Is it possible to simultaneously support recycling and education while combatting a culture of littering and dependency with a little "magic"? Yes!
Recently BeachCorps was approached by some small, informal community organizations asking for us to help pay for their school supplies. We would love to help turn these organizations into formal nonprofits capable of empowering their communities. We love school and we love education but we also don't like encouraging a culture of dependency via "Toxic Charity" where you ask for something without giving something in return.
So we decided to offer to pay for school supplies in exchange for communities collecting some plastic bottles and other material like cardboard and Tetra Pak for recycling. They loved the idea. We are now partnering with the premiere recycling and sustainability firm in the Eastern Dominican Republic, Ecoservices Dominicana, to create over the next year a program to help increase the amount of school supplies destined for giving underserved communities in exchange for kids and communities helping out by turning in some plastic bottles, cardboard, and Tetra pak for recycling. Tetra Pak is already a partner of Ecoservices and we hope they will be excited about this project too. We will be looking for other partners in the private sector (particularly the producers of the plastic bottles), nonprofits, and the government to support us. We will look for a local supplier of school supplies to help us get more bang for our back and increase the efficiency, transparency, and accountability of the donation process.
Here's a lovely Youtube video that shows the enthusiasm of our communities for this project. The first organization showed is the Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar (the Cane, Molasses and Sugar Foundation) and is centered in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, the capital city of Dominican baseball. Their school supplies project also provided much needed haircuts to make kids neater and lice-free for school. The Fundación Caña, Melao y Azucar is on the verge of obtaining official Dominican nonprofit status and we look forward to working with them. The second organization is even more informal and is centered on the community of Monte Verde (Green Mountain), a community that also has the nickname of Mata Mosquitos (Mosquito Killer). The local community leader Cristobal wants to take a small local trash dump in the middle of the neighborhood and turn it into a childcare center for the hundreds of people who leave the community to work every day and have no other real choice but to let their little kids run the streets. We want to help. BeachCorps asked for one huge bag of bottles and we got a LOT more than we bargained for! At first the big bag didn't fit into the back of the BeachMobile! The kids had to push HARD! And there were many more bags collected that had to be sent for recycling later.
By the summer of 2018, we hope to have full-fledged BeachCorps volunteer vacation programs ready where volunteers can come to local communities and celebrate the donation of more and better school supplies in exchange for recycling and creating cleaner communities. These events will make clear that the real heroes are not the tourists or BeachCorps, but the local community leaders who have developed this program and the kids who have helped make it a reality. This can be a big, yearly event that will constantly help communities and local governments stay on top of the problems of littering and the absence of a strong recycling culture.
Our program will tackle four different issues at once:
1. Promoting recycling: we will educate kids about the importance of recycling and particularly the harm plastic trash in particular does to the environment and even to storm and flood water drainage.
2. Combatting the "Trash Culture": we will help the kids understand why they must be the generation that starts to change the culture of just tossing trash on the ground. This is not as hopeless as it sounds and gives kids the feeling that they are rebels fighting for a wonderful cause, that they "get it" while their parents don't. In America, we had a culture of tossing trash on the ground until we saw the light (who remembers the famous "Crying Indian" video?).
3. Supporting Education: We want to make sure that this program increases the amount and quality of school supplies for kids that need them. Too often there is a push only at the beginning of the year, and the school supplies have run out long before the end of the year. Our program will increase the payment for recycled bottles well beyond the market price, creating a powerful tool for buying school supplies.
4. Supporting Empowerment and Combatting the Dependency Culture: by giving kids the opportunity to pay for a greater number of school supplies, we will show them the value of working towards their own education and give them the pride of earning their school supplies as opposed to getting it for free. Imagine the pride of a kid who comes each year carrying his or her little bag of bottles and other recycling as payment for their school supplies.
Moreover, a program providing school supplies can be the entry point for working with a community to create other, more ambitious projects, such as creating the day care center or even English classes over the summer, the latter a major focus for BeachCorps for the summer of 2018.
We finally did get the back into the back of the BeachMobile. The most important lesson is that working together we can do magic if everyone does a little and does what they do best. We are grateful to Ecoservices Dominicana for all their support! We hope to find other private sector partners, nonprofits, and even government partners with the same vision and dedication for sustainability that Ecoservices has.
It's just a start of course. But do you like this idea? Then follow us on social media and share this blog story! That's leaving your "Little Grain of Sand!"
#Recycling #AntiLittering #Sustainability #SustainableTourism #PuntaCana #DominicanRepublic #Nonprofit #Education #ToxicCharity #SustainableDevelopment #SchoolSupplies #TetraPak
The BeachCorps Beach Bum!
The BeachCorps Beach Bum loves great vacations and great volunteer work!