The Great Global Cleanup

Lviv Cleans Up this Earth Day

Lviv in western Ukraine is home to the beautiful Ukrainian Catholic University, and while the city and the university have so far escaped the worse fighting of the war, threat of attacks are never far away. The sirens remain a constant reminder of the dangers that Ukraine and its people face. Every single day.

Retired Muskegon English high school teacher Bob Wood, from Kalamazoo, Michigan has no ties to Ukraine, but he felt drawn to the University in ways he couldn’t explain. So, in the Fall of 2023, he decided to spend 5 weeks in Ukraine, helping students however he could.  As he told the public radio at Western Michigan University what he discovered about the resilience of the students there, impressed him.

The second day, we had an air raid, and we went down into the basement. And, and — you know, I thought we were just going to wait out the air raid — and those kids just zoomed, circled right up around me and we just kept the lesson going.

Bob Wood, English High School Teacher, Kalamazoo, MI

While he was in Ukraine, Bob established a “Walking and Talking English Club” to encourage his students to practice their English in a more organic way. It was on one of their Tuesday afternoons walk and talks that students Anastasia and Sofiaa walked past a patch of unkempt city land that was just filled with trash and plastics. They decided there and then to make a difference and to come back, with friends and supplies, to clean it up.

Taking to heart EARTHDAY.ORG’s message to come together and take action for a healthier planet and brighter future, the group registered their clean up event on the Great Global Clean Up page. Fourteen students from the university came out on Saturday April 20th, two days before Earth Day, to beautify the Stryiska Street Nature Trail.

Bryce Coon, Education Director at EARTHDAY.ORG, praised the initiative: “This cleanup in Lviv is a testament to the incredible spirit and resilience of the Ukrainian people. By taking action, these students are not only beautifying their community but also inspiring the world to join in and make a difference.” 

The UCU Walking and Talking Club worked for several hours that day filling up countless trash bags. At one point an air raid siren went off, warning of a potential threat. The cleanup crew was forced to seek shelter, but the alarm quieted and the students got right back to work.  After a long day of bagging trash, the group looked upon the now restored area of bright green land with a sense of real satisfaction, knowing that they had inspired a bit of little bit of hope for the local community. 

“There is so much more to know about Ukraine than political borders, military tactics, and CNN Breaking News,” said Bob Wood. “It is a nation filled with courageous people living life, and committed fully, to their free and sovereign homeland.”

Student Anastasia shared her thoughts on the experience: “Cleaning up our city, especially during these times, felt like a way to show that we care about our future. It’s our small act of defiance against the chaos.”

Sofia, another participant, added: “Working together on this project gave me hope. It reminded me that even in difficult times, we can make positive changes, no matter how small.”

The students’ dedication was not only a testament to their commitment to their city but also a powerful symbol of resilience and solidarity. In a country grappling with the harsh realities of conflict, their efforts provided a sense of normalcy and community spirit. This cleanup was more than just an environmental good deed; it was a declaration of hope and perseverance.

The cleanup in Lviv stands as a powerful example of how community action, even in the face of adversity, can contribute to a global movement for environmental stewardship and hope. For more information on how to get involved in similar initiatives, visit EARTHDAY.ORG.