Youth are the backbone of the nation. They can change the future of society with their knowledge, innovative thoughts and courageous behaviour. They have both special concerns and special responsibilities in relation to the environment. A number of environmental risks and hazards disproportionately affect young people who have to live with the deteriorating environment handed down to them by earlier generations. Young people will be compelled to engage in new forms of action and activism that will generate effective responses to ecological challenges.
Meet the girls tackling T&T’s plastic problem and saving our oceans one clean up at a time! This is the story of 868 Save The Earth.
Their origin stems back to 2017 when Gabrielle Branche launched the Triple R Project. This was a nationwide programme designed to increase students’ awareness of the importance of reducing, reusing and recycling and was targeted at secondary schools. Holy Name Convent students Jervana, Abigail and Elena came together to participate in the Triple R project, collecting as much plastic as possible to recycle and using recyclable materials to create everyday items, thereby also participating in the reuse aspect of the programme. The girls built a table from used crates, with a glass top covering a picture of the world made out of bottle cap covers. They also made a replica of their school shield out of recycled wood and bottle caps. This led to them winning the competition and considering the idea of continuing their work beyond the competition.
According to Jervana, one of the core founders,
“I’d like to say that I founded 868 as I came up with the concept but it would be an unfair truth as we all joined as one to create a recycled piece in the triple R project and won. The motivation, flow of creativity and drive started then and blossomed into a full-fledged group in 2018 called 868 Save the Earth.”
As a group. their environmental action began in school under their Holy Name tree and they haven’t stopped working since then. Their goal is to promote environmental awareness, conservation and help educate younger generations about the importance of the environment. Through their actions they strive to be an example to the youth of T&T, letting them know that their voices do matter and that they can be the change they want to see in this world.
At present, 868 Save the Earth is run by 17 year old Elena Manuel-Persad, 18 year old Jervana Dookie, 17 year old Abigail Corbie, 15 year old Jodie Corbie and 15 year old Celine Arneaud. As students, they stem from different backgrounds ranging from business, science, geography, history and art and they all grew up with a deep passion and understanding of the importance of the environment.
One of the founders, Abigail shared
“I always grew up outdoors, hiking, going to the beach etc and I was always taught to clean up as we walked on a hiking trail or were at the beach. So when I was given the opportunity to actually use what I was taught and what I had grown up knowing to help educate others, I wanted to take up the opportunity.”
Although the triple R competition was what bought these girls together, Jervana always felt a personal drive to make a difference for the environment as she personally witnessed a horrendous amount of litter in the Queen’s Park Savannah when she practised football and she had a plan to clean it all up one day. This planted the seed of environmental clean-ups in her heart. Through the environmental sisterhood formed with 868 Save the Earth, she and her team have significantly contributed to less plastics reaching our oceans with the several beach clean ups they’ve successfully conducted across Trinidad.
Thus far their clean-up activities include :
- -Savannah (x2)
- – Balandra Bay
- – Guayamara Bay
- – Hart’s Cut Beach
- – Chaquacabana Beach (x2)
- – Foreshore (x2)
- – Scotland Bay (x2)
- – beach opposite School Street (doesn’t have an official name)
- -Beach next to 5 Islands Amusement Park
Their work doesn’t stop there. The girls have also lent their voices, skills and expertise at several environmental events across T&T. They were invited to attend the launch of the iCare Phase ii Project, were guest speakers at WE day, attended the launch and became a member of the 3 Monkeys Project, were invited to take part in International Coastal CleanUp Day, and took part in the Climate Walk held by the Archbishop of POS.
When asked about their favourite activities to date this what the girls had to say,
Elena: “I think one of the best activities we did was speaking at WE Day back in 2018, where we got to tell people what we are about and what they can do to help the environment.”
Jervana: “I am most proud of our Balandra cleanup. I don’t know why but that clean up stuck with me straight throughout, I just remember the motivation everyone had to clean up and we were successfully able to clear the entire beach of debris.”
Celine: “Some activities that I am most proud of are our monthly clean-ups and being a part of the Three Monkeys Project”
Abigail: “For me, I don’t think there is one specific activity, it’s more that I am proud of the community of young and enthusiastic people we have been able to establish. A group of young people who came from numerous areas in Trinidad, schools, genders, religions and races, who come together to work towards one goal, the preservation of the Earth.”
Running 868 Save the Earth and juggling school has definitely challenged the girls and pushed them beyond their boundaries. From homework and exams to spending time with friends, it was all overwhelming at times but for them, it was all part of the learning and growing process and they are extremely proud of everything they have achieved to date, despite all the sacrifices they have made to do so.
“Being one of the leaders of 868 Save the Earth definitely took more of a toll on my school life. Our clean-ups are a social aspect and I enjoy the company I obtained from our supporters …but it was definitely worth it. My school life, on the other hand, I’d say there were times where things were challenging, from juggling handing up assignments, to my sports and hobbies to then have to organize the group and plan clean up dates it definitely was not easy but fortunately there’s more than one of us so splitting up the work definitely made it less of a task and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Abigail had similar sentiments and shared:
“I think it has been difficult at times especially when I started extra lessons, got a lot more homework & had more tests, I also noticed that I was drifting apart from a couple of friends. However, finding the balance between schoolwork, personal work, my social life and also running 868 was crucial. And allowing myself to take some extra time to focus on school or my social life or any other part of my life at certain points while also not feeling guilty for doing so helped a lot. Not to mention, just surrounding myself with people who understand and who are able to support and encourage me to find the balance that my life needed helped a lot.”
Despite these challenges, they have been able to contribute positively to society and the environment which has made it all worth it in the end. Their impact on younger generations has been extremely positive as through their work, they have encouraged others to take a step back, analyse their impact on the environment and make more informed decisions to help preserve and protect T&T. 868 Save The Earth has been able to create a sense of togetherness and collectively they all work towards changing T&T for the better.
The group also understands the importance of their work. “Personally, I believe that we as human beings have the responsibility of taking care of the environment. We are obligated to preserve nature” said Elena. Fellow member, Abigail shared similar feelings, saying that their work is important because she does not believe that “our mistakes and selfishness should have to affect how the generations to come get to experience this Earth”
Aside from balancing their organisation with other responsibilities, another challenge the group faces is getting volunteers to stay involved and continuously support their efforts. Over the years they have seen their numbers dwindle, with only a few loyal volunteers and supporters standing by through thick and thin. As easy as it was to get discouraged by this they are working hard to overcome this challenge by finding new, creative and fun ways to get people engaged and involved. One of the biggest misconceptions they have had to deal with is that all environmental work is fun. From their pictures and social media presence, the girls look like they are having the time of their lives, and while they are, it is definitely not an easy job. While the group aims to make all their events as enjoyable as possible, a lot of work goes into cleaning a beach or running a social media campaign. It often requires you to get down and dirty and dedicate your time to the cause which is not something everyone is willing to do.
Nevertheless, 868 Save the Earth persists as they strongly believe that it is crucial for young people in Trinidad and Tobago to become involved in environmental advocacy. According to them, the environment is in big trouble and it is up to everyone and future generations to do something about it. At the end of the day, the youth are the future of the country and by extension the world, they are the ones who will have to live with the effects of the decisions made today. Therefore, it is vital that all young people are involved and have a deep understanding of what the effects may be and how they can assist in reversing the damage already done. To them, the voices of Trinidad and Tobago’s youth matter and they aim to continue to find avenues to amplify them.
In 2020, like many of us, 868 Save the Earth was impacted by COVID-19. For the group, 2020 was a year of low creativity, zero activities, limited outdoor time and complete stagnancy. This definitely took a toll on all of the members and it was extremely hard for them to stay motivated and believe in the cause. However, to dig themselves out of the funk, they decided to relaunch the group in January 2021. This helped to give them the fresh start and motivation that they needed.
“We have now opened ourselves up to creative and… and new ways of continuing our environmental preservation from home because with the relaunch it is almost like the rebirth of the group into a more socially distanced and digitally based group which still brings people together with the purpose of environmental preservation as the main goal.We aren’t entirely sure what the future exactly looks like right now but we do have our hopes and dreams. We’re excited for some future projects and hopefully ways to get our followers involved from home” the team shared.
To the young people of Trinidad and Tobago this is what 868 Save the Earth has to say to you:
“THERE IS NO PLANET B. This planet is all we have got so we have got to make a difference. We would encourage you to get on board, because it’s time for change. No matter what you’re doing in life don’t give up! It is a hard and long fight but with perseverance and strength, it is possible to make a change and together we can all put a stop to the environmental injustices which have been and continue to occur.”
If you would like to learn more about 868 Save the Earth or get involved, check them out on Instagram: @868.save.the.earth