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Student Voices: Shoreline Cleanup

Every year U of T hosts a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup. Read a student group leader’s reflection of the event and be sure to check out http://shorelinecleanup.ca/ for more information.

by Zaid Al-Azzawi

I found out about this day by chance. Elvis told me about it, and I thought to myself it would be a great opportunity to catch up with my orientation group after a week of university.

The day started with us being divided into the groups we signed up as. We were assigned as team Seagulls. I already knew most of my group from orientation week, but we had two new people added to our group, and we got to know each other during the icebreakers period. After icebreakers we had the pleasure of listening to an aboriginal woman, and she told us about the importance of the work we were doing. Then we headed to the busses, and that is when we got our specific instructions.

I was a group leader, so I was responsible for making sure that my entire group knew what we had to do. To be honest, it did not feel as if I was leading, it just felt like I was with my friends working on a Sunday – we all had a common sense of responsibility towards what we were doing that day. We headed to our sector of the shoreline, and we started to clean up. As time passed, the garbage bags we were carrying kept on getting bigger and bigger. After an hour or so, we had already filled our glass container. However, three hours felt like three minutes because for the entire time that we were cleaning up, it was filled with loads of smiles, laughs, and jokes. We even had our own little mini game of guessing what the next trash item we find might be.

At five, we were all gathering at the busses to head back. Before we entered the busses, all the groups put their garbage bags in one pile, and after the last bag was compiled with the rest, everyone was shocked. I don’t think any of us really expected just how much trash we would all end up picking up. It confronted me with a bitter reality that there are many people who do not dispose of their garbage in the appropriate garbage bins.

We all got into the busses and headed back, and on our way back, all my group and I could talk about was how much garbage we actually collected that day, and how much fun we all had although we were all working on a Sunday. It was a truly different and impactful experience, and I learned a lot from it.

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