CLEARING plastic pollution was top of the agenda for a willing team of Thurrock teenagers who helped clean up the Thames foreshore at Grays beach on Sunday 7 April, willingly donating their time as part of a national day of community volunteering.
Braving the inclement weather, the teens wasted no time and left no stone unturned in their efforts, which unearthed 48 plastic bottles and a huge amount of cotton bud sticks and food packaging, filling 22 refuse sacks.
Organised annually by National Citizen Service (NCS), Action Day is an opportunity for any young person who has participated in NCS to come back and donate their time to a worthy local cause. The teens joined the Grays ‘Beachcombers’ who meet on the first Sunday morning of each month to clear the foreshore as volunteers for Thames21, an independent charity working to improve rivers and canals for people and wildlife.
“It was shocking to see what had washed up onto the foreshore,” said 17 year-old NCS graduate Charlea Bray from Tilbury. “Plastic waste is a huge modern-day issue, polluting waterways and harming wildlife. I think it’s important to be mindful of what products we choose to buy, and the threat plastic has on our environment.
“I have such great memories of visiting this area myself as a child that I wanted to come and help keep it clean and useable for others too.”
Charlea, a student at USP Palmers College, spent four weeks on the NCS youth empowerment programme last summer. After spending time at Kingswood outdoor education centre in the Isle of Wight, she completed a social action project to renovate the gardens of a care home in Chadwell and has been keen to volunteer her time to the local community again.
“I really enjoyed volunteering before,” she continues. “NCS gave me so much that I really want to give something back. Action Day has given us the perfect opportunity to come together as a team once again and show the positive impact we can have. It was really good fun to get out on the foreshore – I’ll definitely be heading down again to help.”
Taking place outside of term time, NCS is a once–in-a-lifetime opportunity open to 16 and 17 year olds across England and Northern Ireland. Delivered regionally by Ingeus and a range of community based partners, it helps young people build skills for life, promotes trust between people of different backgrounds and gives participants the opportunity to volunteer their time to a social action project. Nationally, more than 500,000 teens have taken part, donating 12 million hours of community-focused time.
Steve Catchpole, a volunteer waterway clean-up facilitator for Thames21 leads the Grays Beachcombers and said: “It was super to have the NCS team’s help as part of Action Day. Our finds prompted lots of discussions about how plastic ends up in our rivers and the devastating impact it has. Thames21 works with local communities to improve and maintain our waterways so having young volunteers on board is excellent.”
Action Day aims to showcase the true power of young people as NCS graduates, utilising the skills and experience they gained on the NCS programme to continue to make positive changes in their local area. This year it also coincides with the Great British Spring Clean, which runs until 23 April.
To find out more about National Citizen Service visit NCSYES.CO.UK