By Sofia Nikitina ’22 (Tartu, Estonia, placed by CIEE in Lowell, Vermont)  

Trash knows no borders. Overflowing landfills and littered landscapes mar the beauty of our planet, impacting the quality of life for communities worldwide. The need for collective action has never been more evident. As we unite on World Cleanup Day, we take a crucial step toward addressing this shared concern, demonstrating the power of international cooperation to tackle this issue head-on.  

World Cleanup Day is a movement that was born in Estonia in 2008 when 50,000 people united for a cleanup and collected over 10,000 tons of trash in just five hours. The world took notice and the contagious “Let’s do it!” spirit quickly gained momentum. From that day on, volunteers and supporters across the globe join forces each September to raise awareness of the worldwide mismanaged waste crisis.  

Feeling responsible for supporting this major event, an amazing team of nine alumni joined the organizing crew at the International Call and Media Center of World Cleanup Day in Tallinn, Estonia, gathering at 6:30 AM on World Cleanup Day 2023, September 16. FLEX alumni joined volunteers from countries around the world, including China, Ireland, and Turkey.  

Throughout the eventful day, our team of nine alumni interviewed World Cleanup Day leaders and volunteers from across the globe. Our role was to gather information about events that were organized, offer support to participating countries, address any potential issues, and convey sincere appreciation for organizers’ hard work. Juuli-Johanna Aaman ’22 and Roosmari Pihlak ’20 also took charge of social media support, ensuring direct communication with as many volunteers as possible to let them know their contributions were valued. In addition, Ave Alamets ’23 and I had a role in conducting research for countries with limited event information about numbers of events and volunteers. By collaborating with FLEX and YES Alumni Coordinators worldwide, we efficiently filled in most of the missing details and were able to provide accurate statistics. 

This year brought a surprising twist as World Cleanup Day reached an unprecedented scale, leading to the creation of an additional Call and Media Center in New York City. Esteemed former President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid joined the crew for this significant event, adding to its importance and global reach. A FLEX alumnus from Uzbekistan, Saidamir Egamberdiyev ’23, joined the NYC team as well, playing an important role in representing the alumni community on both sides of the world.  

“Volunteering at the Call and Media Center was an eye-opening journey into the heart of World Cleanup Day’s global movement,” said Ave Alamets ’23. “It was a privilege to be a part of the ‘backstage’ side and witness the incredible scale of participation worldwide. Behind the scenes, we discovered the meticulous efforts that brought this monumental event together.” What made this experience truly special was the warm camaraderie of the team, where everyone was friendly and supportive. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to interview volunteers from around the world, hear their inspiring stories, and learn about their experiences. We all left the office feeling inspired and moved by all the effort that’s being made each year to bring all of us closer to a cleaner, brighter future.  

World Cleanup Day has grown to become the largest civic movement in peacetime history, bringing together 197 countries worldwide and more than 71 million volunteers united in their mission to make our planet cleaner. The next goal for the movement is to be added to the United Nations Calendar and our alumni will do everything possible to do our share, contribute to this journey, and secure a day for the movement that unites us all for a cleaner world. Until next year!  


Featured Alumni:  

Kadri Ligi ’19 (Muhu, Estonia placed by PAX in Conroe, TX) 

Pilleriin Raidma ’20 (Tallinn, Estonia placed by ASSE in Waverly, IA)  

Roosmari Pihlak ’20 (Tallinn, Estonia placed by CIEE in Maryville, MO) 

Sofia Nikitina ’22 (Valga, Estonia placed by CIEE in Lowell, VT)  

Juuli-Johanna Aaman ’22 (Kuusalu, Estonia placed by PAX in Salem, NY)  

Vlada Tihhonova ’23 (Narva, Estonia placed by STS Fdn in Troutdale, OR) 

Kirke Koni ’23 (Tallinn, Estonia placed by World Link in Monument, CO) 

Liilia Sumkina ’23 (Tallinn, Estonia placed by AFS in Monroe, WI) 

Saidamir Egamberdiyev ’23 (Tashlak, Uzbekistan placed by World Link in Knoxville, IA) 

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