“Clean-up Boulevard” about to begin

In the coastal community of Boulevard, garbage and pollution levels have become increasingly problematic in recent years

In the coastal community of Boulevard, garbage and pollution levels have become increasingly problematic in recent years

Good Samaritan Sisters in the Philippines are about to embark on a two-year environmental project in Boulevard, a poor coastal community in Bacolod City, where garbage and pollution levels have become increasingly problematic in recent years.

According to Sister Grace Marcelo, Coordinator of the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre in Bacolod, the project aims to not only protect the local environment, but also improve the living conditions and health of the local people.

For the people of Boulevard life is tough. Most live in extreme poverty on less than $2 a day with limited access to basic infrastructure and services. Their employment opportunities are few, but they manage to eke out an existence through fishing, growing chickens, ducks and pigs, running small goods stalls or scavenging.

The majority of dwellings in Boulevard are makeshift shelters made from wood, cardboard or plastic. As squatters residing on privately-owned land, the people here are vulnerable to the threat of relocation. Significantly, Boulevard is also a small and over-populated area. Given these conditions, it’s not surprising that the local environment has become so degraded.

“Due to improper disposal of waste material, no regular collection of the garbage, and ineffective programs regarding environmental protection in the area, the coast becomes the dumping site for the residents of Boulevard and the neighbouring areas,” explained Grace.

“This practice leads to more serious problems in the area, such as water-borne diseases and illnesses, air and water pollution and flooding.”

Working in consultation with the local community, Grace and the team at the Good Samaritan Outreach Centre are currently developing a two-year strategy to counter Boulevard’s environmental problems.

The majority of dwellings in Boulevard are makeshift shelters made from wood, cardboard or plastic

The majority of dwellings in Boulevard are makeshift shelters made from wood, cardboard or plastic

This strategy will take a two-pronged approach: implementing awareness-raising and education activities in the community about proper waste management practices and care for the environment; and mobilising the community to participate in a massive clean-up of the area.

Grace said the team will also work to establish partnerships with different agencies to promote environmental protection in Boulevard and Bacolod City.

For almost 20 years, Sisters of the Good Samaritan have regularly visited Boulevard, supporting the people through a health and nutrition program, livelihood assistance and pastoral care. This latest initiative will build on that work and existing relationships in the community.

Grace is aware that the project will be challenging; some locals have described it as “mission impossible”.

“When you see how huge the area is that needs to be cleaned up, I understand how they feel. It’s like a hopeless case if you look at it,” said Grace.

“Some say that there’s nothing we can do about it; people won’t change, they will keep throwing rubbish in the coast.

“But there are those who are very grateful and appreciate our proposal. They believe that it’s a good project and they are willing to support our cause. They also believe that this will benefit them, especially their children.”

Grace feels strongly about the “Clean-up Boulevard” project”, as it has been called, describing “the cause” as “personal to me”.

“This has been my dream – to clean the coast, to restore it to its normal state,” she said.

Sister Grace Marcelo (right) and other Good Samaritan Sisters regularly visit Boulevard

Sister Grace Marcelo (right) and other Good Samaritan Sisters regularly visit Boulevard

“When I first went to Boulevard in 1994… the water was clean. We used to walk along the beach; we’d sit down on the rocks and have our lunch while enjoying the breeze.

“I was so sad when I came back in 2012. The water was contaminated, there was rubbish all over the place and the smell was very bad. It’s not good for anybody, especially for our children.

“One afternoon… I saw the children swimming and enjoying themselves, not knowing the consequences of their actions. I said to myself, ‘This is not right. There must be a way to totally restore it to how it was, or at least to minimise the water pollution’. I believe that environmental education and an intensive clean-up would help us attain this goal.”

While planning for “Clean Up Boulevard” is already underway, intensive work with the community will begin in early 2016.

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The Good Oil, December 8, 2015. If you would like to republish this article, please contact the editor.

8 Responses to ““Clean-up Boulevard” about to begin”

  1. Teresa says:

    Hi Srs Grace and Anne. Hoping and praying that your Clean Up Boulevard this weekend is truly successful. You are both such amazing and inspirational women. Looking forward to seeing the after photos. Teresa and the LCCC Immersion students and staff.

  2. Gerri Boylan says:

    Thank you Grace. The fact that you care and you are present will be effective.
    All the best. Love Gerri

  3. Every time I went with Yoshiko to the Boulevard I saw the hope she gave them. Now you are doing the same Grace. It will be a difficult task don’t give up. Maureen Stone

  4. Blessings on this project. Marie.

  5. Paul and Maureen Toohey says:

    Awesome Grace and all involved. Having been there this time last year we can only admire what a great project this will be. The people of the Boulevard will be so thankful, and for the children to be able to reclaim the beach will be marvellous. We hope we can come back to see the results of your great work, or maybe even help with it!!

  6. Eugennie Levinson says:

    What a wonderful initiative, Grace. I wish you and the community and families every success with the project. It will make an enormous difference to their lives. Hold onto the dream!

  7. Marie Casamento says:

    Your dream inspires me Grace. May others in the locality catch your enthusiasm and form a team that will continue to grow. One step at a time will begin to give hope. Your impetus to provide for the ongoing health of the children will catch momentum. I can do little to assist but will pray that each week another person is inspired to help. Marie Casamento

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