Tzu Chi Youth Group Members Resume Beach Cleanups in California

National Headquarters  |  May 31, 2022
Tzu Chi Youth Group members and other volunteers participate in a beach cleanup activity on May 29, 2022. Photo/Shuli Lo

Written by Guangyu Huang
Translated by Hong (Ariel) Chan
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

On May 29, 2022, Tzu Chi USA National Headquarters volunteers from Los Angeles, and Tzu Chi Youth Group members (Tzu Shao) from the Mid-West Los Angeles chapter, resumed beach cleanup activities suspended for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic. They aimed to help keep our coasts beautiful through community action over the Memorial Day weekend.

They Came Prepared

Safeguarding the beach is one of the annual ventures of Mid-West Los Angeles Tzu Shao. During the past two years, they suspended this initiative due to risks associated with group activities during the pandemic. However, since such dangers have eased and people began to resume normal activities, various Tzu Shao events restarted too.

Everyone gathers at the beach in front of the San Clemente Police Services station. Photo/Shuli Lo

The Tzu Shao volunteers and their parents who went to San Clemente State Beach for the cleanup totaled 56 people, and they arrived prepared. Unlike others, locals and tourists alike, there to enjoy where the blue sky and sea blend together beautifully, this group brought beach cleaning tools, buckets for garbage, and a permit they had applied for ahead of time.

Before the start of the event, the cleaning crew takes a group photo to mark the occasion. Photo/Shuli Lo

San Clemente State Beach, halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, is one of many beaches along the Orange County coast. A cleanup here required a special permit from its management. After negotiating the cleanup site, Mid-West Los Angeles Tzu Shao first reported the number of participants and applied for insurance with Tzu Chi USA, then forwarded these materials to San Clemente State Beach management. Upon getting approval from eight sectors, including the Beach Works Bureau, Environmental Protection Agency, Marine Conservation Authority, and the San Clemente police station, Tzu Shao completed the procedure by paying the $110 fee to obtain the requisite permit. 

A Team Effort

The earth we live on, in its current state, needs us to do these things; because we need the earth, and the earth needs us.

Manjie Wang
Tzu Chi Youth Group Member

Early on May 29, a group of 37 Tzu Shaos, their parents, and volunteers gathered at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles to catch the first Metrolink train to San Clemente Beach at 8:30 AM. Those who had never taken a train trip before marveled at the convenience of getting directly to the beach. Other families drove and were also on their way to the destination.

Volunteers distribute beach cleaning tools, gloves and other supplies. Photo/Shuli Lo

With the help of volunteers and parents, everyone got tools and gloves for picking up and storing trash. To ensure the safety of the young Tzu Shao and avoid getting separated on the long beach, participants were divided up into groups of seven to eight people, each chaperoned by at least two parents. And then, everyone eagerly set off to search for trash.

Everyone excitedly prepares to set off to find and pick up trash. Photo/Shuli Lo

Diligence of Far-Reaching Benefit

Since other community groups had come to clean the beach the day before, large litter was gone. Thus, Tzu Shao searched carefully, especially in unobvious corners and crevices, to ensure that no trash remained wherever they had walked. In the process of picking up the garbage, Tzu Shao also realized that all kinds of waste scattered on the beach, whether deliberately discarded or unintentionally forgotten, would become pollutants of the ocean. 

Tzu Shao carefully pick up small garbage mixed in the gravel. Photo/Shuli Lo

Many Tzu Shao, including Manjie Wang and Ruoning Jiang, found small pieces of Styrofoam, so they sat on the sand to pick them up piece by piece. While not easy to remove, these tiny particles are especially harmful because, once they enter the water, they decompose, or marine organisms eat them, thus polluting the ocean and harming marine life and ecology.

At first, I thought that the beach was clean and there was no large rubbish, but when I squatted down and took a closer look, I found that there were many small bubbles (of Styrofoam) that looked like packaging boxes scattered in the sand. This type of trash is the most terrifying because it’s very difficult to get rid of it all.

Manjie Wang
Tzu Chi Youth Group Member

Tzu Shao Zijian Luo searched for garbage between the piles of rocks and tried his best to pull out a discarded plastic slipper stuck in the cracks of the stones. Tzu Shao also found beverage packaging, cups, and clothing in the gaps. 

Tzu Shao Zijian Luo tries his best to take out a discarded plastic slipper stuck in the cracks of the stones. Photo/Shuli Lo

The beach is a very important place. Many animals live on the beach, so cleaning the beach can protect these animals.

Zijian Luo
Tzu Chi Youth Group Member

Putting Their Hearts Into It

Tzu Shao shared their beach-cleaning tips and flocked towards crevices and bushes where most trash was hiding. They searched carefully everywhere; even garbage hidden under bridge piers or the plastic nets outside the fence could not escape their sharp eyes. Clearly, the young volunteers were putting their hearts into getting the job done with care.

No tiny bit of trash is left behind as Tzu Shao spot all rubbish with their keen eyes. Photo/Shuli Lo

Moving forward and picking up garbage side by side, they eventually filled three large trash bags. Since, according to beach regulations, they couldn’t throw them away in trash cans on the beach, three families who came by car took the bags home to discard them there.

Given the team’s diligence, rubbish has nowhere to hide. Photo/Shuli Lo

Beach cleanups help protect marine ecology and nature’s beauty. At the same time, witnessing such efforts can inspire others to be more mindful of safeguarding the environment. Tzu Chi’s schools and youth groups aim to instill environmental awareness from an early age, and this activity is just one example of education through social service. Concurrently, Tzu Chi volunteers engage in various cleanup and recycling activities since environmental protection is one of the Buddhist Tzu Chi Foundation’s missions globally. 

Volunteers prepare a simple lunch for the Tzu Shao participating in the beach cleanup activity. Photo/Shuli Lo

Your support empowers all our missions, which are holistically interconnected. With your love, we can do even more.

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