Lombok’s Clean Up Hero

Gavin Edward Birch rose earlier than the sunrise. He loved staring at the horizon, that thin line between the sky and the sea, witnessing the first light of sunrise. “I can’t live without the beach,” he said.

It was also the beach that brought Gavin back to Lombok after his first visit in 1984. He fell in love with the beauty of Lombok, although that beauty was covered with trash. He decided to reside in Lombok and changed his name to Husin Abdullah.

People didn’t know him by name, they knew him as the ‘crazy foreigner’ (bule gila), a man who went around the beaches of Lombok to pick up trash and recycle them. The locals found it strange that a foreigner had scavenger-like tendencies.

He used to collect trash along Batu Layar Road towards Senggigi Beach. Separating recyclables from non-recyclables, he turned the organic waste into fertiliser, which he sold to a florist, and the recyclables were sold to earn him and his family a living.

The local government supported his programmes that included cleaning up mosques, beaches, roads, and villages. His love of nature led him on a quest to make Lombok a clean and greener place. Gavin Birch devoted 25 years of his life trying to achieve that. He passed away in 2010 and the successor of his mission, his son Abdul Aziz Husin, aspires to make an organisation that will manage clean-up activities.

“It won’t be an easy path to follow,” says Abdul Aziz, remembering his father’s dedication despite insults and a low family income. In the long run, Abdul Aziz plans to have a model area, which will show the public the direct effect of looking after the environment. The organisation he plans to build will enliven his father’s dream by educating people about the environment, providing more places for rubbish and managing volunteers.

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