Uniting with Let’s Do It!-Panamá and Open Blue (https://www.openblue.com/), we have set out to clean up Costa Arriba. To combat the trash buildup in the region we began a waste management project by kicking it off with the Let’s Do It!-World event World Cleanup Day (https://www.worldcleanupday.org/). We organized five different communities in the district of Santa Isabel so that they would join the World Cleanup Day. Playa Chiquita, Cuango, Miramar, Palenque, and Nombre de Dios joined the movement to clean their communities and set the example for proper waste management. We wanted to use this event to introduce the topic of waste separation and management and use it as a segway to our next step in the project of selecting participant houses this October.
Let’s Do It!-World is a non-profit that began in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people organized to clean-up the entire country in just five hours. This model has been expanded worldwide and now 169 countries actively participate or have participated in the World Cleanup Day, an event that Let’s Do It!-World began last year on September 15, 2018. This worldwide event has served effectively to raise awareness and mobilize people to get out and do something about their respective trash problems. This was our objective by bringing in the communities in Colón to participate in the World Cleanup Day. We wanted to mobilize people and get rid of their “trash blindness” in order for them to see the effect that their actions have in maintaining the cleanliness of their community. From here we want to move to forming a voluntary group of households to bring their organic waste to the community compost center. We hope that after mobilizing and seeing the difference they can make in their community they will be motivated to join our project and make it their own. If you want to learn more about Let’s Do It!-World go to their website https://www.letsdoitworld.org/.
In order to mobilize the Santa Isabel district, a lot of community organization was needed. We started the day by organizing the main work force in Miramar. Here Open Blue employees volunteered their time to contribute to the effort. We also collaborated with the Suplente Tomás Salazar from Miramar who helped pinpoint the areas with the highest amount of trash contamination. Another environmental group called Planetario Verde (https://www.facebook.com/Planetario-Verde-114825813223009/) joined us in Miramar with a busload of volunteers to aid in the cause. Future Scientist took point in organizing the other communities (Playa Chiquita, Cuango, Palenque, and Nombre de Dios). In Nombre de Dios the Community Council took the lead in the cleanup under the management of Representative Daniel Barrera, in Playa Chiquita the primary school and teachers participated in cleaning up their community, in Cuango a mother and her son were the only ones who joined us for their clean up on the Cuango beachline, and in Palenque the mayor and several community members took charge of their town. Open Blue contributed rubber gloves and trash bags for all the cleanup efforts and Future Scientist ran up and down the coast delivering this material to the cleanup teams. Thankfully I was able to connect with all of them.
I spent some time in each community supporting the cleanup effort as best I could and connecting with community members. In Playa Chiquita I helped pick up trash with the elementary school students, who were incredibly enthused to take on the task and use the gloves and bags to get the job done. I was able to meet with a few community members and talk about issues within the community. In Playa Chiquita a mother and her young son met me and asked if we were going to do a cleanup in Cuango. I said yes and offered to bring them back to the town to begin picking up the trash on the beach. That mother and son that traveled to Playa Chiquita looking for me were the only ones in Cuango that participated in the World Cleanup Day and it was inspiring to see their initiative in lending a hand for the betterment of their community. From Cuango we moved on to Miramar. Due to the sheer quantity of people that participated in the cleanup in Miramar they had finished by the time I had made it there. And by the time I made it to Palenque the cleanup team had disbanded and they had carted off the picked up trash to Colón City. All in all it ended up being a successful day and we had collect approximately 286 lbs. (130 kg) of trash between all five communities. Around 120 people participated in the event and Colón had done its part in making Panama a cleaner place to live.
Now that people are aware of how trash can affect their livelihood and they can see how much damage can be done (and undone) in such little time, it is time for the compost project to move forward into its second phase. In the coming weeks we will begin to recruit households to join our project and bring their organic waste to the community compost center. We are hoping that at least 15 households join the project and help create a waste conscious community. We are hoping that this leads to Colón becoming a national example of responsible waste management for the country.