Last month the staff and volunteers at Camp Osita celebrated Earth Day - and where better to celebrate it than in the world’s leading country for environmental sustainability?
We experienced two days filled with activities geared towards increasing awareness about environmental sustainability, from recycling, to tree planting, to a farmers’ market. It was a fantastic opportunity to really get stuck in with the community’s endeavours, and network with other conservation organisations and NGOs. Not only was it fulfilling to help out with an event like this, it was also really good fun, as we were able to have a good laugh whilst we worked and met a multitude of interesting people.
On Friday, we descended onto the Library in Puerto Jimenez - the hub of all community work in the town. There, the Municipality of Golfito and the Ministry of Health had collaborated to create an incredible initiative aimed at encouraging the community to recycle. The scheme was as follows: people brought in their recyclable materials to be weighed and sorted, and based on the weight they were awarded a certain number of points. They could then use these points to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from the stall set up next to us. This annual event is a great way to encourage people to recycle and promote sustainable living.
ASCONA, the charity helping out, also went to great lengths to include children from the local school, in order to help produce a generation that is educated in the importance of environmental sustainability. The children brought their own recycling in return for fresh fruit, and also got to plant a tree each.
Frontier’s part in this was to help sort the recycling brought in - separating it into plastic bottles, glass bottles, tin, aluminium and cardboard. Working alongside volunteers from another organisation and ASAOSA (a group of remarkable women who are in charge of sorting Puerto Jimenez’s recycling) we were able to efficiently sort through the mounds of recycling, which was hard but satisfying work.
I found this an amazing experience for a number of reasons. Firstly, it enabled me to work alongside the women of ASAOSA and see first-hand the inspiring work they undertake on a daily basis. I was also able to chat to them about their work and the reasons behind their efforts - which stemmed primarily from a love of their community and the planet - which was both inspiring and enlightening. It was also a good chance to interact with other voluntary organisations and find out about their work. Mainly though, it was an eye opener to the sheer amount of recyclable materials that a small community such as Puerto Jimenez can generate. It was fulfilling to think that only a short time ago such materials were being burnt or buried by the community, and showed the success in changing people's attitudes.
The second day was less dirty work and more fun and games - which we welcomed! A farmers’ market had been organised where local people could sell their products, all of which were made out of recycled or sustainable materials. Notebooks made of recycled paper, decorated with beautiful pictures inked with the juices of assorted vegetables were sold. Traditional gallo pinto (rice and beans) was served on plantain leaves, to dissuade the use of disposable plastic plates. There were also a number of stalls set up for the various conservation organisations of Puerto Jimenez. It was especially interesting to talk to the people from the Macaw Sanctuary about their project, as we are currently conducting our own projects on macaws. It was a great opportunity to network and share ideas! Finally, the day ended with some traditional Costa Rican dancing, which was a lot of fun (though our volunteers looked somewhat ungainly and uncoordinated next to the locals).
So, Earth Day in Puerto Jimenez was everything we could have hoped - fun, educational and inspiring. We met some fascinating people: from Theresa, the head of ASAOSA, a personal hero of mine due to her unfailing commitment to recycling, to Beau, a local businessman, who is passionately dedicated to the community he works in. We helped to make a small, positive impact on the environment, which seemed fitting on Earth Day. All in all it was a great day working for a great cause!