Josh's Volunteer Story
May 25, 2010
Helping to keep Robson Street Clean
Yoshitaka “Josh” Nakao came to Vancouver from Osaka Japan in October 2009 to study English.
While he was still in Japan, Josh saw a TV show about Vancouver’s ecology movement, nature and the City in general. His first thought after seeing the show was, “Wow! How beautiful a city Vancouver is! If I go to Vancouver, I’d like to be involved with the ecology movement.”
As Josh states, “A month later, I came here. My first word was “awesome”. Then I was fascinated with Vancouver’s nature and personality and when I stood on the ground, saw the blue sky and breathed the beautiful air in Canada, I was accepted in Canada. Vancouver was just as I imagined.”
However, after a while he realized that there was litter on the downtown streets and he wasn’t happy about it; “Vancouver is a beautiful city and comfortable to live in, but there is litter on the street. It’s not good for its appearance so I’d like Vancouver to be more beautiful. That’s why I started to volunteer to clean up Vancouver by myself on the weekdays last November.”
Josh came to Vancouver to improve his English skills so while he was volunteering, he started to practice conversations in English: “First I tried to talk to people around me, but most people ignored me. Maybe they mistook me for a homeless person. But I’ve never given up and I’m good at organizing, so I made a volunteer t-shirt. I wrote I am Volunteer Staff, Let’s make Vancouver more beautiful. Finally people didn’t ignore me and they were interested in my work.”
From November to the end of 2009 he worked alone, but he realized that making Vancouver more beautiful was not a one-person job. On Christmas day, he recruited two friends to help him clean up the litter on Robson Street and by the first week in January he had organized a volunteer team through his school, Pacific Gateway.
They volunteer on the first and second Friday afternoons of each month from 1-3pm. While volunteering the rule is to only speak English to help them practice their language skills.
“During the Olympics, many people visited Vancouver and there was so much trash and stuff on the street. My volunteer work was so busy, but I could meet a lot of new friends who came from different countries and I had a special opportunity to talk to people. And then I wanted guys to know, I’m Japanese, but I really love Vancouver. Then I remodeled my volunteer tools. I used to clean up while holding the garbage bag but it wasn’t convenient. Afterward, I made a garbage box to shoulder on my back and I sewed Japanese and Canadian flags on the side of my t-shirt to advertise my motto. While I was wearing my costume, I was also cleaning up and cheering for Japan and Canada. The Olympics were a good experience.”
After the Olympics, Josh met members of the City of Vancouver’s Clean Street Program was invited to an Appreciation Party for volunteers on May 26th. At the event, Josh will be presented with the “Golden Dust Pan Award”; for individuals/groups who do outstanding work as part of the Clean Streets Program. A letter to Josh from the City states, “We appreciate your efforts in making the downtown area a cleaner place and the fact that you are a student from another country who has volunteered your time to do this makes it even more impressive.”
Unfortunately, Josh has to leave Vancouver for Japan in September, but he hopes to find someone to take over for him and that his Volunteer Cleaner legacy will continue. The Robson Street Business Association thanks Josh for all of his hard work and for making Robson Street a cleaner place to walk.
If you see Josh and his team on the street, please say hello to him, and maybe even offer to help him clean… after all, if we all picked up just one piece of litter each day, imagine how clean the street could be.