Both foreigners and locals join hands to fight litter in northern Vietnam
Nearly 100 members of Keep Hanoi Clean, a volunteer group which fights pollution in the Vietnamese capital, came together over the weekend to clean up a well-known landmark for tourists and locals.
Keep Hanoi Clean spent Sunday morning collecting trash scattered around Bai Da Song Hong, a rocky area near the city’s Hong (Red) River.
In groups of three and four, the crew members were able to collect a whopping 400kg of garbage, picking the site clear of the mounds of decomposing scrap buried under layers of rock and soil.
The rubbish was then transferred to a local landfill by garbage trucks.
Though their act is welcomed by locals as a significant and meaningful contribution to the community and the environment, the group’s history has not been without its rough patches.
As Vietnam continues to become more aware of its pollution problems, environmental organizations seem to be forming by the dozens.
But what helps Keep Hanoi Clean stand out as a shining example for others hoping to help is its American founder, James Joseph Kendall.
Kendall said he had been living in the Vietnamese capital for three years before organizing Keep Hanoi Clean.
He said the realization of the impact pollution was having on the city led him to step forward and create a group to preserve its environment.
“And so, here we are,” he said.
His work has since earned him the 2016 Bui Xuan Phai Award, an honorary title bestowed upon those who have made great contributions to Hanoi.
When Kendall first founded Keep Hanoi Clean, the group only consisted of ten members.
As foreigners, they were originally shunned by the community, with many claiming they were good-for-nothing.
Fortunately, he did not let the critics stand in his way.
Despite the ridicule, Kendall continued to use Facebook as a medium to reach out to the community.
Now, the group boasts nearly 2,000 members both inside and outside Vietnam.
Despite the ‘foreign factor,’ their slogan, “Let’s keep Vietnam clean!”, still holds the country and its interests at heart.
That dedication has since earned them the backing of Hanoi’s local government and its citizens – a major factor in their success.
Last weekend’s event was not only a display of their growing membership, but also their power in action.
Besides standing members, many non-affiliated locals decided to join the group after it posted an invitation on its Facebook page.
Bui Phuong Linh, 11, tagged along with her 21-year-old sister Bui Phuong Mai, who hoped her participation would help make a difference in the community.
“I have been to many countries. They are always so clean and spotless. I want Vietnam to be the same,” Mai exclaimed.
Despite her age, Linh seemed fully aware of the importance of a clean environment: “We must clean and protect the beaches in Vietnam so that we can be proud to be compared to other countries."
Dinh Minh Tuan, 22, also found the experience extremely meaningful.
Holding a handful of trash, he hastily commented: “There is so much garbage here. We have to act, and act fast. I just hope others become aware of this. We need more hands on deck.”
Kendall also hopes to use his organization as a platform to launch an English class for Vietnamese children which focuses on reducing, reusing, and recycling.
The Keep Hanoi Clean founder said he loves and revels in the cleanliness of the environment in Vietnam.
He underlined that the group will stop at nothing until Vietnam has truly become a desirable place to live, “without any garbage in sight, of course!”