A special post about our ‘Earth Day’ here in Kisumu on November 15th

This post is a teamwork from Michelle, Isabelle, Victoria, Martin and me.
The photos used for the post were taken by Martin.

Each year, “Earth Day” is observed on the 22nd April, which marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement dating back to 1970. For the Kisumu PULSE team, Earth Day is everyday, where become ‘Keepers of the Earth’.

Michelle had the idea to do this and here’s what she wrote about the day:

We are our own Earth Keepers – Every day should be our personal “Earth Day”
What a wonderful way to begin the closing of our PULSE assignment by being a keeper of the Earth! We, as a Kisumu PULSE team, collaborated with some of the OGRA foundation staff to pick up the litter along some of the roadsides in a part of Kisumu called Milimani Estates. This event was a way for us to give back to this beautiful country, but also provide an opportunity for us to model the way every Kenyan can ‘be the change’ in their communities. Waste management is a large issue within Kenya and we realize the magnitude of the need for education, sensitization and innovative planning to combat this issue. We decided to start impacting and empowering in digestible pieces through 2 actions; not littering and coming together as community to clean up the environment. One of the most empowering moments was having 2 Kenyan young men come up to us and ask if they could help. It was humbling to see them pitch in and the excitement of being a part of this project. They even wanted to know when we would be doing this again. Here is where sustainability comes into play, we discussed with them their ability to spearhead this within their own communities at any time. This hits home as I look over my intention for today, Wednesday, November 19th – “I am unlimited in my own ability to create the good in my life.” We all have this power, it just needs to be believed and put into action.

Here’s what Isabelle wrote about the day:

7 O’clock on a Saturday morning … 5 GSK PULSE Volunteers, 3 OGRA staff members and 2 kids in front of the door of OGRA Foundation’s office ready and motivated by helping our Earth to be kept clean and safe …
Our plan was to clean the area around our office and to fill the car by all the wastes that we can pick up. When we start our “work” people we very surprised to see “Mzungus” doing this kind of activity, some were shamed, others were laughing a little bit confused …
On the question “do you want to help us?”, they were embarrassed and most of them continue their way … but the success of the day was that 2 local guys have accepted to help us. They were engaged, they acted and they were finally proud of what they did … if they can spread a positive message to one or two people, it could be the beginning of a change of behaviour.
After 3 hours of hard work , the car was full by all the wastes but with the hope that all people who will walk in this cleaned area will appreciate and respect this for a time …
We were exhausted and dirty but PROUD of this successful day.
Thanks Michelle for this initiative!

Here’s what Victoria wrote about the day:

The earth keeper event was a perfect idea by Michelle to have an ‘Orange Day’ here in Kisumu. It was an event focused on environment, to collect the rubbish on the street around the OGRA office. This event made a lot of sense for us because so many time we are touched by all the nonsense behaviour of all the people here, the rubbish everywhere in the street, the burning fires …
On Saturday 15th of November we were in place early in the morning ready to start. Despite of all the communication, we were just a few, the Pulse volunteers (Jojo, Martin, Michelle, Isabelle and I), only two people of OGRA (Meshack and Rose) and the wife and children of the director of OGRA. But we were positive and attacked to clean the street, we made lot of good progress in the middle of disgusting rubbish and bad smells. Two people accepted to help us and said this was a really good intervention.
We may be touched just two people and the children of the director of OGRA and it was not the most impactful event but I think we did what was possible to do for us. There is still so many work to do that concerns the environment here in Kisumu. Many people are not concerned and do have not the knowledge about the bad impact of all these bad practices on their health and community. I always try to be positive and do what we can so this is it and I was really happy to be part of this action.

Here’s what Martin wrote about the day:

The Kisumu PULSE team (Michelle, Victoria, Isabelle, JoJo, Martin) used early morning Saturday, 15th November to celebrate our own Earth Day by helping to clean the local environment starting at the OGRA office at 7am. From Michelle’s initiative and energy, and armed with two layers of latex gloves and 15 gallon trash bags, we spread across the local roadway leading us onto Awour Otieno Road, picking up any debris that did not move or was not firmly embedded into the dirt roadways (with the exception of dead chickens or animal or human waste). By 9am, we were joined by two locals who appreciated our efforts and wanted to add their contribution of beautifying their small piece of their community; they saw and appreciated the value and ‘beauty’ of having a cleaner looking local area. Three hours was dedicated to “doing good in the neighborhood.” Along with Meshack and Rose, Connie and her two children from OGRA, we made quite an impactful improvement on approximately 500 meters roadway. We did not tally the number of bags filled, but the back of the Pickup truck was filled to the max. It felt great to contribute and give time and effort to helping improve our local environment. I wish we had started doing this months prior, where we may have been able to empower more community involvement. Hopefully, PULSE volunteers to follow may wish to add this to their ‘to do’ list in 2015 to make this effort more sustainable and impactful on the Kisumu communities. Hakuna Matata.

Here’s what I wrote about the day:

Sustainability is the key in Africa and it is the hardest piece of work because it often seems to be that you make one step forward but take two steps back here in Kisumu. The Earth Keeper event was a great idea and it was nice to see the positive result in the streets which he have cleaned from all the waste (and, to be honest, there’s a lot of waste on the streets) but the other aspect is the above-mentioned sustainability and this part starts in the minds and hearts of the people. There are people who really understand what we did this Saturday morning but there are a lot of people who doesn’t care about their environment due to all the other problems here and sometimes only due to missing interest …
… but maybe we should start first to think about what we should change in our highly industrialized western countries because as long as companies in our countries think about Africa as a ‘cheap waste dump’ we cannot really criticize their wrong environmental behaviour.
Have a look at the following link to understand what I am talking about:
http://www.foxnews.com/tech/2014/03/06/welcome-to-hell-photographer-documents-africas-e-waste-nightmare/

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In the front (from left to right): Victoria, Michelle, Rose, Isabelle, Martin
In the back: me and Meshack