Registered: September 2007
View this Member's Photo Gallery
My parents moved my family to an island in the Caribbean when I was 13 to work with a Christian radio station. Over time I became friends with many of the neglected local youth, all of which are under-loved, under-disciplined and under-educated. We began working with these young people teaching reading, math and life skills. As more kids came and my folks developed a full time youth outreach program, we left the radio work to dedicate all our time to the kids.
In front of where we lived there is a 100 yard section of beach where a large amount of trash washes up every night. Some days it is worse than others, depending on the tide, direction and force of the wind, and whether or not there has been a storm at sea. My mom realizes the importance of keeping our island clean, so she dedicated a portion of her time to clean the stretch of beach every day. If there has been a hurricane out at sea, a VERY large amount of seaweed mixed with trash washes up on our beach throughout the course of a week or so. This much work is much too extraneous for one person to accomplish alone. When that happens, we recruit the youth, whom I have come to know.
One particular storm was very bad. Trash-filled seaweed covered the beach four feet wide and three feet deep along the 100 yard stretch. After church about 20 kids helped our family clean up the beach for the afternoon. We bagged the trash (being careful of medical waste and dirty diapers), and piled the weeds by the road for the city maintenance crew. After hosing down at the faucet, we all enjoyed pancakes and ice cream. Even though a lot of the kids suffered for days afterwards from pica pica (an itching rash caused by tiny jelly fish eggs), it was a positive experience that everyone was glad to have participated in. It took three dump truck loads just to carry away the weeds. We had 18 bags of trash.
We have been able to involve the youth in this important environmental project numerous times. Sometimes we just clean trash and weeds from streams to keep the water flowing and mosquitoes from laying eggs. Malaria and Dengue are major problems here. I got dengue shortly after we moved. Fortunately it was not the deadly variety.
Our islandís economy relies on the tourism industry. If we have dirty beaches and a reputation for malaria and dengue, the tourists may stop coming. It is important to teach the people on our island the importance of being environmentally aware. They have lived surrounded by trash their entire lives and it is a common sight that they do not consider. I have written a song that we sing regularly with the kids to remind them of the importance of properly disposing of their garbage.
As important as the physical environment is on our island, the family, social, and educational environment is much more important. These kids donít understand the idea of family and their education is very poor. Schools have no textbooks and teachers are often on strike because the government withholds their paychecks for weeks, even months at a time. We help the children learn educational and life skills so they will better understand how to make better choices, including caring for the environment.