"Here we are, one year after our very first River Solidarity Event. 1 year, 117 cleanups along 4 rivers, over 6000 volunteers in 19 affected communities, 193 000 kg of collected river waste and 35 km of riverbanks along the Vesder were cleared."
With these words Wannes Vercauteren, project manager of the Belgian floods, thanked all those present at our River Solidarity Event, one year after the floods. And what a year it has been…
More than a cleanup
Last year, tragedy struck. Our home country Belgium was unexpectedly hit by heavy rainfall in mid-July, causing unprecedented floods in southern Belgium. Immediately, people started gathering to help those affected and started cleaning up the havoc. Of course, as River Cleanup, we wanted to do our part as well, and we quickly launched our ‘River Solidarity’ project with relief activities in Pepinster, Verviers, Chaudfontaine, Baelen, Eupen, etc.
Here, cleaning up river banks was more than an environmental issue. We often talk about the importance of cleaning up river waste, and how rivers are the blue arteries of our planet. When cleaning up waters that are filled with “waste” from a natural disaster there is an added emotional element that comes into play. Throughout this past year, people from the affected communities have shown their gratitude cleaning up the constant reminder of what they have endured. Not only did our River Warriors work tirelessly to clean up the environment, but they also took away the painful memory of seeing belongings stranded across the riverbanks. Looking back on this past year, brings up a lot of conflicting feelings. It was a tragedy that brought us there and kept us going, but the silver lining… the immense solidarity we witnessed.
We are incredibly grateful and proud of all the River Warriors who helped out and took us this far! This is exactly what River Cleanup is all about, coming together and creating impact by cleaning up our rivers. And this was the ultimate example of just that!
A River Cleanup network to be proud of!
Now, we cannot write something about these past 365 days, without thanking some very special people. Without them, none of this could have been possible. First of all, Thomas de Groote. As founder of River Cleanup, it speaks for itself that without him none of this would have happened. His vision and determination to contribute to a better and cleaner planet has already made an impact bigger than we could have dreamed of when River Cleanup started 5 years ago.
Also, a big thank you to our team member Wannes for taking the lead in these incredible flood cleanup actions! We first met Wannes as a River Cleanup volunteer last year. Due to his dedication, he quickly became the project leader of the River Solidarity actions. Thank you for making impact with us!
Then of course, our 6000 River Warriors! Week after week the requests to help and organize more cleanups poured in. Companies started to reach out and asked to join us in our flood cleanups. Without all these volunteers’ incredible support and motivation, we never could have made such a big impact in only a year’s time. So, therefore, we want to take the time to give you all a massive shout out and thank you from the bottom of our River Cleanup hearts!