Mizu Mission: Africa with Chelsea Yamase

Bouncing all over the globe from the Philippines, Kauai, Alaska and Bali (just to name a few), Chelsea Yamase's travels never stop. Just as amazing as her destinations is her commitment to never include single-use plastics. She has been a dedicated Mizu Advocate from the beginning, choosing reusable no matter where the adventure. This month, her travels took her all the way to Africa where she took Mizu along for the ride. Continue reading to find out what she was up to in Africa and what it means to her to enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind. 

What was your Mizu Mission about? A group of us partnered with HELP international and Proof Eyewear for a trip centered around eye health for rural populations in Uganda that don’t have access or the financial ability to see a doctor. We crossed the entire country in little vans. With the help of local organizations we set up clinics, taught basic sanitation, donated supplies, and cooked a Thanksgiving meal for hundreds of orphans and community members.

What did you learn from your trip? I learned more from this trip than I could ever put on paper. One moment that struck me in particular was being in a pretty remote village in the mountains where we stayed at an orphanage. Very little is wasted or not repurposed into something else. There it’s a habit cultivated out of necessity. There is no “trash pick up” so what they use stays in the area. Water has to be hauled from single well so it’s precious. Overall, I think it’s an attitude towards waste and water that I would love to see adopted more back home. We don’t live next to our trash and it’s so easy to buy bottled water here that we’ve created a culture of convenience.

 

How was this trip different from your usual adventures? My trips usually seek out the most beautiful and extraordinary parts of a country. On this adventure I had the privilege of helping people in slums, refugees, orphanages, and other impoverished areas of Uganda. In a way it’s a polar opposite experience - it’s the things you don’t want to see, the things that make you dig a bit deeper in yourself. Certain days were overwhelming for me, emotionally. But it also gave me more context and an appreciation for how beautiful it is when people band together to help each other.

 

What are the principals and the beliefs you live by? I believe in living simply, exploring often and consuming mindfully. I think gratitude makes life so much sweeter. 

What inspires you to donate your time to this mission? What’s your drive? I did one volunteer trip last year and was surprised by how it was one of my favorite trips to date. So much of my focus is on nature that it felt right to also remember that people need help and protection as well. Before surgery I had extremely poor vision so eye care/treating preventable blindness is also an area I feel personally connected to.

 

What tips do you have to reuse your Mizu or choose reusable over single-use while on the road? In America it’s so easy to choose to use my Mizu. Even if I’m not at home I can refill it at most food establishments, gas stations, libraries, grocery stores etc. I’ve learned which places and stores (like Safeway) that have purified water available for free when I’m on the road. It’s all about making it a habit to reach for my bottle to refill rather than buy a plastic bottle. I’ve found that people are happy to support choosing reusable over single use so I always ask when I can’t find a public water fountain. On longer road trips I’ll fill up the growler or 2 gal jugs and use those as my refill source. Using my own cutlery has also been huge!

 

What advice can you give to those who want to travel but can’t seem to pull the trigger? Start small. Travel doesn’t necessarily have to be grand and far away. There are interesting places and experiences to be had almost everywhere.

 What does “enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind” mean to you? To me “Enjoy the journey, leave nothing behind” means living intentionally. Choosing to be present and enjoy what we’re creating, learning, exploring with the goal of leaving that place just as pristine as we found it. 


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