‘Be A Hero’ campaign goes national
Driven by success and extreme popularity, a campaign initially designed for New Providence to spread the message of the importance of a clean, green and pristine environment among students went viral nationally on February 1, according to Minister of Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira.
“The level of enthusiasm for the #BeAHero program has exceeded all expectations from the time we introduced it at the first school,” said Ferreira. “Now we are getting requests to join the campaign, especially on social media, from students in the Family Islands who want to be heroes and are already doing their part to clean up the environment or urge others not to litter.”
One of the most compelling of the Family Island pleas to enter came from a teacher who helped a little boy in Abaco raise funds for hand-painted and installed ‘do not litter’ signs on the beaches of the island. The teacher reached out after taking one of the student’s signs to the town council meeting to show the power of little people with a big idea.
“Everyone wants to be a caped crusader to clean up the environment around them and be a hero. Little Elrine [Bongon], a 10-year-old from St. Francis de Sales Catholic School in Abaco, did not wait for someone to instruct him. He went out and got the used plywood, raised money for the paint and created seven signs urging locals and visitors to keep Abaco beaches clean,” said Ferreira, who announced the expansion during an assembly at St. Cecilia’s Catholic School. He chose that school for the announcement because of the initiative students there showed – even making their own capes.
Launched in October 2018, the “Be A Hero” campaign challenges primary and junior high schools to identify a project that will make their schools’ grounds or nearby communities greener, cleaner, safer places to study, live and play.
Students can plant trees or a vegetable garden, raise funds for garbage bins, paint them with the schools’ logos, declare a no-single-use plastics zone or clean up a park or beach. The choice of projects to create a clean, green and pristine school, park, street or beach is endless, according to project managers.
“There is no limit as to what students can do,” said Ferreira. “The important thing is for them to use their imagination, to truly understand that this Bahamas is their land and it is their responsibility to care for it.”
St. Cecilia’s was the 19th school that the minister and a small team, including representatives from two marketing agencies, hit in less than three months, touching thousands of lives.
The team encourages teachers and staff to help students identify a project; take and post before and after pictures and maintain a strong social media presence, as they undertake their goal to transform a space.
Ferreira also reminds students and teachers that cleaner places are safer spaces, noting that repeated research has shown where there is a lack of respect for the environment, abandoned vehicles, dirt and debris, there is more anger and aggression. That underlying safety message hits home, he says.
The campaign was created by the marketing and public relations firms of Barefoot Marketing, Grand Bahama, and Diane Phillips & Associates, New Providence. The agencies partnered, reaching out to local heroes and community influencers, all of whom signed on without charge. They secured funding or in-kind services for radio, printing and other expenses from one dozen sponsors, including Atlantis, AML Foods (Solomon’s), Bahamas Waste, Bahamas Wholesale Agencies (BWA), Commonwealth Brewery, Kelly’s Home Centre, Seaside Media, Subway, the Sign Man, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Tourism. The Tribune Media Group has been the platinum sponsor.
“We enlisted the support of athletes, entertainers and community leaders, stars and local celebrities who young people look up to,” said Ferreira. “When a Shaunae Miller-Uibo or Jonquel Jones or Buddy Hield are telling them it’s cool to be clean and litter-free or to slam dunk the junk, these little kids identify with it. If they see a sign with Olympic track star Chris ‘Fireman’ Brown saying, ‘Pick up the pace and clean up the place,’ they can relate. It’s important to get the message of cleanliness and responsibility for surroundings across to these kids when they are young so it becomes a practice, a way of life.”
A YouTube video produced by the campaign features a couple in a car who toss a box out the car window and are caught by two small children. The children, who see the infraction, twirl, swirl and emerge in super hero capes to hand the litter back to the adults, who promise, embarrassingly, never to litter again.
“We are excited about the next phase of #BeAHero,” said Ferreira. The winning schools will become heroes with their images replacing those icons whose faces and messages appear on bus benches, print ads and billboards all over the island.