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By Dana Malcolm

Personal editor

Norman Rogers

#TurksandCaicos, June 6, 2022 – ‘Every day unless it rains’ is how often Norman Rogers walks along the pavements of Providenciales, often wearing a shirt with big red letters that anyone passing by will be able to read. He says “One man can make the difference”. It’s the same shirt that Norm proudly wears, turning to show the camera on Zoom during our interview. It’s a gift, he explains, from a young man whom he deeply inspired by his daily routine, because Norm doesn’t just walk, he cleans the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Norman and his wife first visited the islands in 2002, fell in love with the turquoise water and moved here soon after, but it wasn’t until his heart attack in 2003 that Norm, an ornithologist passionate, decided to start walking along one of TCIs uninhabited islands in the morning and to get his body moving. It was then that he noticed something.

“The litter on the island interfered with the birds.” he explained “And so I started carrying around a trash bag every time I started going out to take pictures of the birds.”

This was the start of what has become a legacy of environmentalism on the islands. Norm has been picking up litter on a regular schedule for 16 years, but in 2020, with the advent of quarantines and lockdowns amid the coronavirus pandemic, he set out to walk further and further in both directions from his home every day and didn’t like what he saw; he knew he had to grow, and now his current routes are nothing short of amazing. They are organized to cover as much ground as possible.

“I have 17 different sections that I clean and some of them are done every two weeks, some every three weeks and some every four weeks.”

In the four weeks since working a relatively new route to Governor’s Road, he has managed to haul 85 bags of rubbish. Even more surprisingly, he did not do this route every day, since he also keeps his original routes.

“I go out every day from 7:15 a.m. to about 9:30 a.m., the only days I don’t go out are when it’s raining or sometimes I take a day off,” he explained. “In life, I was told that no one can tell the difference and I thought I could.

His total number of bags each day on this new route ranges between four and seven, but he says that’s only because no one has cleared this area in a while. Norman says the trick is to get the islanders to maintain cleanliness. This is where Jeffrey Nicolas comes in.

The other half of this environmental duo Jeffery met Norm at the gym and were so inspired by the older man’s tenacity that he started organizing bigger cleanups himself. And with the help of the Rotaract Club, Jeffery has organized dozens of islanders to do their part in the cleanup and he’s also advocating for recycling with major hotels and locals, talking with the Hotel Association to see how the waste problem can be solved. He argued that recycling is both good for the environment and good for hoteliers.

“We are beautiful by nature, we have to stay clean by choice,” he says seriously. Norm added his own twist “We want it to be beautiful in nature but not desecrated by man.”

The men both agree that the most sustainable way to rid the Turks and Caicos Islands of waste is to start working at the source.

Jeffrey Nicholas

Norman explained: “We would like to promote non-littering to start with, the government is doing a good job of cleaning up certain areas, but at the same time there are things we need to do to help ourselves. For me, it starts with education, we have to teach children in school…start with young people.

Jeffrey added: “We have to start conditioning people’s minds, I think we all love the Turks and Caicos Islands, we’re just not aware of the problem because most of the time we don’t look from the side of the road until it becomes like a small dump.

Jeffery explains that not only do Islanders need to be educated about the issue, but preventative infrastructure like garbage cans on the highway also needs to be put in place.

“You drive around and throw a bottle out the window because you have nowhere to put it thinking it’s just one bottle, but it adds up. I’ve done cleanups at Blue Hill and Five Cays, where in a day we get up to 50 bags.

For those who don’t know where to start, men say spending five or ten minutes cleaning up the area in front of your house, food businesses cleaning up their trash would also be a good start, especially since a lot of the trash you they scavenge are containers of food that eventually end up in the oceans.

The biggest takeaway from the duo is that one man, maybe two CAN make the difference.

You can make a difference in your backyard, on your street, in your community and on your island; just start.

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