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.
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.
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.
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!