Last Monday Suleiman, our friend and a Funzi Turtle Club member, came to us and said that Tuesday was a national holiday and the kids are free from school. He had an idea to take a group of students for a major clean-up in the biggest beach on the island, Mwakinyavu. We jumped at the chance as this is one of the best nesting beaches for sea turtles on Funzi and it is too big to clean for a few people. Our worries were only that the children would rather do something else on their day off…
On Tuesday morning we woke up early, trying to avoid walking to the beach when the sun is already on “scorch”. After eating our daily chapatis washed down with a nice chai maziwa (milk tea) we went to the school to see if anyone would join us. The only ones appearing were two girls, and after 20 minutes our suspicions for a “no show” were growing. But suddenly, the school yard filled with children with the encouragement of another club member, Nashamba. About 25 girls and boys from 6 to 16 years old came and impatiently wanted to get started. After a short introduction from Suleiman we started our 45 minutes long walk in the hot Kenyan sun. When we got to Mwakinyavu the kids just spread out and started collecting all kinds of junk that happened to reach the shore – old plastic sandals, hundreds of plastic bottles and other bits and pieces of plastic.
Within half an hour the largest beach on Funzi was clean. Well, it turned out to be more garbage than we managed to carry back to the village. The rest was taken later by the rest of the Turtle Club members. After the hard work we recovered our strength with a soda with the children who made this achievement possible.
The big problem with the plastic debris arriving the beaches here, apart from the obvious non-appealing sight, is that sea turtles and other animals confuse it with food and either choke or get poisoned from it. The clean-ups by the club members, and the children, are an important contribution to marine wildlife.
Another activity of the Funzi Turtle Club is to create handicrafts from the waste, which creates livelihood and gives some value to the undesired, ever growing piles of garbage on the beaches.
A problem we face here on Funzi is that disposal of garbage is nonexistent. All garbage is burned uncontrolled in open fires or simply dug down in the soil. There are no facilities to do any kind of recycling here. The waste pollutes both the air, soil and water around the island. Better facilities here, or at least a better way to transport the junk to the mainland to be recycled, will contribute much to both people and the ecosystems. But at least we are lucky enough to have many children that care about their environment, the future is bright!