Overview of Community Service Day in Trstenik, Pelješac

by Niko Katušić, freshman, IHSM program

As recently elected member of the Student Government at Dubrovnik campus, as well as being the first year student, I had the honor to be a part of the team who organized this entire event. This year, choosing a location and organizing the Community Service Day was a part of a Year One course in our first semester. After the voting process, freshmen student selected the idea of a cleaning action at Trstenik, Pelješac as the best one.

At the beginning of the organizing process, I had no idea how much it takes to organize an event. Meetings, making decisions on every little detail that counts, finding sponsors, arranging details with the local community, planning of transportation, these are all just some segments of the entire organizing process.

Just when we thought we had everything covered, the weather turned out against us so we had to postpone the event for April 16, instead of April 9 as originally planned. These things happen when you plan for an outdoor event and this was also a part of the learning curve for all of us.

On Saturday, April 18, the very day of the event, the early morning hour of our departure did not present a problem for my colleagues and myself. Almost all of us who signed in for volunteering showed up and that was a good kick off for a successful event J. We arrived in Trstenik, a small village on peninsula of Pelješac at 9:30 am. Trstenik was one of the places that were hit very hard in heavy fires that occurred in that region in summer of 2015. Upon our arrival, we could see all the damage as we walked over endless black residues of burned woods. Along with the difficulties caused by extensive fires, Trstenik is also hit with endless amounts of garbage brought by the sea to local beaches. The garbage comes from other countries who do not manage their waste properly and it is a huge problem for the local community of Trstenik.

Immediately after going out of the buses, students were divided into three groups guided by professors and members of local community and fire brigades. Each group was assigned to a designated beach. After a certain time, we all had a feeling that time is running and our work is not showing any results. No one would believe how much garbage there is on those beaches until you stand into those piles and start cleaning. It's hard to imagine what we found, from medical waist, to shoes, to plastic chairs, it was unbelievable.

One of the benefits, in addition to honest, hard manual work surrounded by beautiful nature, was socializing with the local community. We even had a chance to meet Dino Merlin, a famous regional pop star who has a house in Trstenik. After good 4 hours of cleaning and hard work, the results were clearly visible. When approximately 75 students + around 20 members of the local community join hands in effort, the results are amazing and we were all very proud of our achievement; the beaches were back in their shape, free of garbage. Let's not forget the scuba diving clubs from the county and B&H, who also made a huge effort in cleaning the sea bottom.

After all that hard work, we were pleasantly surprised with a joint lunch prepared by nice ladies from Trstenik and surrounding villages. They really made an effort to reward us with tasteful meals and desserts. When we were done with lunch at 3:00 pm, it was time to head back to Dubrovnik. It was a fantastic feeling to see completely clean beaches from the bus, upon leaving Trstenik. I am also working on a video of the event so we will have a nice memory of this action. I hope that I will be a part of similar RIT Croatia activities in the future and I hope these types of events will motivate other people to volunteer and to contribute to the community. The positive emotions after working for the benefit of community are priceless, and if you don't experience them yourself, no one can explain them to you.

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