Costa Women Meet ... Ann Jenkins

  • Today I chatted to Ann Jenkins, Eco Warrior, founder of Playa Patrol and Game Creator! Ann lives on the Costa Tropical in Southern Spain and has a passion for playas. She has hosted numerous beach cleanups and, due to the Coronavirus, has created a 'beach clean up' game for the whole family.

    Ann talks about her journey to Spain, how she started to get involved in local community projects and her hopes for 2020. We also explore the different journey Ann experienced when she took part in EXXPEDITION, an all-female voyage exploring the impact of plastic and toxic pollution in our ocean and the affects it has had on her personally.

     

    Ann, how did you end up living in Spain?

    My husband, Christopher, and I dreamed of living in France; Provence to be exact.  In fact, from 2010-2015 we looked at real estate in Uzès and even put in two offers but something caused us to pull out at the eleventh hour. 

    In August of 2015, we decided to take early retirement and just travel the world until we landed somewhere.  By December of 2015 we sold our properties, packed up every worldly possession into storage, and jumped on a plane.  For 8 months we travelled SE Asia and enjoyed life.  But, the monsoons were not breaking that year and it was dreadfully humid and one day we looked at each other and said “We don’t have to say here – let’s go Europe instead”.  After a month in France enjoying cheese, awesome baguettes and wine, we finally realized we would NEVER be able to afford France. 

    Christopher discovered that Spain has a magical micro-climate area in Costa Tropical so we booked a flight to Malaga and an awesome villa in La Herradura overlooking the sea for 5 weeks.  The intent was to start our research into Spanish real estate.  Four weeks later, we bought a plot of land and we began our life in Costa Tropical.  

     

    And before Spain? 

    Before Spain, I ran an international pension research center for 10 years at the University of Toronto and in my earlier life I spent 15 years in the film industry and 5 years in financial services. 

     

    Now you live on the Costa Tropical - give us three reasons why we should move there too! 

    Costa Tropical is a micro-climate zone which means that the temperature is cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter which provides a much better year-round life-balance. This area is home to avocado, nispero and chirimoya – unique fruits to southern Spain and a major export.  Costa Tropical has lots of hidden beaches that you can only access by walking ie walk down steep winding roads (some paved and some not) for 25min – but the climb back up can take 45min depending on your level of physical fitness!  However, our little slice of paradise in La Herradura is unique from other villages and towns in Costa Tropical. 

    The entire town is set into a steep wide hill in the shape of a horseshoe (which is the literal translation of La Herradura).  This means that every villa, townhouse or apartment can ‘see the sea’.  For people who cannot afford to purchase ‘front row’, you still get a slice of the Mediterranean, even if it’s miniscule.

     

    You have a passion for playas!  How did it start? 

    The local Sea Festival takes place every year in late September / early October and it’s grown over time into a 3-day event with a kids parade, guest speakers, movies and a community paella on the beach. I realized that as part of their 5th anniversary event, there was a morning block of time that was free and that there was not a beach clean up organized.  So I organized one! 

    In less than 4 weeks, I was able to attract 350 people to join in a major beach clean up.  It was the beginning of Playa Patrol and things have only grown since then.  Our last major beach clean up coincided with International Ocean Clean Up Day in September 2019 and we attracted over 915 volunteers that covered multiple beach locations in La Herradura, Almuñécar, Salobreña and Motril – we also collected 101,824 cigarette butts in under 2 hours!  Shocking, but true. 

     

     

    What’s one easy way we can all make a difference to our environment? 

    Each person can make a difference to the environment by looking at their personal relationship with plastic – and I mean really digging into it. 

    Here’s a challenge. 

    Keep all your plastic for two weeks – every single piece – don’t take it to the garbage or recycling bin.  As a family look at it - together.  And talk about what you see.  It will drastically change your opinion of how well you think you’re doing and will inspire you to make ONE CHANGE.  Then make an effort as a family, and to commit to one month and focus on that one change and you’ll be surprised at the other things you magically become aware about that you also start to change, or hear, or see. You’ll be surprised!

     

    What has been your greatest challenge, whether personal or business?

    In October 2019 I joined the first leg of an all-female-around-the-world-plastic-research-sailing voyage with eXXpedition

    Fun fact: the XX stands for the double x chromosome in female DNA.  And when you pronounce it you say EX-EX-pedition! 

    For two weeks I joined 14 women on the most grueling sailing trip EVER!  We set sail on the heels of a hurricane and hit massive gale force winds, rain, storms, ripped our mainsail the first night at sea, the water-maker (which converts salt water to drinking water) broke repeatedly so there was often no drinking water and definitely no showers. Of the 14 women on board, I was one of two that didn’t puke my guts out for 6-8 days.  Oh, and we lived at 45 degrees for 8 days – or the bow slammed the waves if we were not getting broadsided.  I still have shoulder damage and finger nerve damage.  It was difficult to undertake ocean science, but we did.  

     

    How has the experience changed you? 

    Sailing with eXXpedition during hurricanes and gale-force winds with a non-professional crew made me realize that if I can survive THAT, I can tackle anything.  It’s made me more resilient to set-backs.

     

    You have achieved a lot already this year; what will the rest of 2020 bring you? 

    In January of 2020 I was struggling with the massive growth that we achieved with Playa Patrol.  It grew too big, too fast, and as a one person non-profit, I had no support staff and little money to continue with my vision.  I thought of chucking it, handing if off, trying to re-invent it, but all those felt overwhelming.

    Around Valentine’s Day, WIND, a local shop in Marina del Este asked me if Playa Patrol could support their “I ♥︎ The Sea.” Event.  They were offering discounts to shoppers and wanted to see how we could add something unique to their celebration and that’s when we trialed a new concept for Playa Patrol. We decided to supply the buckets and gloves and a local café supplied the treats as a reward to their existing celebration.  The idea looked like this: if a guest grabbed bucket, collected beach litter and brought it back to the shop, they’d get a tasty treat.  It was a huge success and that’s when I realized that I could SUPPORT other local businesses by simply providing them the supplies to help keep our sea plastic free! 

    Out of that one random request by a local bricks and mortar shop, the new plan for 2020 was borne: encourage businesses with existing staff to add-on a beach clean up to an opening or grand re-opening, a sale event, Earth Day, Mother’s Day, etc. 

    But then COVID-19 appeared and the lockdown set in.  And then the next pivot took place! 

    I had been toying with creating a bunch of Play ‘n Learn activities for kids of all ages, families and educators, but I was always so focused on the NEXT clean up, the NEXT government official meeting, the NEXT press release, etc. that I was unable to focus on this idea of play-to-learn.  I was able to hire a graphic person from FIVERR.com out of Pakistan, that took my idea and in two short weeks converted my bilingual interactive word and picture game and convert it into something real.  And I managed to get the card game endorsed by a local British accredited international school and by Ambiente Europeo, the Spanish affiliate of Ocean Conservancy out of the United States.

    I’m really excited about it because over Earth Week, GlobalGiving out of the United States, selected Playa Patrol, along with just over 100 other worthy non-profits to participate in the Climate Action Challenge. 

    For any donations that were committed during Earth Week, GlobalGiving was matching donations at 50%. I was not expecting a lot of money to get donated during this extremely challenging time, but there were some cool outcomes: a local coffee roastery asked me to be their Earth Day guest on Facebook and Instagram LIVE to spread the word and a blogger in Granada reached out to help build exposure.  WOW!  In total we raised €533 and I’m greatful to everyone who donated something meaningful to them. 

    People don’t realize how important €10 can be to a charitable organization.  Even though the donor campaign is over, we are able to accept donations all year round.

     

    Tell us more about the card game

    Everyone’s played MEMORY or CONCENTATION and this game is modelled after that.  However, the twist is that it is focused on Ocean Health and is a bilingual game perfect for kids of all ages, families, and educators.  We picked the top 26 ocean pollution items, created graphics, had them translated, and designed a box.

    We are working on Teacher Instructions for junior-middle-senior school from simple image matching, to language skills, to essays, group presentations, etc.

    Next up, is beta testing the cards with some families and educators before we figure out the printing, fulfilment and distribution to schools, governments and other beach clean up organizations. 

    Oh, and then a French, Swedish and Mandarin version as well as an online game are in the works.  

     

    What do you want your personal legacy to be? 

    In the next six months I want to license the interactive card game on Ocean Health to a major family toy company such as HASBRO or SPARK. And then I’m done!  Or so I keep telling my husband…

     

    How can we find out more? 

    Visit the fundraiser http://goto.gg/40174

    Follow Ann and her Playa Patrol projects through her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/playapatrolbeachcleanup/

    Join the Playa Patrol Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/350823808792127/

    Follow the Beach Clean Up Wizard on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/playa.patrol/

     

    Thank you Ann!