In a meeting earlier this week, Hartha’s mayor informed us that 30 years ago, Hartha used to be much better, wealthier and cleaner than it is now. He said that back then, you never saw the piles of trash that haphazardly line the streets today, that employment opportunities were plentiful and that municipal services were able to meet community needs. Today, the Hartha community dreams of those days 30 years ago when they felt their lives were easy. Today, our team, families and teachers dream of a Hartha where children with autism are valued and included for who they are.
And so, with the shared goals of the municipality and A Global Voice for Autism’s training cohort in mind, on September 22nd, over 90 young volunteers with and without autism set out on a coordinated clean-up mission to “Make Hartha clean again. In doing so, they were reminded of the valuable ways that individuals with autism can help the community thrive, and played their part in creating a cleaner, healthier Hartha.
Children with and without autism, aged 4-17 joined us for the event. They were broken into teams, based on age, that were led by A Global Voice for Autism’s teacher trainees. Together, the children collected more than 140 bags of trash over a three-kilometer area. As children reflected on the ways that their peers with autism contributed to the event, they also thought about their own habits–whether they and their families tend to throw trash in the streets–and how they might set an example for their family members and neighbors so that they can live in a cleaner community.
While children younger than ten cleaned the public park, older children cleaned the area around Hartha circle and the road that connects the circle to the park. The municipality supported the event by providing trash trucks to collect the trash bags, and provided additional bags after we far surpassed the 80 bags of trash we thought we would collect. Together, our youth collected over 140 bags of trash, built friendships across difference, and truly did their part to make Hartha clean (and great!) again.