By Mohsin Abbas / The Santiago Times Staff
SANTIAGO — An English teacher from United States has started an online campaign to help volunteers maintain cleanliness of the parks in Chile’s capital city.
The “Operación: Parques Verdes”, organized and sponsored by 28-year-old Stephen Johnson, invites anyone living in or visiting the Santiago Metropolitan Area to volunteer their time to improve the conditions of local parks.
“I came up with the idea while climbing Cerro San Cristobal,” Stephen told The Santiago Times.
“I have lived here for four months and had tried to volunteer my time at local organizations in Santiago on the weekends. Most weren’t accepting volunteers when I contacted them, so I decided to start my own project.
“While ascending the hill I thought to myself that a few people could make a serious impact on the amount of trash visible in one of the biggest, most popular, and beautiful parks in the city. It blew my mind how much trash there was on the side of the roads and trails. I figured a small group could have a serious impact on the cleanliness of the parks.”
In first activity, a group of twenty people joined Stephen over the weekend and cleaned a good portion along the roads (and the pathways) of Abate Molina, Gabriel Mistral, Camino Claudio Gay and Pedro Bannen.
“To be honest, Cerro San Cristobal is a large park, but I feel like we made a good impact on the aesthetic appearance of the most popular route for people climbing to the top,” Stephen added.
“Most of the people just stared at us as we picked up the trash. It was easy to tell they were
curious about who we are and what we are doing. Many people thanked us as they passed us walking or on their bikes as they ascended the hill. A few even stopped to chat with us about how they could join us next time,” he shared.
Volunteers gather on the last Sunday of every month to clean a new park each month. The location is determined at least one week in advance.
“Santiago provides the public with numerous, and at times, massive parks. Due to the size and number of these parks, their upkeep is a challenging task. As the city does not allocate enough funds to keep the parks in pristine condition, a number of volunteers are trying to help maintain the cleanliness of the parks.
“People simply need to show up at the determined location at the correct time. Gloves and bags are provided and we ask that people bring a positive attitude and a friend,” the young campaigner urged.
When asked about the participation of locals, Stephen affirmed “about half of our volunteers that showed up to clean were from Chile. Most of them found out about our event via our Facebook page.”
“Our goals are to maintain the cleanliness of Santiago’s many parks by getting a group of likeminded individuals together to have a positive impact on the community by cleaning a new park each month. We simply want to make the world we live in a better place to enjoy for everyone.
“In reality it is a small step to take in making our world more livable. Humanity is leaving a large footprint on the planet and we want to take one small step to reverse that footprint,” said Stephen, who feels proud to be part of a community formed on the virtue of cleanliness.
Their next target is to clean ParqueForestal. The cleaning will take place on the last Sunday of the month (26th) and will start at noon.
You can join Operación: Parques Verdes on Facebook.