PUCHONG: Lee Kim Siew cuts a lonely figure as he makes his way down a flight of steps into the popular Wawasan Recreational Park with a large plastic bag and a plastic glove on his right hand.
In this park, the largest one in the Subang Jaya municipality, the 84-year-old former headmaster is well known to regular parkgoers who wave and greet him in Cantonese as they cross paths.
But after brief pleasantries are exchanged, the smiling old man carries on with what has been a one-man mission since 2014, picking up trash in the park.
“When I first came here, I was shocked to find rubbish strewn everywhere, it was so smelly,” Lee told FMT, stretching his hand to point at the areas around him.
“So I started cleaning up, picking up rubbish as I went along, even digging drains to drain water from the pathways,” said Lee, who is from Bahau, Negeri Sembilan, as he bent down to pick up a discarded mineral water bottle.
For the past five years, Lee said, he had been spending about three hours a day picking up wrappers, bottles and cigarette butts indiscriminately dumped by parkgoers.
He also painstakingly clears small fallen branches and dried leaves on the ground.
Lee said when he first started, he would pick up rubbish six times a week, but that now he had “slowed down” due to age and did so “only” four or five days a week.
Despite his age, Lee doesn’t break a sweat, slowly but steadily making his way from one end of the park to the other, going up and down slopes and paths.
The “drop off” point for the rubbish he collects is located opposite to the area from which he enters the park.
The career educator who said he had donated more than 67,000 books to schools in Malaysia, China and Thailand, hopes his efforts will help educate others into changing their habits.
“I want to encourage people to pick up after themselves, and sometimes, people do help me when they see me picking up rubbish.”
Lee, who sports a worn out Queens Park Rangers cap, said he was unafraid to walk up to anyone he saw littering, and advising them to dump their bad habit.
In his five years of picking up trash, Lee said he had even found a discarded chair and a mattress.
Lee said he was happy his efforts over the years had contributed to the cleanliness of the park.
“I like to see Malaysians of all races, Chinese, Malays and Indians, especially little children, enjoying the park. I don’t know how much longer I can do this as I am old, as long as I can I’d like to continue.”