10 Questions with January’s #LocalHero, Yasmin!

Today, we’d like to highlight Yasmin.

1) Tell us a bit about yourself!

My name is Yasmin and I came to Canada in 2016 with a Work and Travel visa. It was my plan to stay only for a year, but that changed.

I fell in love with nature here in Vancouver and my partner Berm. It felt like I had to stay here. Now I am a permanent resident of Canada and I am very grateful for that.

I have always been drawn to nature and silence. In Belgium I was always looking up the green spots on Google Maps and exploring those natural places in the city.

Nature brings me peace and true happiness. Hence, I love spending my time outside and capturing the beauty of nature through my photographs. Because I care so much about our planet, I pick up garbage on the beach, parks and streets in my neighborhood. I believe that every little bit helps as it can inspire other people to find their way to help take care of our home.


2) What inspired you to start getting involved with your community/start cleaning your shorelines?

It was the documentary “My octopus teacher” that inspired me to go to the ocean every day. I am fortunate to live only a couple of minutes away from the beach, so I decided to start doing a photography project. Taking a photo of the ocean from the same spot every day for about a year.

As I was going outside so often, I also recognized a lot of trash along the way and on the beach, so I decided to pick up whatever I found. I soon got myself a bucket and some steak tongues to make it more effective.


3) What specific actions/steps do you take to help the environment?

On my cleanups I always carry my bucket, litter picker and my camera with me (as I enjoy taking pictures of wildlife and nature).

Having a bucket with me and a litter picker somehow sparks the curiosity of people and they start talking to me. I have had numerous conversations with different people and they all felt inspired to start picking up garbage as well.

My goal is to share my love and care for our planet with as many people as possible.


4) Why is having clean shorelines important?

I believe that everything is connected and that our actions have an impact on everything around us.

Everything that doesn’t go in the garbage or recycling bin eventually ends up in our waterways and oceans.

If you look at our (blue) planet it consists mostly of water which connects everything. A piece of plastic that fell in the water in Vancouver can easily travel long distances to other places in the world. So when we pollute in one spot, we pollute the whole.

I also think that most people prefer hanging out on a clean beach, swimming in clean waters and eating healthy seafood.

Everything has its limits and consequences. We can’t just continue to sweep the trash under the rug anymore without us noticing it.

That’s why more and more people are becoming aware of this pollution and feel the need to do something as well, which is great.


5) What challenges or obstacles do you face when pursuing your goals?

When something ends up in the ocean it is sometimes difficult to get it out without it already polluting the water.

I often see beer cans or plastic bags floating in the ocean, but they are out of my reach, so I can’t pick them up.

Also when cigarette butts come into contact with water it pollutes the water immediately and it is impossible to clear the toxins out of the water. That’s why preventing cigarette butts from going into the ocean/waterways is so important.


6) How do you keep yourself motivated?

Nature and wildlife reminds me daily of how much I love it and my urge to take care of it. But as a human being I sometimes need more than that to keep me going.

Every time I go pick up litter, there is always one person who thanks me for what I do. I also take pictures of what I pick up and post it on my Instagram account and people like it and comment.

Through social media I have connected with so many people around the world who are doing the same thing. All these things keep me inspired to keep doing what I am doing.


7) Who inspires you in terms of activism and making a difference?

I don’t have just one name or person that inspires me. It’s people who just like me clean up their neighborhood (and share their stories). They inspire me the most.


8) What has been your favourite experience on this journey so far?

Going outside so often has connected me with many different people in my neighborhood which is so lovely. I have met more people doing cleanups than I do with any other activity!

When I go to the same places often, I also get to know the birds and wildlife living there. I get to know bird families and where they usually hang out. This gives me such a close and intimate relationship with them and I love it very much.


9) What was something that surprised you during your journey?

It surprised me how I would start to look forward to my pick up outings. I never knew I was going to enjoy it that much and make lovely connections with other people. It truly has been heartwarming and inspiring.


10) Do you have any recommendations for people wanting to make a difference in their community?

Do whatever makes you happy and don’t force yourself to do too much. There are so many things we can do as human beings to make a difference.

I choose to pick up garbage as I find it very fulfilling to see the immediate difference I make by looking in my bucket of what I picked up.

Choose something you are passionate about. And always take care of yourself first!


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