Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eastern Mennonite University - Volunteers Launch Environmental Campaign

What a week!

OYE just wrapped up another group trip with Eastern Mennonite University this past Saturday. The group was made up of 19 students participating in a six week credited university program. After two weeks in Copan Ruinas, a beautiful and important historical and cultural site in Western Honduras, at a La Guacamaya Spanish School, the group dedicated a week of their program to volunteer with OYE and learn about youth development efforts and national reality with OYE.

The EMU students spent the week designing a recycling and environmental campaign at San Jose Elementary. The school, located only one block away from OYE's office, welcomed OYE's scholars and the international volunteers to supplement a program they had already started with the sixth graders around recycling. The established program involved the recycling of cans, bottles, plastic, paper, cardboard, and electronics. According to teachers the students were very involved in the endeavor and loved the hands on action of gathering and sorting the recyclable products.  There was definitely enthusiasm, and the economic incentive of receiving cash for the recycled products ensured the youth's participation; however, the teachers highlighted a lack of understanding about why recycling was important and how waste can effect the natural world. That's where OYE came into play...

The Campaign

We put the challenge in the hands of the EMU students, many of whom are education majors, to design a campaign that would engage the young students and building their knowledge and interest in recycling and the environment.

The campaign involved:

1. The creation of an environmental mural.

2. The creation and distribution of recycling receptacles that  feature smaller murals and themes about recycling.

3. Development of games and exercises to teach about sustainability and environmental degradation.

4. Writing and illustrating a unique and relatable children's story focused on recycling.

5. Hosting an environmental assembly and workshop with the students of sixth grade.

In typical El Progreso style everything came together at the last-minute. Thursday morning, the day of the assembly, the art students and volunteers put the finishing touches on the mural , the EMU volunteers laminated their children's story, we picked up bookmark prizes, and gathered everyone together at the school. Over 60 sixth graders turned out for the event, many coming to school early that day just to see what was going on. We divided the youth into six stations. Station one read the children's story, station two played a recycling trivia game with facts about recycling and the environment in Honduras, station three played environmental memory cards, station four played a timeline game about the life of a plastic bottle, station five was FACE PAINTING, and station six played a "Who am I" game with prompts like "greenhouse gas." Every 15 minutes the students changed stations until everyone had cycled through each activity.

We were lucky to have the local television station, Teleprogreso, join us at the event. It was a great chance for the community to see and meet that big group of gringos walking around all week and learn a little bit more about OYE. Thanks to the report on the nightly news EMU and OYE's message about the importance of recycling and the environment will arrive to a much larger audience.

A huge thanks to the EMU volunteers for your hard work making this a successful campaign and a great week of service and learning. Additionally, a huge thank you to all the OYE scholarship students that made this trip happen. These trips and projects are all about cultural exchange and are not possible without the hard-work and teamwork of both OYE scholars and international volunteers.

OYE is looking forward to improving its group trip program and building strong/sustainable relationships with Universities like EMU. If you know other universities interested in such programs or Alternative Breaks please pass this blog and/or OYE's contact on

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