but it does go a long way and it does so much more than you think,” said Miza.
Being informed and getting involved
For 20-year old Rachel Anne Lee, sustainability is just one of many causes which she strongly advocates for.
As a student taking General Paper at Millenia Institute for her A-Levels, she recognised that understanding current affairs was necessary for young Singaporeans in order to make changes in society.
With a few like-minded friends, she started Why It Matters — a project which educates youths on issues happening all over the world. It also comprises an e-magazine with the July issue set to focus entirely on environmentalism.
Rachel shares that she was contacted by the organising team behind the cleanup and decided to participate as it was a good opportunity to “push for a better Singapore”.
As it was her first time participating in such an event, she had assumed that the beach would be polluted with marine litter which had washed ashore from neighbouring countries.
However, what greeted her instead was an excess of litter such as cigarette butts and sweet wrappers which to her were “evidently products of Singapore”.
“Considering how Singapore is known as this clean and green city, it shocked me to find that our general respect for nature by binning our litter was not realised on these beaches,” said Rachel.
Nonetheless, the cleanup went smoothly with her team managing to pick up quite a few items including ten large pieces of wood meant for construction and a few rusty nails by the end of it.
Rachel said: “I feel really accomplished and thankful for this opportunity to expand our knowledge into a practical sense.
Even though climate change and global waste is a massive and macro issue, it’s still nice to know that all of us as individuals have put in a hand in helping out to protect the environment.”