Group of people posing for photo outdoors (Care of KHC)
Keep Hanoi Clean volunteers celebrate World Cleanup Day 2018. (Care of KHC)

Every Lunar New Year, people across Vietnam release carp into lakes and rivers for good luck. And every year, representatives from Keep Hanoi Clean, a nonprofit organization, attend festivities in the capital to clean up any plastic bags left behind.

“I wanted to do something good for the environment,” James Kendall, an English teacher from the United States who lives in Vietnam and founded Keep Hanoi Clean, said in 2018. The annual cleanup, held this year January 23–25, is also a great way to meet people and contribute to the community where he lives.

Person wearing hat and smiling (© Tan/KHC)
Keep Hanoi Clean founder James Kendall works during a lakeside cleanup in Hanoi. (© Tan/KHC)

Keep Hanoi Clean has recruited thousands of volunteers to fight pollution, improve waste management and increase green space in the capital.

Here are ways other U.S. citizens support the Indo-Pacific region.

Educating young leaders

After Trevor Gile, who attended Washington State University, and his wife Agnieszka Tynkiewicz-Gile, of Poland, first visited Cambodia in 2002, they saw an opportunity to help the country’s economically disadvantaged people and boost economic development.

The couple launched the Liger Leadership Academy in 2012 to teach leadership skills through hands-on learning and project-based education. The academy in Phnom Penh offers full scholarships to students from across Cambodia.

“We are preparing our students to drive Cambodia’s future social and economic development,” the founders say on their website. “Those closest to a problem are typically those who are most able to solve it when provided with the tools to do so.”

Bringing technology to conservation

U.S. software engineer Drew Gray developed an artificial intelligence platform to help environmentalists in French Polynesia conserve coral reefs stressed by the climate crisis.

Coral Gardeners enlisted Gray to develop ReefOS to monitor coral reefs off the coast of Tahiti. Using an underwater camera and sensor network, ReefOS will track data in real time, allowing the group to understand the health of coral reefs and identify solutions.

“One of our favorite sayings is, ‘You can’t improve something if you can’t measure it,'” Gray said in October. “By measuring the reef health during and after our restoration efforts, we can quantify what impact we had on the ecosystem and use this feedback to improve our methods.”