Helping Hands Removes 70 Tons of Trash from Dominican Beaches
By Monica Lunardelli, Church News and Events
On September 15, 2012, more than 4,000 Mormon Helping Hands volunteers helped to clean beaches throughout the Dominican Republic. Equipped with bags, gloves, and a willingness to serve, the participants gathered to 26 different areas to remove trash from the coast. The final result was the removal of more than 70 tons of trash from Dominican beaches, rivers, and lakes.
Missionaries and members dressed in yellow vests to celebrate the International Coastal Cleanup Day and worked alongside several nonprofit organizations, local government officials, schools, and small companies.
On the day of the service project, volunteers of all ages and backgrounds began at 9:00 a.m. and worked under the tropical heat to scour plastic bottles, paper wrappers, cans, and other litter from the country’s beautiful coasts. Even though the event was supposed to end at noon, many decided to work until the end of the afternoon.
Preparation for the one-day project began long before September 15. According to Laurel Jill Dunford, who is serving as a public affairs missionary with her husband, Robert M. Dunford Jr., the Dominican Republic’s 19 stakes trained specific members to be representatives. Those representatives then trained the members of their stakes.
Fundación Vida Azul (Blue Life Foundation), a nonprofit organization, also helped coordinate the event, providing garbage bags, plastic gloves, screens, water bottles, and scales to the volunteers.
Besides cleaning the coast, volunteers also used screens to sift some of the collected trash to identify where it came from. Sister Dunford said in a previous year, volunteers found out some of the trash deposited on the coastline came from a cruise ship. Identifying the source of the trash helped correct the problem and avoid more littering.
In the end, the activity not only helped to remove trash from the Dominican shoreline, but it also brought families and neighbors from different backgrounds together.
“We had nonmembers who participated in our group,” Sister Dunford said. “They made comments about this [being] a wonderful experience [and] said, ‘I would like to join with the Church to do it more.’”
Rafael Gutiérrez, Caribbean Area public affairs director, said Church members in the Dominican Republic should expect the Church to keep participating in volunteer work that will help “integrate the Church with the society.”
“If there is a group that should be concerned with promoting a healthy living in society, the preservation of our natural resources, and the care of the environment . . . to leave to all children a better future, then this group should be the Christians,” Brother Gutiérrez said.
As the result of members’ and others’ Christlike service, the Dominican Republic can enjoy cleaner beaches, greater unity in the community, and pride in the nation’s beauty.
“The reason we do this is to let them know that we believe in taking care of our country,” Sister Dunford said.