Tuesday, 31 May 2016

MENRO's Service Learning Project for University Students

University student interns pose for the camera!
For the past three years San Jose’s Municipyo has hired university students to work and serve in the Local Government Unit (LGU) as part of an on-the-job training program. During this time my office – the MENRO – supervises around 100 students at a time for one week. This year our office created a unique program for these young interns. An International team of educators from Spain, the United Kingdom, and the United States worked alongside Filipino counter-parts to design an Environmental Leadership Training and Service-Learning opportunity that college students could engage with. The output? Over 800 pounds of trash was removed from San Jose’s streets in just a few hours, one new bottle brick bench in the community, and most importantly – enlightened young people with a better understanding of environmental global solutions and sense of empowerment.

International Educators from the UK, US, Spain, and the Philippines share their knowledge with 100 Filipino university students.
The Sponge Bobber Team working together on a small group activity.
My third year as a Peace Corps Volunteer has been unique in that I get to work closely with other International volunteers from different organizations. For five days our International team engaged the university students in a variety of areas – all relating back to the environment. We began by playing Environmental Bingo, which is a fun way to briefly visit each topic and is great for keeping the energy up. Instead of pulling B9 or O62 – words such as Sustainable, Organic, Pollution, and Climate Change are drawn and a 2 minute explanation of the word is given. Climate Change was a topic the team referenced throughout the week, and this training was the first opportunity for me to share Al Gore’s Climate Reality slide show presentation, which I received in Manila from Mr. Gore earlier this year. We showed the documentary An Inconvenient Truth to follow up the Climate Change lecture and to drive this topic home.  

Environmental Bingo game
Max Escribano, a Spanish volunteer from Madrid who is currently serving with Associate Missionaries of the Assumption (AMA), presented the effects of Environment on Mental Health and Environmental Psychology to our participants. Welsh volunteer Eleanor Margetts from the United Kingdom who is also an AMA volunteer, shared her knowledge on Human Rights to a Clean Environment and also presented on Conservation.

Ms. Margetts explained the importance of teaching this concept to youth and explained further that, “It is important for everyone to feel passionate about their environment – by teaching our youth that is in their right to live in a clean environment, we hope to empower them to see that anything otherwise is an injustice. People should be angry about pollution and realize that they have the right to stand up against it – that way, real changes can be made.” Peace Corps Volunteer David Pennini from Massachusetts presented on The Carbon Footprint and how to lower CO2 emissions.

Out on an Environmental Walk!
Filipino counter-parts and local community members also helped develop this training. MENRO Designate Mr. Cornelius Q. Yanga shared his expertise on Solid Waste Management (SWM) and led the bottle brick bench construction in the community of Supa. Mr. Bong Sanchez – a local San Jose man who I met in Manila at Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project – also presented on the Seminara coal-mine that is currently polluting local waters. Mr. Sanchez is the President of the Save Antique Movement and is currently working to bring Filipinos together towards clean renewable energy in the Province. Another resource speaker who attended the training was Mr. Totei Villavert who hosts a weekly radio program and has featured environmental talks in the past. Mr. Villavert was able to share his expertise with how media can be used to bring awareness to Environmental causes.

Graphing our results!
This project also consisted of community service, and for four days the students participated in Environmental Walks, a tree planting, and helped clean the local community road-ways. On these walks students removed trash from local roadways, the beach, and in town. Students also assisted with the finishing touches on the Environmental Mural project over-seen by MENRO earlier this year, and helped create a bottle brick bench in one of the inland communities. Bottle brick benches are made up of ECO BRICKS and each brick is made from 1.5 Liter plastic bottles, which are then stuffed with approximately 300 pieces of trash each. A single bench can contain anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 pieces of trash. Mid-way through the week workshops were held at the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and Learning Center. Here, Filipino government employees presented on Alternative Livelihood Projects that are currently offered by the Local Government Unit including how to make salt from ocean water and how to smoke and dry fish using a steel drum.

Playing a game at the MPA Learning Center!                     
Making Eco Bricks from 1.5 L plastic bottles.
I interviewed students during the week and asked them why we should care for Mother Earth and Nature. Miss Li-An Salinog who wants to be a high school science teacher and who is is majoring in Biological Science from University of Antique explained, “We should take care of our Mother Earth because we depend on our Natural Resources and if our Natural Resources are destroyed we have nothing and we are very effected because the negative things we do like throwing garbage anywhere it will also return negatively to us because everything is connected to Nature.”

Painting protective emulsion to the Environmental murals.
At the end of the week students were asked to share their learning with the facilitators and MENRO Designate. The 100 students had been broken up into four teams earlier in the week: Rumba-Rumba, Saging, The Sponge Bobbers, and Team Name. Each group created their own unique 10 minute presentation to share. Some groups sang, other groups created a role play and drama, and some created video presentations. 
AMA Volunteer Max Escribano from Madrid Spain posing with university students.
I asked MENRO's Community Affair Assistant,  Mrs. Dyan Caturao who assisted with the event, what she enjoyed most about the week and she responded with, “I really enjoyed the whole week with the Summer Jobbers – I learned a lot from them [the students] and the Resource Speakers.” When I asked Mrs. Caturao what her biggest concern for the Philippines is from an Environmental standpoint she explained that her two biggest concerns were "managing our waste because I notice there is a lot of trash scattered in our surroundings...and second is that I notice people don't care about Natural Ecosystems." Mrs. Caturao's future projects at the Municipyo include helping preserve ocean ecosystems by creating Alternative Livelihood Projects for the fisher-folk people in the 14 coastal communities of San Jose.

The week was long, but enjoyable! It was a chance to build global relationships, and an opportunity to share different world perspectives and solutions regarding conservation of Mother Earth. Both Filipinos and Internationals left the training with new insights, new friendships, and a renewed sense of hope and empowerment. Wherever you come from on planet Earth, all nations and all people share her beauty and her gifts of life. Earth’s life is our own life, and we must be united in this effort to protect and conserve our natural resources for future generations.
Blog author and Peace Corps Volunteer Dana R. Jordan poses for the camera with the participants

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