Cape Town Crusaders: Meet Ricardo Sa

Obs resident and environmental activist strives to preserve the Mother City’s natural beauty 

Meet Mozambican-born Ricardo Sa, an Observatory resident championing his community’s green movement. The Portuguese-trained architect by weekday turns environmental activist by weekend to see out his brainchild, Cleaning Days. Started in February 2013, the social initiative comprises clean-ups that aim to maintain the natural beauty of Cape Town’s Liesbeek River by getting community members out in nature and involved in trash pick-up.

Six Cleaning Days have already been executed—with many more in the works—and more than 400 bags of litter have been cleared from the area. In this way, Ricardo hopes to inspire pride in the communities along the Liesbeek and cultivate a love for the environment necessary for keeping Cape Town beautiful and green.

How did the concept behind this project first occur to you/ what inspired you?
I'm an Obs resident and I used to walk my dogs regularly along the river. I was always astounded by the condition of the area, and I couldn't believe that such a beautiful river in the middle of the city looked so neglected.

Can you explain what you do and how it works?
Yes, I try to get the word out about the poor state of the area and do my best to wrangle together a group of volunteers to meet me on a designated morning. We take trash bags and clean up the litter from the banks of the Liesbeek River, as well as the waterway. I always try to keep the days running in a planned and safe manner.

Why is it so important?
This project is so important because of the larger goal. It is not only about the intention of cleaning the river but also educating the community. If people can understand the importance of looking after your city and its natural resources in particular, they can put an end to damaging the environment in the first place.

Do you see a future for your project (expansion, a founded non-profit, etc)?
Yes. There have been six Cleaning Days, but I only paid for the first one. Local residents and small local associations funded all other Cleaning Days. So the next step is to approach larger private companies and see if they will sponsor, as well. If they operate their businesses along the river and somehow benefit from the work I am doing (views, area where workers eat lunch, remove water from river, etc) then they may become more invested.

What was your most memorable/touching moment in this work?
My most memorable moment was working with 20 College of Cape Town students one morning. Even after a very slow start, they were 100% engaged in their tasks. Their participation made it the most successful Cleaning Day with the removal of more than 100 municipal-sized bags of litter from the river. 

Are there opportunities for other ordinary South Africans to donate time or resources to your project?
For sure. Anyone can contact me and participate in the Cleaning Days. Donations are also welcome, with the small amount of R1000 covering all the costs for another Cleaning Day (salary of four local workers, food, petrol, trailer hire, plastic bags). On a smaller scale, we currently need more plastic bags. We also need to have a trailer for the day or a bakkie to transport the litter collected to the waste depot.

What advice could you give to people who want to get involved in their own project?
Contact local associations in order to make the community aware of your project and also to receive some guidance. Once the project is planned, contact your community and start doing it. The community will draw from your initial energy and engage slowly with the project. Also, be open to change as you go along and ask for feedback.

Want to find out more information about Ricardo’s work or get involved? Shoot him an email at ricardoiurisa@gmail.com

By Cyprien Pearson

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What is Cape Town Crusaders?
We all know that non-profits and charitable organisations around Cape Town do much for our communities. We hear about their good deeds and we see the benefits of their services, but what about the individuals who do transformational work that’s equally commendable —those whose names go unheard and unappreciated? Cape Town Crusaders is our commitment to putting a spotlight on some of the selfless souls who are working independently to uplift those in need.

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If green initiatives are near and dear to your heart, be sure to pop on into some of Cape Town’s best charity shops to recycle goods and help keep usable treasures out of landfills.

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