Tuesday, May 3, 2016

#MarchaPorElAgua: Celebrating Earth Day

Text and photos by Amalyah Leader except as noted

Sitting around the table with the littlest group at the Family Support Center, I asked everyone to close their eyes and smell inside the bag. They each leaned over to smell the various fresh herbs, spices, leaves, flowers, seeds, and branches. One by one they took in the rich abundance of our earth.

Amalyah explaining the activity for the little ones. 
 Our wonderful student volunteers from Pop Wuj helped as the little ones discovered in the bag different materials to paste onto their paper to form a collage.

Aidan, a student in the Pop Wuj Medical Spanish Program, helps Daniela with her collage. 
Emanuel shows his avocado seed on his nose!
Meanwhile, in the other room, the older students had just entered into a mock "community meeting" to learn and enter into a conversation about water and the environment that communities around Guatemala are currently defending. Sitting attentively, they listened as I described their mock community that parallels real communities affected by mines and big single-crop farms.

I told them that they lived in a pueblo with a large river running through it. Many of them were fishermen and many others had farms that cultivated bananas and other products. But this big company came in without their permission and began chopping down trees in the forests so they could use the land for farming. What's more, they used up all the water from the river to cultivate palm oil and contaminated the water and earth through their production. This culminated in an environmental and health crisis.

After sharing a video about the effects of Palma Africana on communities in Guatemala, we had a short discussion on how this would now greatly affect their lives. They then all split into groups and worked together to illustrate the negative effects that this company is having on the earth and the people in their community. Many of them drew mountains that were yellow signifying the lack of trees; green, contaminated water; hilltops filled with trash, and fish dying.

Amalyah explains the water situation to the older kids.
While Amalyah describes the community, Maria helps to hold up the poster. 
Students working together to illustrate the environmental situation. 
One of the drawings, featuring chemical waste dumped into rivers and trucks full of trash. 
I organized this project at the Family Support Center specifically in support for "La Marcha Por el Agua" that coincided with Earth Day, when thousands of people marched to defend water access, especially in rural Guatemalan communities populated by campesinos and indigenous people. To learn more about the march, you can check out NISGUA's coverage here.

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