280 Litter Angels…

„This is a crazy idea“ is what I hear from the Reverend and his wife the moment I tell them about my – and yes, I agree – crazy idea over the phone on Friday morning. How about getting around 300 kids to collect litter on a hot Sunday afternoon in Kimilili as a big thank you for two new class rooms donated by our Rotary Club Zürich Glattal members in Switzerland?

A few weeks ago the Rotary Club Zürich Glattal agreed to help us build two more permanent class rooms which will be turned into secondary school grade 1 and 2. In order to achieve this goal 28 members collected litter in Kloten (near Zurich / Switzerland). We collected 912 kg and asked our friends to donate 1 CHF for each kilo collected to fund the two new classrooms. Find a report here.

I thought it would be great to do something similar in Kimilili with our kids to appreciate their efforts and also create urgently needed awareness for a clean environment in Kenya. Originally, I had not planned to go back to Kimilili this weekend, but when this idea popped into my mind I could not stop smiling. What is life about if not to turn crazy ideas into reality?

Before taking the night bus on Friday I bought 100 balloons, lipstick to paint faces, blankets to be turned into flags as well as Wuwuzelas and clapping hands to make a lot of noise. I also bought pink and yellow ribbons that we tied around the student’s necks and heads. Packed with two big plastic sacks I took the bus, arriving in Kimilili at 6.30am in the morning (and surprise… no fleas this time!).

I told a very good friend of Kimilili – Andreas – about my crazy idea. He immediately catches fire and volunteers to support. Depending on how much litter the kids will pick, he offers to donate urgently needed toilets for the school and the orphanage. In order to get our registration for the Secondary school, we will have to build 8 new toilets further away from the new building, but so far no funds are available. The orphanage that will be extended from 9 to 30 kids will also immediately need two more toilets. I am taken aback by so much support – lacking words of thanks. I promise to send a report as soon as I can to let him know how everything went and hear his final decision on how many toilets he will support.

How do you get 300 kids to school on a hot Sunday afternoon? Offer free lunch and it is a given. And indeed, around 280 children turn up. Our cook Beatrice prepared rice and beans and all helpers started to paint CBSM, our local NGO name, on the kids’ faces and decorate them with the pink and yellow ribbons – including me of course.

It was a beautiful picture seeing how excited the kids were to get their faces painted.

After lunch teacher Calvin explained how we would do the collection. We handed out one glove per kid to be able to collect the litter and a few plastic bags to bigger kids. Four of our class 8 students had huge bags. The moment the small bags were filled they were emptied into one of the four big bags.

We left school making a lot of noises with our Wuwuzelas and clapping hands and collected all the litter that was lying around. And there was a lot to be collected! The moment we arrived at the main street we divided our kids into two groups to slowly move down the street on each side of the road.

After only a few minutes all four big bags were filled and everyone looked at me. “What are we doing now?” This was going too well to be stopped after only a few minutes. However, we found empty litter boxes next to the main street that probably had never seen litter during their existence. We happily filled several of them with the litter from our four big bags. The person who is responsible for emptying them will wonder why all of them had suddenly been filled – assuming there is a responsible person at all…

We went down the entire main street up to the main market and the kids were collecting all the litter. There was so much lying around that all of them had enough to do. They screamed and had a lot of fun and there is not one person in Kimilili who did not notice the 280 beautifully decorated kids collecting litter. Even our teachers had come to volunteer for this good cause.

I had to fight my tears while walking down the main street. I felt so happy to be part of this wonderful community, both in Kimilili and in Zurich. Here is a video of 180 angels in Kimilili collecting several big bags full of litter.

At the end of the day the Reverent and Phylis were interviewed by the local radio explaining the reason for this crazy idea.

Next to having a lot of fun we created some awareness within Kimilili that a beautiful village is a clean village. I would like to thank our Rotary friends Zurich Glattal for helping us build two more permanent classrooms for our school. Our Kimilili Kids send their warmest greetings to all supporters and friends. Asante sana – your help is very much appreciated here!

While going back to school the sky turned black and it started raining cats and dogs. I had two students holding my hands and we started running with the rest. Suddenly we passed by our little Jigger kid that we had to operate twice already, trying to run as fast as possible back to school. I let my two kids run ahead and take that kids’ little hand. She hobbled as fast as she could, but walking is difficult for her. When we finally met up with the other kids, who made it safe back to school, we were soaking wet. I still owe you the Jigger report (check if available or write one and link it) which will also come very soon.

I quickly change into dry clothes and head to the market to catch the night bus back to Nairobi. While squeezed between two people, I open my laptop to write a few lines to Andreas. I promised a report and it takes me ages to write it. Not only because I am lacking space to open my laptop correctly or move my arms, but also because it seems impossible to find the adequate words for what was going on in Kimilili on this hot Sunday afternoon. I manage a few lines, close my laptop and my eyes. Hours later I peek at my mobile. It is 3.30am and we are at Nairobi main station. My mobile shows a message and while my tears run down my face I read:

“Just read your email. I’m proud to support such a great effort. All toilets on me. Sleep well and enjoy dreaming of your wonderful kids!”




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