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Kids get together at Sunabe sea wall to start off Earth Day

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-04-25

American kids from Kadena's Amelia Earhart Elementary school and Okinawan kids from Chatan's Hamagawa Elementary school joined forces on Friday, April 17 to kick off Earth Day at the Sunabe sea wall. The sixth graders all came out in force to paint environment and ocean related pictures on the wall. The event was part of a series of Earth Day activities in conjunction with the United Nation's declared "Year of the Ocean." A total of about 180 children from both schools worked side by side on a hot sunny day to show their willingness to improve the environment, as well as community relations. The day before, local artists pitched in by drawing some of the pictures. By the day's end, approximately sixty four, nine foot long sections of the sea wall were painted over with colorful images of the sea and nature. More importantly, the kids walked away with having the satisfaction of doing their part in creating awareness for saving the environment.

There were also plenty of volunteers there to help the children get started and organized. They helped to hand out refreshments, and provided plenty of encouragement for the young environmentalists. The volunteers consisted of about 20 PTA parents, 20 United States Marines, and 20 American high school students.

The event was planned by Kadena's 718th Civil Engineering Squadron Environmental Flight. The squadron generously provided the necessary paint supplies as well as drinks for everyone. There was also a small picnic lunch the squadron prepared for all participants.

"There is no talk here. It's all action. It's a great chance to build international relations between the two communities. If we all put in this much effort, we'd all be the best of friends all over the world," said volunteer, Tim Chambers.

Although Earth Day has become part of most people's lives in America, the day is not as recognized here in Japan. Volunteers did an excellent job in coordinating their efforts with the Okinawan local government and Hamagawa Elementary School. They not only were able to successfully bring the students and teachers from both schools together for the sea wall project, but they also provided information about Earth Day to the children and teachers of Hamagawa Elementary School.

Noboru Kameoka, a teacher and organizer of the sixth graders form Hamagawa, said, "We took one hour to explain about Earth Day to all the sixth graders prior to this day, so that the kids would be more informed. I think that the Okinawa sea is becoming polluted, but there is a chance to make it better. The education about the ocean and the environment should not only be done at the school level, but also at home." Sandra Shingler, a teacher from Amelia Earhart, remarked "These kids are very aware and concerned about the environment. They feel frustrated when they see litter and graffiti, so they are very serious about today's event."

Four eleven year old Okinawan girls said that they were "having a lot of fun". Sadamune Kawamitsu, a sixth grade boy from Hamagawa, said, "I think the ocean around Okinawa is dirty. There is too much garbage that people throw away into the ocean." His friend, Medoru Masato, also agreed and said to everyone that comes to enjoy the sea at Sunabe, "Please don't throw away your garbage here."

Sarah Waddels, Rosanne Waldon, and Vanessa Williams, all students from Amelia Earhart, were painting together. "I love the environment. I like to pick up trash on the ground when I see it. I think there's a lot of trash in the water," said Sarah. All three also agreed that they feel responsible for the environment here on Okinawa, even though they are only here temporarily.

Other events being planned for Earth Day this month are the Earth Day Fair at the Kadena BX, on April 25 at 9:30 am (Contact MSgt Atkinson at 634-2686); Marek Park Fun Run on April 25 at 7:30 am (Contact Dave Elger at 634-1163); Tree Planting Ceremonies at Yara Elementary School in Kadena on April 27 (Contact Ms. Fukuhara at 634-4503); and gate cleanups on April 29. The contact numbers for the gate cleanups are as follows: Gate 1 SSgt Marcus or SSgt Freeman 634-1452, Gate 2 Sgt Kim Valverde 634-0666, Gate 3 MSgt Meade 634-9143, Gate 4 MSgt Hollifield 634-4647, and Gate 5 Sgt Rick Valverde 634-3662. For more information on Earth Day please contact Jim Rader at 634-5350.

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