The day started with an early morning wake up, quite tough on a Saturday but we were all keen to help out! We headed down to a local dive shop who organised the beach clean. The interns paired off and each pair was put in charge of about ten to fourteen children who all came from schools and orphanages in George and Mossel Bay.
The kids seemed very eager to get to work and were all hoping to be part of the winning team by collecting the most rubbish. Each team was assigned a different stretch of coastline between Dias beach and Santos beach to clean up. The shore ranged from beach to rocks so some areas were quite a challenge. Bags and gloves at the ready the children were set off and quickly ignored all instructions to stay together and within hearing range!
Everyone did really well and despite first impressions making us think there wasn’t much work to be done, once we started looking we found all sorts of rubbish; from bottles and cans to car tyres and even a pair of shoes. We even managed to do a bit of teaching along the way when the children discovered starfish and anemones in the rockpools.
Each group spent about two hours walking along their area and back scanning for rubbish to collect. Once we were done we headed back to the meeting point with our full bags to wait to be picked up. It didn’t take long for the children in some groups to notice the sandy beach and inviting sea just down from our meeting point and after much pleading we gave in and said they could paddle but go no deeper than to the knee. Of course the minute we said that we were left standing watching thirteen very excitable kids running screaming towards the waves and inevitably diving in completely.
About twenty minutes later they finally tired out and stood shivering in the car park in wet clothes but still not regretting the decision to swim. Whilst we were waiting they sung songs and taught us one of their games which was really nice.
The next part of the day began when we were taken back to the local Flames restaurant. The children were given some free time to rest (and dry off) and play before we went back to work; this time sorting through the rubbish bags and cataloguing the kinds of things we found, for the PADI aware database.
We were all rewarded for our efforts with some food from the braai which went down very nicely.
All in all we really enjoyed the day-we didn’t expect to be so willingly put in charge of the kids but it was very nice to be given the responsibility and so rewarding when we saw our groups enjoying themselves. The day was a lot of fun and we were very proud of both ourselves and the children when we saw the amount of rubbish that we had cleared at the end of the day. We would all be more than happy to help out again if the opportunity arose.
By Rachel Morley and Chris Henderson – Mossel Bay OCEANS Research interns