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Jun 26, 2016 / 21:09

Keep Hanoi Clean group: Let’s tidy up the city!

Protecting the environment begins with cleaning up your surroundings. With a goal of cleaning up all the rivers and restoring their flow, the Keep Hanoi Clean group is where Vietnamese and international friends meet to refresh their beloved Hanoi.

A video of a group of people wearing rubber waders wallowing in the bubbly black water of a ditch and fishing trash out went viral on the Internet in May. 

At first, people just give a strange look, because this work is usually done by paid environment workers.  Then many local people jumped in and help pick up trash and many others supply the group with water and food. 

Do Van Binh, who lives in Yen Hoa Street, where the video was taken, said "I really appreciate the group’s activities. First, they cleaned the ditch. Then the environment was improved. Because there is no one watching, every day people throw trash and everything else into the ditch. There are lots of mosquitoes and larvae. I’ve become more aware of such actions. And it’s not only me, but every passer-by. We welcome this group’s activities and want to help. We can’t do much, but at least we can do something practical."

The group Mr. Binh was mentioning is Keep Hanoi Clean group. This is an environmental group founded by James Joseph Kendall, an English teacher at an elementary school in Hanoi, and his friends as a way to do something practical to improve the urban landscape. 

Kendall told VOV "I think we’ve got about 200 volunteers. We have maybe 50-60 Vietnamese people and quite a few foreigners. It’s not just Western, it’s also Eastern. People are from Thailand, Japan, Korea. It’s not just Vietnamese. 

They are living in Hanoi, they also want to help. There are a lot of people here that they love the culture, they love the people. But maybe they didn’t know before how they can contribute and this is the way."


keep hanoi clean group: let’s tidy up the city! hinh 1
James Joseph Kendall, in blue polo T-shirt, and Keep Hanoi Clean members in a weekend meet-up
Keep Hanoi Green group aims to resurrect all the dead ditches and rivers in Hanoi. They meet every weekend, find places that need to be cleaned up, and get right to work on Monday. 

After a short meet-up to assign tasks, members spread out and pick up trash. Picking up trash often takes the entire morning, sometimes several days, as they need to return regularly to make sure there’s no more litter in the area. Finally, they make the place functional by planting flowers and turning the surroundings into a playground.

The work they do is not only time-consuming and energy consuming, it also requires great caution. Who knows what’s under the trash or beneath the black water, maybe shards of glass or needles. 

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Picking up trash is always the most time-consuming part, mostly because of needles and shards of glass under the trash
Keep Hanoi Clean members equip themselves with rubber gloves, boots, and masks supplied by donors who are impressed by the group’s activities. Everyone involved does this work because they truly want to help improve the environment. 

James said "It’s just something we think needs to be done. If I don’t do it who else is going to do it? I mean, like, part of what I want to do is inspiring people to get involved and I think it worked. The water was dirty and the only way I could actually clean it was to go in there and clean it up. I care a lot about this country. I’ve lived here for three years now. And it’s time to give back to the community. It’s time to stop talking and start doing. And that’s what my team is all about."

The meaningful work Keep Hanoi Clean members do impresses those who have only heard of it. 

Greg Nelson, an American expat who has been living in Hanoi for 8 years, told VOV "I learned about the group from a news story. It interested me immediately because I love Hanoi and it bothers me to see people throwing trash on the streets, and especially throwing trash into the canals and rivers. Hanoi is beautiful in my eyes but it would be much more beautiful if it were cleaner. 

I’m older and my physical resistance to disease is probably weaker than a younger person’s, so maybe the physical work should be left to the younger people, but I would still like to give moral support and financial support to the group. I could be one of the people who provide them with materials like rubber gloves, masks, and rubber boots, and containers to pick up trash. I could also play a part by encouraging other people to get involved."

The group has already gotten some support from local authorities. Even before President of Hanoi Nguyen Duc Chung met with James Joseph Kendall, the government was offering support to the group. 


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Environment workers were sent to help Keep Hanoi Clean clean up the ditch
Hoang Minh Thu, Kendall’s assistant and an admin of the group, told VOV "Since day one, the local authorities have been sending people to help us, like five or six workers, and supplying us with wheeled trashcans and tools. We always respect and are thankful for such help from the government." Improving the environment is one of the key factors in developing Hanoi. This can’t be done through the efforts of the government alone. Every citizen must help. Fortunately, groups like Keep Hanoi Clean are motivating others to help make Hanoi a green city.