Foto Friday: the Environmental Committee

So in the past, Peace Corps Perú had 5 different programs: Youth Development, Community Economic Development, Community Health, Water, Sanitation & Hygiene, and Community-Based Environmental Management, my program.

However, all across the world, Peace Corps posts (countries) were asked to cut down the number of programs, and so Perú followed suit, eliminating the environment program. My group, which arrived to Perú in May 2015, was the last group of environmental Volunteers to come to Perú to work.

Environmental work is important in rural communities, such as the many in which Peace Corps Perú Volunteers work, because oftentimes the community’s health and livelihood is dependent upon its relationship with the environment. Oftentimes these communities lack basic services such as clean drinking water or a trash collection service, both of which can lead to community health problems. An unhealthy environment means an unhealthy community. Clearly, environmental work should be continued in Peace Corps.

So while the environmental program in it’s current for won’t continue, us MAC (environment) Volunteers began brainstorming last fall about how the environmental program could live on in some capacity in Perú since there is a need for environmental work to continue. What we decided was an environmental committee, the idea being a permanent committee consisting of Volunteers interested in environmental topics and promoting environmental projects among other Peace Corps Perú Volunteers. We wrote up a proposal, submitted it to the Peace Corps Perú staff, and waited. Finally, we received a supportive response from Peace Corps staff saying that they liked the idea, but that we lacked the funds for a permanent committee, but a short term one would be allowed. And thus the Environmental Committee was born.

We were given two different sets of meetings, first in April and the second in July (these past few days) to figure out a plan, organize resources, and leave something behind for future Volunteers to use. What we decided on was to create several presentations showing how environmental projects and themes can be incorporated into the other programs. Some of examples we came up with are the following: using recycled materials to create early-stimulation toys (Health), initiating recycling programs as an income generating activity (business), planting trees to preserve water sources (Water, Sanitation, & Hygiene). In addition to the presentations, we have been creating and compiling environmental resources to create more of less of an “Environmental Projects for Dummies: Peace Corps Perú” file. I was responsible for creating a guide on trash management here in Perú and compiling all of the accompanying resources.

The idea is that during training with the new Trainees each cycle, the Peace Corps trainers will present the environmental presentations, and then each Volunteer will receive a copy of the environmental resources folder, which has information on recycled art, how to grow and plant trees, how to make compost, how to start an eco-tourism group, etc. With this information, we hope that interested Volunteers will have the resources necessary to address environmental concerns in their communities.

This past week, we had our last meeting to finalize all of the presentations and accompanying materials and hopefully by the end of July or start of August, we will have a finished product to present to the Peace Corps Staff and hopefully all current and future Peace Corps Perú Volunteers.

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The hardworking Environmental Committee in our only group photo

In the Peace Corps, we strive to develop sustainable work and projects with our host-community partners, but it isn’t so often that we get to tackle a sustainable endeavor with other Volunteers. I’m extremely proud of the work I’ve accomplished with the other environmentally minded Volunteers above, and I hope all of our blood, sweat, and tears, will lead to more environmentally conscious Peace Corps Staff and future Volunteers.

Until next time,

MGB

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Foto Friday: Green Spaces and Sustainability

As an environmental management Peace Corps Volunteer, my three work goals have to do with Environmental Education, Natural Resource Management, and Solid Waste Management. While most of my work has been centered in the Municipality with trash management, this year I branched out and begun working in the largest school in Caraz, I.E. Micelino Sandoval Torres.

Over the past few months, I have been working with the Environmental Committee of teachers to elaborate an integrated environmental plan to implement in the school for this year. The plan has various activities ranging from presentations about the environment, improving the school’s trash management system, and teaching the kids about proper personal hygiene. However, another important component of the plan is the creation of more green areas and spaces within the school. After lots of planning in the elaboration of the plan, 2 weeks ago we finally took our first steps to achieve the goal of making the school greener.

At the beginning of June, the school Director, a few teachers of the Environmental committee, and myself walked around the grounds of the school to identify all of the free spaces which currently lacked greenery and maintenance. In total, we identified 21 spaces within the school, 21 spaces which were photographed and then marked on a map to be distributed to the different teachers. Below you can see one of the larger areas available within the school; as you can see, there is a lot that can be done in the space.

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I wonder what this will look like in a few weeks/months.

Last week, the Environmental Committee began distributing the map with corresponding photos among the different elementary and high school teachers so that each teacher can claim a space for their students. The idea is that one (or a few) class(es) will be responsable for each area within the school, using the spaces to plant grass, trees, flowers, or even to create a garden to produce some vegetables for the school breakfast system known as Qaliwarma.

The hope is that in the following weeks, the teachers and students will begin formulating and implementing their plans, and that by the end of the school year in December, the school with have a much greener and healthier look. Hopefully in a few months I will be able to post some photos of the before & after shots of the school.

While elaborating the environmental plan with the teachers took a while, it was worthwhile since the projects and activities implemented won’t be of my own design, but rather of the teachers. Yes, I will be helping with the activities, and yes, I may have helped with some of the organization of the environmental plan, but at the end of the day, the plan was made by the teachers and will be implemented by them. As Peace Corps Volunteers we are here to develop capacities and work sustainably, and while this is the longer and less traveled road in development, for me it seems worth it despite the challenges.

Until next time,

MGB