As part of the ROAD project ERP sent out a call for Selijas Salas “Stories of your countryside”

The winner of this challenge was our partner in Latvia
with River Cleaning story by NGO “Boats of Selonia”

Collaborative river cleanup days in the countryside of Latvia –
a success story about daring, support from fellow men,
voluntary work and desire to break down stereotypes
A year ago I and my family moved from the capital city to the countryside, to my birthplace. The idea that had been in our minds for a long time finally became a decision. We have always been lovers of active recreation so decision to work in this direction seemed natural. We saw a great chance in the river that flows through my native town, and as one of our favorite pastimes is boating, developing boating culture was a logical step towards our aim.
Whenever time permitted, we spend it boating by Dienvidsusēja but soon we understood that the river had to be cleaned up from fallen trees in order to be ready to welcome other boating enthusiasts. Said and done. Following the current events of Aknīste Municipality we applied for the initiative project for citizens with our river cleanup idea.

The aim of this project is to support the locals’ ideas in improving the environment and general life conditions. Our project was supported and we received a 500 euro grant in order to bring our idea to life. As soon as the results were announced, we started organizing collaborative river cleanup days.
It was the middle of summer when people are busy working in their farms and attending cultural events so we did not expect many of them to be responsive. But the results were notable. 15 people participated during the first two cleanup days. Taking in consideration that the total amount of inhabitants is 3800, this number is worthy of mention. Even ladies took part although it was a hard physical work. Bravo, Latvian women!
Overall, 5 river cleanup events took place, cleaning up a 6 km long distance which equals to a 1.5 hour boating route which was available to the participants straight after cleaning it. The first boaters were the river cleaning volunteers and their families. They were so proud of their work telling others – Look, I cut down this tree, I pulled this log out! Pleasure and pride for oneself and others! Those who did not take part in cleaning up process are not so eager because in the countryside it takes a long time for a new idea to settle down and no marketing campaigns work here. Word-of-mouth advertising is the most effective here. That’s what we hope for!
The main project benefits:
1. A brand new type of active recreation is available in Aknīste municipality – boating and wading (walking in river). During the warm period we can enjoy the river and the stream, during not so warm periods we can wade in the river or walk along its banks and continue enjoying the goods of nature for free.
2. The stereotype that the river is an obstacle that cannot be used for active recreation has been broken down.
3. We proved that active recreation on water can be attractive, accessible and exciting at any age – the youngest boater was 1.5 years old and the oldest – 60 years old.
4. We make voluntary work popular by investing collaborative work, which is beneficial for the public as the environment becomes tidier and visually enjoyable.
5. Registration of society. This legal form allows to attract investments and to get the necessary popularity more easily than individual work.
6. We offer a different viewpoint – familiar landscape can evoke completely new feelings when observed from the boat.
Active work and registration of society gave us the necessary publicity which was reinforced by three publications in the regional newspaper. Boats of Selonia are already recognized in the neighboring municipalities - when calling them to talk about partnership, we hear “oh, yes, we have heard of you!” What a pleasure! Popularity will help us move forward because our aim for this year is to clean up 40 km of the river crossing the boundaries of three municipalities and ending the long-lasting non-cooperation.
We are ready for big challenges!
Will you keep your fingers crossed for us?

Selijas Salas 2