Cleaning the Coastline with Worldwide Friends

A beach in the the Strandir region.

A beach in the the Strandir region. Photo/Silke Van Broeck

Vala Hafstað

Hrafn Jökulsson, a group leader for Worldwide Friends, has since mid-May been cleaning the beach in Kolgrafarvík cove, Árneshreppur district, in the northeastern part of the West Fjords. He was interviewed by Morgunblaðið journalist Ágúst Ingi Jónsson.

He has now moved farther south to Bitrufjörður fjord, and to Hrútafjörður fjord, determined to clean the coastline there as well.

He is ready to spend the coming four years volunteering for the organization, cleaning the country’s coastline, spanning 5,000 km (3,100 mi). That has been his work since May, and he states he’s never been in a better shape.

“I’m only a link in a large chain and proud to be a group leader for Worldwide Friends,” he states.

Hrafn Jökulsson on the beach.

Hrafn Jökulsson on the beach. Photo/Silke Van Broeck

Worldwide Friends is an organization, founded in 2001, that promotes nature protection, peace-oriented activities, friendship, and international understanding among people interested in spending time in Iceland in a useful way. The organization offers short and long-term volunteering activities, summer camps for teenagers, exchange programs and educational tours.

During the past 19 years, about 20,000 volunteers have come to Iceland from 99 countries to join Worldwide Friends in their effort. Hrafn offers high praise for the organization’s managing director, Þórarinn Ívarsson, for his contribution to keeping the beaches clean.

Hrafn is glad to have joined the effort. In his opinion, too many people of his generation are too busy thinking about when they’ll make it back to the fitness center to exercise for no reason, ” as he calls it. To lift something in the middle of a pandemic that has no purpose other than making them feel better in front of the mirror.

I tell people there were young Germans in Kolgrafarvík cove during the first days of winter, fighting strong winds, picking up plastic among the driftwood. If you need work to do, go down to the beach to work and breathe some fresh air. That’s how we can make this a better world.”

Thirty years ago, the beach in Bitrufjörður was considered to be the Icelandic beach with the largest amount of trash, Hrafn states. Plastic and all sorts of trash is spread all over the place.

Hrafn encourages people to take part in this important project. He believes the whole coastline can be cleaned within two years. The sooner the better.

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