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Volunteer Clean Up in London Honors New Yorkers - 2001-10-05

Volunteers in London are donning rubber boots and rolling up their sleeves in aid of the often-neglected Thames River. Armed with plastic bags, about 600 people from some of the largest corporations in Britain are giving their time Friday and Saturday October 6-7 to sink ankle deep in riverbank mud to clean up the environment.

The work is dedicated to the thousands of volunteers in New York City who gave their time and effort after last month's terrorist attacks.

The idea behind the campaign to clean up the Thames River is to raise awareness, to get individuals involved, and to give something back to the community.

It is a joint project between the environmental clean up organization, Thames 21, and the Capital Cares group, which gets volunteers actively involved in their cities.

These people are normally well dressed and work in offices, but for two days they are covered in mud and seem to be enjoying it, collecting litter from the banks of the Thames. "I am about two inches in what looks like clay on the banks of the river and we are trying to find anything that should not be here, put them in bin bags and get rid of them as quickly as possible," explained volunteer Rita Cudd.

All the work in London is dedicated to the volunteers in New York who have given so much in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks on the city's World Trade Center and on the Pentagon in Washington. These London volunteers say what happened in New York has had a profound effect in Britain.

"I think that most Londoners connected tremendously with New York," said a woman volunteer. "It could have been here. So, everyone has got to do their bit. I do think that as tragic an event as it was, hopefully it will bring the world together, if that does not sound too dramatic a statement to make. This is all just part of everyone doing their little bit," she added.

"It definitely touched all of us and not to forget there were Brits involved in it as well," added a male volunteer. "So, it has hurt us just as much as it has hurt you. Definitely."

John Scardino, a board member of the U.S. based City Cares program, the sister organization of the London volunteer group, says after the attacks in the United States, people wanted to help in some way. "Everybody here wants to be involved in some way," Mr. Scardino said. "I think when people see what happened in New York and in Washington on September 11, it was such a huge tragedy that people felt they wanted to be there to be of some assistance in some way or another."

"You can certainly send contributions to whatever charity or organization they want to, but a lot of people have wanted to do more than that, and that I think is what today is really about is showing that we can help being involved by helping the world around us, essentially."

And that is what the clean up on the Thames River is all about. For the 600 volunteers, it means thinking about their colleagues in New York and working with others to make the world - or at least this portion of the Thames River - a slightly better place.