Adventures of Hope at the Chek Jawa cleanup

A “late” Zone Captain

The day didn’t start well for myself, the ICCS Chek Jawa Zone Captain and my entourage of Site Buddies – we were lost in Sengkang trying to pick everyone up! So we were not first volunteers on Pulau Ubin, ready and waiting to greet everyone else, as we are tradition-bound to do.

Instead Sukyo Mahikari beat us to Changi Point Ferry Terminal – they were there by 6.30am! Well, they did not need any hand-holding as they are efficient veterans, but still, it was that Recce Captain Andy Dinesh was on hand so early to greet them.


Programme Sheet of Sukyo Mahikari

The Commando Group
Volunteers from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) too were early, reaching Chek Jawa by 8am. here to tackle a new site – Chek Jawa North 2 – they had to walk more than 400 m from the Chek Jawa gates, past a rocky headland to get to their site.

This headland is the first point to be submerged by a rising tide so in my mind, they became the “commando” group – get in quickly, count, collect and categorise the marine trash they could lay their hands and GET OUT before the tide swallowed the headland.  Despite the limitation of time and extremely long distance to the Trash Disposal Point, they managed an impressive 420 kg!

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“Commando Group” – LTA

Meanwhile, NPCC HQ’s site in Chek Jawa North was a 150 m walk from the CJ gates to reach their first data categorisation and cleanup spots – but first they had to brave a really muddy patch – NPCC’s Zhu Lin later reported one her students left his bootie inside the mud!

Rachael Li was new but a great Site Captain at Chek Jawa North – having spent the previous year on Pulau Ubin for hr honours year research project, she is an Ubin veteran. Supporting her was my old friend Dennis, a Site Buddy who is familiar with “heavy load” shores, after years at Lim Chu Kang beach.

The right tool for the right job
Meanwhile, the other “war theatre” saw Site Buddy Shriyanka head off with Juliet and her group from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Humanities.

Juliet impressed me as she got her students to a 6.45am rendezvous at Eunos MRT – with the warning that she planned to leave late-comers behind. The reason? From last year, she knew that tide certainly waits for no man! With experience from last year, they brought kitchen knives and cutters to tackle the ghost nets common on the Chek Jawa shore and did a great job of removal!

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Juliet (far left, wearing yellow in a blue tub) with her students from Ngee Ann School of Humanities

Every two can do the job
Paul of St Joseph’s Institution International was accompanied with only his son, Will.  Unable to get anyone else on this Hari Raya weekend, they turned up gamely and worked well after everyone had ended to collect, count and categorise trash. Kudos to their determination and the reminder to step forward to a good job even in the absence of additional support!

Chek Jawa South – the last “war theatre”
At Chek Jawa South, Site Buddies Fucai, June and myself waited at Ubin’s big Pulai Tree to wait for Dow Chemicals and CHIJ Katong Convent. Fucai who exemplified the “buddy” in “Site Buddy” by hitting it off well with Christopher of Dow Chemicals, taking photos and working well with them.  The Dow Chemicals volunteers too took out the heavy nets along the shoreline which Team Seagrass had painfully dragged all the way from the inter-tidal area on a previous occasion.

Chek Jawa South was tough for coordinators because the access points are not obvious. One organiser even got a little lost with about 40 students in the bush!

Stalwarts CHIJ KC consisted of young girls unfamiliar with the wet inter-tidal environment but still, they got down to dedicated work and categorised over 2,000 items.  The school sends down their entire Secondary 2 Cohort for ICCS, providing them a unique experience at a unique site in Singapore’s environmental history!

Grow a little each year
I’ll end the post, and a tough spell for me as coordinator at this site, with my observations about the growth of the Sukyo Mahikari.

They started out in ICCS facilitated by the Nature Society of Singapore several years ago, at Chek Jawa. Last year, they stepped forward and organise themselves independently and reported at 6.30am with an operations chart with various subgroups defined.

This year, they added further refinements

White Paint Marker to label weight on trash
Pole with weighing scale tied with cable tie

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Using Plastic Kapaline Boards to mark out the sub sites

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Gloves and plastic boards washed and reused as they wait for debrief! Talk about efficiency!

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No money to buy clipboards?  Cheap Plastic Kapaline Boards come to the rescue.

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Sukyo Mahikari!

A well prepared group is a heartening sign. By working the same site each year, you can become better prepared, work more safely and efficiently, improve your education programme, increase your independence, improve methods and become a champion of your site and a stalwart of ICCS. What a sustainable and meaningful way to contribute to healing the planet.

In ICCS, we have been providing such groups registration priority and they can register early too. A few groups have evolved to become anchors for the ICCS and Zone Captain for this site, this is a hopeful sign for the continued protection of the precious shore we all treasure so much at Chek Jawa!

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The ICCS Volunteer team for Chek Jawa:

From Left: Marcus Tay, Dennis Chew, Shriyanka Nayak, Rachael Li, Kuay Yingxuan, Yan Fucai, June Lim and Andy Dinesh!

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