What used to be one man cleaning up his local beach at the beginning of summer turned into a 40-people crowd planning to march through Sliema and clean up Font Ghadir and other nearby bays on World Cleanup Day this Saturday.
It all started when Krzysztof Dziembaj, a Polish man living near Balluta Bay, would stroll down the hill and sit at the bay to have his lunch. But it soon started bugging him that wherever he tried to sit or lie down, he would have to clean up the cigarette buds, glass or plastic cups.
So, after thinking about it and checking the law, he started cleaning up Balluta Bay by himself on the weekend. And what started out of frustration turned into something positive.
“The reactions from people that saw me clean were overwhelmingly positive. People were chatting me up, giving me thumbs up, clapping. I have met some really interesting people as well. Generally speaking, I grossly underestimated the effort but it is worth it!”
Besides grateful people showing appreciation, he finds it really satisfying to see how good the beach looks once it’s clean.
“Families can now enjoy a beach with less mess, less glass and less plastic. They can spend some quality-time without having to worry about the things that made me start cleaning in the first place,” Dziembaj said.
And while Dziembaj commits his weekends to cleaning the beach, he said he is “by no means” an environmental activist. “I just try to not do any harm to my surroundings.”
After cleaning up for three months, people became eager to join Dziembaj. “To my surprise there have been plenty of people willing to help, coming from Santa Venera and beyond. I even spoke to a guy from Mosta who wants to join as well!”
He also encouraged some of his Polish friends to help him, and what used to take him nearly three hours can now be done in just about one.
And with hard work comes fun. “After the clean-up I take all the guys for a coffee and a croissant to my favourite place nearby.”
Since his cleanups he has met many like-minded people, so he wondered: why not allow more people, who are new on the island or feel lonely, to meet up?
“You come, you do something good, you meet good people, and that’s what I would like this to be about.”
And it’s not just about beaches, as Dziembaj would like to clean up Pjazza tal-Balluta and other places as well.
“I know that people are usually tied to their localities and we, as human beings, don’t take into consideration things that do not impact us directly and that is OK. What I would like to do is encourage people from other parts of Malta, both expats and locals, to take care of their localities.”
“We live here. Malta is my home, St. Julian’s is my home, and I want to take care of it. And I think others would like to take care of their home as well, regardless which part of Malta it is.”
“We do not have to be extremely altruistic about it. Even if we do it for ourselves it’s good enough, as long as we take care,” he added.
And he’s optimistic about the future. “Once we’ll build a stable community around Balluta Bay, I am 100% sure we’ll expand.”
Join Dziembaj and the others in Sliema on 18th September for World Cleanup Day. Whether it is to clean up, to meet people or just to have a different type of beach day – you will absolutely be appreciated. 50 participants will even get a €10 voucher for online groceries.
They will meet in front of Intersport at 4pm this Saturday to clean up all the way from Sliema Beach to Sursfide. Click ‘going’ on the Facebook event if you are!
Will you be cleaning up your area on World Cleanup Day this Saturday?