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Tue 17 Aug 2010

International Coastal Cleanup Singapore coordinators' National Day cheer

Category : coastalcleanup

The ICCS Otters who coordinate the island-wide International Coastal Cleanup Singapore were busy congratulating fellow-volunteer Cheng Wei Siong for his appearance in Today's National Day feature called "Singapore Dreaming".

Written by Temasek Polytechnic students pursuing a Diploma in Communications and Media Management, the special featured a variety of Singaporeans - "To imagine what this island nation could be like 20, 30 years from now, is to look inside the heads of its dreamers."

Sharing the page with Wei Siong is fellow-environmentalist Raina Ong who says, "I wish we all recycled".

In the ICCS programme, Wei Siong keeps the company of an illustrious group of volunteers who have served with the programme for many years, adopting a slow and steady approach to prevent burn out and disappearance. They recce sites, communicate and mentor organisers, coordinate cleanup sessions, ensure data submissions are accurate, blog, twitter and are the most tireless on the shores during the actual cleanups. Year after year, for they are all veterans.

When National Day dawned on 9th August, the ICCS Otters were cheered to see Wei Siong featured and delcared him a "poster boy" for the ICCS! Though a relative youngster, Wei Siong has been with the programme for eight years as participant, Site Captain and Zone Captain since his secondary school days (he is now a 2nd-year student in NTU). He has weathered his 'O' levels, 'A' levels, army days and university life while maintaining a role as a coordinator of the programme all this while - as he says in the article, "we have a personal responsibility for the health of the ocean".

The beauty of all this? Like his fellow coordinators, the only physical thing he gets from the programme is a t-shirt! The real reward, obviously, is priceless.

"I hope people realise that every little action makes a difference"

Cheong Wei Siong, 21, student and environmental volunteer

by Ng Hui Wen
05:55 AM Aug 09, 2010

"It's easy for him to hit Control-C and Control-V whenever he comes across a website talking about the ailing environment.

But for Cheong Wei Siong, forwarding emails to his friends and leaving website links on their chat windows is never quite as fulfilling as his work with International Coastal Cleanup Singapore (ICCS).

There, he is able to reach up to 1,500 Singaporeans a year. And it is his hope that more people would have their eyes opened to the impact of their everyday actions on the environment.

It takes more than just getting the participants of ICCS' programmes to pick up the bottle caps, toothbrushes, plastic cups and other litter that pollutes the shores. Mr Cheong tells them stories of how birds, turtles and fishes are harmed after swallowing such items.

And when participants, who are usually sent by schools and companies, witness this first hand, they can see that "marine debris doesn't fall from the sky but from human hands".

Before each cleanup, participants attend workshops where they learn how the collected trash contributes to data used in tackling marine pollution.

It was his experience in just such a programme with his secondary school eight years ago that led Mr Cheong to contribute to the ICCS' cause. He came across a few horseshoe crabs entangled in discarded nets.

"It was a disheartening sight," he said. "This very first cleanup made me realise that we have a personal responsibility for the health of the ocean."

He remained active throughout his JC and army days, serving as a mangrove site coordinator for three years.

Now, he oversees the cleanup operation on beaches along the country's north-eastern shore.

But the nature lover, who is now pursuing business administration at the Nanyang Technological University, still believes it is the little actions that go a long way. At home, he switches off the lights when not in use and keeps his air conditioner at 25°C.

"As long as people do the minimum, that's actually really good already," he said."

Posted at 1:03PM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news