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Apr 14, 2021

The Rio Grande River Keepers, Making Waves and Setting the Example in Southern Belize!

There is a small group of children and youth who are making waves on the Rio Grande River. The residents of San Pedro Columbia in Toledo are removing garbage from their beloved river and also setting an example for other young people in Belize. Reporter Andrea Polanco connected with the stewards of the Rio Grande to share their inspiring community-based initiative. Here’s the story.


Andrea Polanco, Reporting

The Rio Grande River is scenic and winding – with rapids and smooth sparkling green water that runs through several villages in Toledo. It is a lifeline for many of these communities including San Pedro Columbia where hundreds of people use this river almost every day. But the Rio Grande has become polluted over the years and now there is a group of young people doing something about it. They are called the Rio Grande River Keepers.


Denise Garcia

Denise Garcia, Co-Leader, Rio Grande River Keepers

“The Rio Grande River Keepers basically stem from our genuine concern of the issue of plastic pollution and garbage in our rivers especially since many of us in Columbia rely on the river for recreating, washing, for food and even washing using water. And some of the issues that we face in Columbia transcends throughout some of the other communities that share the entire Rio Grande Watershed.”


Denise Garcia and Quinto Tulcey are the leaders of this group. Although Garcia lives downstream and Tulcey lives upstream, the river is not the only thing that connects them.


Denise Garcia

“We literally see the river everyday and we jump in everyday. So, we are neighbours and we one day said that he is seeing a lot of garbage up river and I am seeing a lot because I am little downstream. So, together we started talking and pulled our nieces and nephews to clean our little area where we live in and then we had other villagers who were interested as well.”


And that’s how a small group of young people from San Pedro Columbia Village got together determined to make a difference in their community.  They do river clean ups; plant trees; construct signs and do other local initiatives to champion the stewardship of their shared resource.


Quinto Tulcey

Quinto Tulcey, Co-Leader, Rio Grande River Keepers

“Ever since we started we have been collecting quite an amount of garbage. We did it once a week and later on we are trying to do it like two times for the week – the river clean up. We weren’t only doing clean up but we were also doing tree planting and we have planted quite a number of trees since we started.”


Denise Garcia

“Apart from just cleaning up the area, it would be good to remind people of the good practices they can adopt on the river so we started gathering donations; we went to saw mills to pick up scrap lumber. We got donation of paint and local NGOs and other persons who had interest in our work and so we conducted sign painting workshops in our communities.   We are over twelve signs now and we have managed to put along the different river and we are tackling the hotspots where Quinto and I have noticed a lot of people, not only from the village, but people from outside, coming in to enjoy the river as well.”


Since they started seven months ago, the Rio Grande River Keepers have removed over nine hundred pounds of garbage from the river. And now they are also seeing changed behavior among the users of the Rio Grande.


Denise Garcia

“From September until now, as far as last month, we have collected almost nine hundred and thirty one pounds of garbage. And something that we have seen through the garbage sorting is that the majority of it is plastic bags – the single use plastics; clothes and glass bottles are the top three things we find in the river.  From my observation going up and down that river, we have noticed that people have started putting little crocus bags or little plastic bags so people can put their garbage in there in the event that they don’t know how to dispose of it or have nowhere to dispose of it. Our ladies, those are the ones depending on the river doing the washing, they have started tying little bags on the root of trees and so on and they would pick up their little area and so we call it playas and that is an area where they have washing rocks and stones and that is an area they depend on every day. So, cleaning their own little playas, we have seen an increase in that.”


And for Tulcey and Garcia cleaning up the Rio Grande is worth it.


Quinto Tulcey

“This makes me feel good because doing something positive for my community is something I always think about doing. So, it makes me feel good and also getting others involved.   I was very surprised to see that there were a lot of kids interested in getting involved with the river clean up – so more kids than adults and yeah so there is a lot of change with the kids.”


Denise Garcia

“So it is creating a consciousness and also a sense of pride. All of us go to the river and we must do something to keep it clean.”


Reporting for News Five, I’m Andrea Polanco.


If you want to follow the work of the River Grade River Keepers or support their efforts, you can connect with them on Facebook.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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