“With river clean-ups, we deal with collecting litter or perhaps we can call them enemies of nature.”
Everyone can do their bit to ensure that we have healthy and vibrant rivers. Our volunteers play a crucial role in protecting our rivers. Where would we be without them? Last year, Thames21, in partnership with Enfield Council, started delivering a series of volunteering events for a project called Restoring Enfield’s Rivers. Here, communications manager Liz Gyekye caught up with Amaechi Anolue – a regular volunteer at the initiative – to interview him. She asked him some questions about his background and why he enjoys volunteering for Thames21.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?
First and foremost, I love God. I was born and bred in Enfield and grew up in Edmonton in the era of no mobile phones, no social media and when TV consisted of ITV, BBC1, BBC2 and Teletext. Rest assured, I did not spend huge amounts of time in front of the TV, except maybe to watch Grange Hill on school days and the A team and Knight Rider on the weekends (with a few other programmes sandwiched in between). When I was younger, I loved bike rides with my siblings on Saturday afternoons at Jubilee Park. Ah……. good times.
I attended St Edmund’s Primary School which holds extremely fond memories for me, as does St Ignatius College where I gained my A-levels in Art, History and English Literature (mind you, I never did get to grips with Chaucer). I have a passion for Art which I cultivated from a very young age, which was further nurtured by my mother who would take me to art classes at Millfield Theatre. I think I was about nine-years old when I attended these classes.
I graduated in Art & Design which I studied at Middlesex University. I now work as an independent artist and I am currently enrolled on a six-month course at the Lewisham School of Muralism. I guess you are never too old to learn something new.
Why do you volunteer for Thames21?
Hmm… need to think about that. Well I can tell you in the 45 years that I have been blessed with and probably 46 by the time this goes out (yikes), volunteering is something that I had never really thought about till the summer of last year. The Covid pandemic and a change in circumstance led me to appreciate the simple things in life. A walk in the park, a gentle stroll, mellow music and a little reading does much for the soul. In light of this, I thought volunteering – especially being out in the open – might do the same. This move hasn’t disappointed me. Mind you, at the time I wasn’t completely convinced, but I knew I had to try it.
How are you making a difference in doing your bit for the planet?
I really don’t know how to answer that. Sorry, I am not that good at this. However, I can tell you what I have been involved in, which has mainly focused on river clean-ups and wetland management. With river clean-ups, we deal with collecting litter or perhaps we can call them enemies of nature. Things like plastic bottles, plastic bags, food packaging and aluminium cans are what we tend to find most. Plastics harm the environment, so by helping to remove these foreign objects is making a difference (even my minute contribution is making a small difference).Wetland management deals with the cutting away of overgrowth so the rivers can flow more freely.
How long have you been volunteering with us for?
I’ve have been volunteering on and off since July 2021. That was easy!
What solutions do you think your help will offer in the future?
I still consider myself a rookie, but I will be able to offer some helpful solutions in the future.
What’s your favourite environmental activity?
Well, I mostly do river clean-ups or wetland management. River clean-ups are the calmer of the two. Wetland management is actually like a physical workout – no need for a gym when you have kilometers of Bulrush to uproot, but I like it. River clean-ups are my favourite because you can find lots of weird and wonderful items. You start to think to yourself, ‘what were you thinking when you dumped that in there?’ I’ve come across parts of a radiator, a large water pistol, an unopened bottle of red wine, a football, and a coat. Sorry to end with this, but I once found a bag of poo and passed it to my colleague and it split in her hand! The stench was indescribable, but we all did have a laugh about it.
Are you part of the Enfield local community? Would you like to get involved in Enfield’s Restoring Rivers project? If yes, click on link below to find out more from our events page.
If you are a corporate group, please book with Thames21 using our corporate volunteering page.