The American expat behind a voluntary group dedicated to keeping Hanoi clean has been appraised by the city’s leader after making headlines earlier this week for cleaning a heavily polluted trench.
On Wednesday, James Joseph Kendall, founder of the Facebook page ‘Keep Hanoi Clean,’ received a commemorative medal from the city’s chairman Nguyen Duc Chung, in recognition of his voluntary effort to reduce pollution in the Vietnamese capital.
On May 15, Kendall, accompanied by local and foreign members of his group, joined hands to clear a garbage-packed canal in Yen Hoa Ward, Cau Giay District. Photos showing their act were later spread online, attracting attention from local residents.
The 'Keep Hanoi Clean' group, open to “everyone who is willing to volunteer to keep Hanoi clean,” was founded earlier this month, with the number of members rising to nearly 5,500 after the trench-cleaning story was widely covered by the media.
At Wednesday’s meeting with the group leader, chairman Chung extended his thanks to Kendall and commended him and the group members for their active contribution to the community, having “protected the city’s environment through practical actions.”
The leader then awarded Kendall with a medal, in the shape of the city’s logo of the Literature Temple, and invited him to participate in a tree-growing ceremony in commemoration of World Environment Day on June 5.
“On behalf of Hanoi leaders, I’d like to recognize and appraise the meaningful and practical work done by you and your friends,” chairman Chung said. “Your actions have indeed raised people’s environmental awareness and highlighted the importance of building a green, beautiful Hanoi.”
The chairman then tasked the Hanoi Youth Union with collaborating with ‘Keep Hanoi Clean’ to spread the city-cleaning drive.
Following the meeting with the city’s chairman, Kendall updated on the group’s Facebook that he is extremely happy that they have full support from the government.
“Now, we will have a chance to see what is really possible when everybody works together,” he wrote. “It is time to build our network in all the districts.”
The group leader also revealed that he had invited the Hanoi chairman to grow a tree with the group “when he has time.”
Kendall arrived in Vietnam in 2013 and has been teaching English for children at several schools throughout the capital city.
While photos showing foreign members of ‘Keep Hanoi Clean’ immersing themselves in the dirty water of the polluted canal in Yen Hoa Ward won the admiration from locals, they upset the ward administration, who said the pictures imply that they have done nothing to keep their area clean.
The ward administration was a bit unhappy as the foreigners had carried out their work without notifying authorities beforehand.
The photos shared online could mislead people into believing that the ward administration did not care about the polluted canal, the ward deputy chairman, Do Ngoc Anh, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Tuesday.
Anh also said local authorities had in fact cleaned the canal for five consecutive days from April 21 before the volunteers began their work.