Reviewing the ICCS coordination team

Although most of the coordinating team members are veterans, each year I check that they are able to help out. Working life might get tougher or require long periods away, long-timers might be feeling burnt out and rarely,someone might want to do more!

So I send out an email and collect and evaluate responses. In case some are optimistically enthusiastic, I need to temper roles. No point having anyone under unnecessary stress.

Then its time to recruit and train.

For now, the following have signed up and it looks like we’re in wee a bit of trouble, so recruitment will be a priority. If you feel like joining us, sign up here.

Zone Captains:

  • North West – N. Sivasothi; Lee Bee Yan, Jessica Ker
  • North East – Ng Kai Scene; Deputies: Lim Chen Kee, Cheong Wei Siong
  • Ubin West –
  • Chek Jawa –
  • Changi – Teo Kah Ming
  • Tanah Merah –
  • East Coast –
  • South – Kelly Ong

Site Captains

  • NW: new sites –
  • NW: Pandan Mangrove – Ou Yang Xiuling
  • UW: ?Ketam Beach – Athena Han
  • CJ –

Other roles

  • Recce Captain – Andy Dinesh
  • Admin & Logistics Captain –
  • Data Captain –
  • Photo Captain –

New roles (to be determined)

  • Jocelyne Sze
  • Ong Say Lin
  • Germaine Leng

N. Sivasothi

New sites in North-West Zone

A few new sites new sites have been identified in the North-West Zone at Sarimbun, Lim Chu Kang and Kranji East mangrove. We will be shifting the groups who work at KR1-4 to these sites as NParks will be conducting works at the Kranji Nature Trail this year and perhaps introduce some new gung-ho teams to join the Singapore American School and NUS groups.

Ria Tan examined the Kranji East mangrove during her inter-tidal sojourns and posted an account on Wild Shores Singapore which doubles as a first recce for us – nature journals are invaluable; thanks Ria!

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: Zones & Sites - Google Maps

I will have to visit the site at some point with organisers. Meanwhile the other new sites in Sarimbun and Lim Chu Kang mangrove was examined last year. Photos are up on Flickr. Click the map below to view the sites. We will re-examine Mandai mangroves only later as there are safety and impact issues.

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore: Zones & Sites - Google Maps

How to clean Pandan with panache! (Reflections about the IAVE workshop)

The ICCS Otters kicked off their first event of 2011 on 22nd Jan with a cleanup cum workshop organized for delegates from the International Association for Volunteer Effort (IAVE) Youth Volunteer Conference. Held in Singapore this year, the conference was attended by 439 youth delegates and started by joining local volunteer groups at their sites of action. Eighteen international and local youth volunteers got “warmed up” for the conference by joining us at Pandan Mangrove.

As our trusty South Zone Captain, Kelly Ong was in charge, I relished the respite from zone captain duties and looked forward to an easy and enjoyable time! The fun started at the pre-cleanup meeting at Coffee Club, Holland Village, where we were spurred to decide team names and chose cute ones inspired by mangrove creatures. I chose Team Crabby, alongside Teams Otty, Skippy and Snaky.

ICCS Otters arrive early at the cleanup site for preparations. L-R: Dinesh, Jayanthi, Kah Meng, Jag, Bee Yan, Siva; front row: Kelly, Jessica, Grace, Kai Scene and Manuela. Photo by Kenneth Pinto

During the pre-cleanup meeting, we also also confirmed the actual day’s sequence of events and the pre-cleanup brief for the delegates. We had to synchronise our sub-group activity carefully as we had very little time (3 hours) to complete a workshop before we waved goodbye to delegates.

This got me thinking deeper about how to cleanup Pandan Mangrove (or any other site, for that matter) with panache. In less flowery terms, what a smooth and educational cleanup effort entails:

You have to plan carefully for a safe and effective cleanup. And amidst the details of the logistics and event sequence, it is vital to think about the take-home message for participants – I felt I tend to forget about the latter particularly during our larger-scale operations.

Another highlight was the importance of the site recce – even on the actual day, which group leaders did by reaching Pandan Mangrove early, well before the delegates. This allowed us to establish a safe entry point (no hornet’s nest or other hazards) with minimal damage to vegetation and to assess the trash load.

Kah Ming conducting the pre-cleanup briefing

Once the delegates arrived, they were directed to our four small groups for the briefing and tackled the trash for just half an hour. We were using the data cards so that delegates had an impression of how ICC volunteers conduct operations around the world in September – collect trash, categorise and record data, weigh trash etc. During this time, it was important to engage participants, demonstrate how we carried out various procedures and clarify doubts.

Team Crabby at work!

Back at NUS a short bus ride later, with time running out, we abandoned plans about blogging and concentrated on logging data before Siva conducted a short lecture on various aspects about ICCS – marine life, impact of pollution, the link to our daily lives and public education as well as how to start something small and nurture it to something larger and sustainable.

The next important lesson I pondered that day was: the ability to improvise! Although we had planned a detailed schedule, we made changes comfortably to keep things enjoyable with one eye always on the objective.

Post-cleanup data logging

The last thing about a good cleanup (and my personal favourite) is the interaction a.k.a. the trading of “war stories”. These sessions do enhance the volunteer experience and IAVE actually agrees, as their objective is to “promote, strengthen and celebrate the development of volunteering worldwide”. A reason for the annual IAVE conferences, thus must be to facilitate sharing. So it was good that we set aside time too. I told them about the many tyres found during the first Pandan Mangrove cleanup and found out that one of the delegates had participated in ICC Port Dickson, Malaysia previously!

As we were about to wave our goodbyes, we setup a Facebook group as the quickest way to keep in touch.

So, would you want to execute a cleanup with panache? You would probably need more than one trial. The ICCS way has always been to start small and improve with each cleanup. And because familiarity breeds complacency, even “cleanup veterans” need to reflect back on what they do every now and then. While demonstrating to the IAVE delegates how ICCS runs a cleanup I got my refresher. It certainly feels like 2011 has started on the right note!