A group of proud Brummie volunteers braved cold temperatures on Sunday (22 January) to help clear up litter along the Bordesley and Digbeth canal.

The litter pick session was organised by Canal & River Trust with the aim of clearing up waste and encouraging wellbeing in the community

The litter pick session – which encourages local community members to take part and improve their physical and mental health – took place around the Bordesley Junction which is situated off Watery Lane Middleway on a cold Sunday morning around 11am.

The volunteers braved freezing temperatures during the litter pickTaz Parvaz
The volunteers braved freezing temperatures during the litter pick

The call out for the litter pick in Bordesley attracted around 13 people. Some of the volunteers taking part in the session were children who arrived with parents to take part in the litter pick and learn a little bit about Birmingham’s world famous network of canals during the clean up of the towpaths.

The organisers, including some of the volunteers, spoke to I Am Birmingham and shared their thoughts about the litter pick at Bordesley Junction.

Tahir (Taz) Parvaz, Urban Engagement Manager Canal & River Trust West Midlands, said: “Canal & River Trust are a charity that looks after 2000 miles of canals and waterways in England and Wales. That’s a lot of towpaths, hedgerow and vegetation.

“We rely on the help of amazing volunteers and community partners to help us clear the canals for our wildlife and Canal users.”

The canal litter pick project also aims to inspire children to take pride in their landscapeTaz Parvaz
The canal litter pick project also aims to inspire children to take pride in their landscape

Parvaz, added: “The canals in Bordesley and Saltley have been unloved for many years. The trust have recently set up towpath taskforce groups where volunteers come out and try to tackle the huge littering problem along the canals in these areas.

“On Sunday 22nd January we launched our first joint collaboration with a litter pick with the youth group and parents from Green Lane Masjid as well as reaching out to local residents.

“We had 13 people come out to join us despite the freezing temperatures, collecting 8 large bags full of rubbish in a 90min litter pick session covering 1.5km.”

The litter pick resulted in 8 large bags of rubbishTaz Parvaz
The litter pick resulted in 8 large bags of rubbish

Kamran Shezad, a proud dad who took part in the litter pick session with his two children, said: “The canal system in Birmingham contains a vast amount of ecology and biodiversity, which in turn benefits our health and wellbeing.

“The Canal & River Trust do a great job in maintaining it but it is not possible without the help and support of volunteers.

“Taking part in community clean ups with my children instils a sense of responsibility, it’s great fun and the kids love it.”

Kamran Shezad and his children volunteered to take part in the litter pickTaz Parvaz
Kamran Shezad and his children volunteered to take part in the litter pick

Helana Al Rawwad, Youth & Welfare Support Worker at Green Lane Masjid, said: “It literally was a breath of fresh air for our group, litter picking on that cold frosty morning! The kids were ever so excited to litter pick even before reaching the canals where we were going to meet the awesome team from the Canal & River Trust.

“There was a bit of geography and history of the canals shared with us.

“Picking up rubbish left by others for the sake of the environment was a humbling experience. Also, as a Muslim, picking up litter forms a part of my faith.

“There’s a saying in Arabic – “Knowledge in the younger years is like carving in stones” – which means that knowledge attained during childhood will linger and serve in adulthood. I’m sure litter picking with the children will form a lasting impression on them.

“Green Lane Masjid has always known the importance of working with the local community and this is just another example of it.”

Around 13 volunteers took part in the litter pickTaz Parvaz
Around 13 volunteers took part in the litter pick

Volunteer Maureen reflected upon her experience about the litter pick: “I enjoyed being out in the fresh air (albeit cold, but as I was dressed appropriately that didn’t matter) and doing something positive for Birmingham.

“Everyone was lovely and friendly, and Tahir was particularly good at motivating and praising the group. It was also nice for people using the canal to thank us as they passed.

“All in all a worthwhile couple of hours.”

Tahir Parvaz is proud of the work done by the volunteers and hopes the success of the Bordesley Junction litter pick session will encourage the local community to get involved in future events along Birmingham’s canals.

He said: “Overall it was great morning and we hope to use this as a springboard to launch a regular activity with the community.

“We would like to develop a partnership with Green Lane Masjid and Cleanup UK to look after regular stretches of Canal in Bordesley and Saltley.”

Canal & River Trust ensure canals are kept clean and safe for the publicTaz Parvaz
Canal & River Trust ensure canals are kept clean and safe for the public

Canal & River Trust – which looks after a network of 2,000 miles of historic canals, docks, reservoirs and rivers, and helps to transform decaying canals into green spaces – periodically organises litter pick sessions to ensure that pathways and waterways are kept clean for people and wildlife.

The organisation provides a platform and space where people can pause from the hectic and stressful nature of modern life and enjoy some peaceful and reflective time near water. As obesity levels increase and mental health declines across society, and the lack of green spaces in the urban city become scarce, now is the time to seek out reflection and healing near waterways.

According to research carried out by Canal & River Trust it seems spending time by water – whether walking or cycling – can have a happy and positive effect on the mind and body.

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