What if you had the chance to make your dream project come true? The kind of project that converges all of your passions. For us (Nara and Pierre), that dream is EcoAmerica! A project that brings together the fields that we both care about the most: the environment, education, cultural sharing and travelling. So come on, friend, do turn your mouse’s scroll wheel and let us introduce you to our humble mission!
BIRTH OF THE PROJECT
In Nara’s head…
“Last summer when I came to my hometown to visit my Mom (a primary school teacher), our compulsory short trip to the local shop ended with buying our favourite ice-cream. I took the ice-cream out of the package and put the plastic in my pocket. My Mom tore the plastic packaging off her ice-cream and tossed it on the ground. I stopped and asked my Mom what she was doing, and she explained to me in an apologetic tone that normally she doesn’t do it, and that she feels embarrassed about her actions. I know that she’s usually very considerate about the environment. The very next day, she taught her little students about the importance of throwing away your garbage to its designated bin, and keeping our environment clean. My nephew is in her class and I see that he cares more about nature, all thanks to my Mom. At that moment I realized that kids need to grow up with the notions of bettering nature and their surroundings, in order to become responsible citizens of the future.
It’s the same everywhere in the world. During my trips to Brazil, Turkey and Israel, the people who were not informed about the environmental issues were more likely to continue lead an unsustainable lifestyle.
There’s a very smart Mongolian proverb which says: One does not see his own mistakes until someone else points them out. Our little sisters and brothers need us to guide them and show them how to lead a sustainable life, in balance with the cycles of nature, how to protect it and most importantly how not to harm the earth in any way.”
In Pierre’s head…
“July 2014. I leave Ulaanbaatar to reach Lake Khovsgol, in northern Mongolia. More than sixteen hours away by local bus across the steppe. The heat is overwhelming and the air conditioning is obviously not working, so the driver has decided to travel the whole way with the door wide open. Basic, but effective. After less than an hour drive, a Mongolian passenger has finished drinking his first bottle of water. Casually, the man rises and leans toward the door, and throws his plastic waste into the wild, before returning to sit as if nothing had happened.
As a person who was brought up with a strong environmental-protection education, I couldn’t help but feel obligated to give the man an intense criticizing look of anger. But the man displayed a wide incredulous smile, clearly having no idea why I would reproach him, mimed innocently to express that his bottle was empty. I quickly probe the other passengers on the bus, vainly seeking for support. But there was none. I was the only one taken back by his actions, an act that most often seems nothing but normal to many people of the world. This scene will be repeated again and again during my journey, and - as I would find out soon - in all of my following trips. As I discovered, it’s not so much that people don’t care about polluting their environment, but that they don’t even seem to be aware of the consequences of their actions. And who could actually blame them if no one ever told them otherwise?”
When we met in Mongolia, we shared these observations and our project began to emerge. We know we’re not the only ones who care about these issues, and we’ve decided to take action. All right, it's decided: let’s do something!
OUR GOAL IS TO RAISE AWARENESS ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES AMONG CHILDREN AROUND THE WORLD
To speak to children, to educate the leaders of tomorrow
The goal of the project is to give children basic understanding about today’s main environmental issues, and show them that they have the power to make change for the better, starting from our very first meeting.
We both strongly believe that education is the key to all the big solutions surrounding many environmental problems such as climate change, air and water pollution, biodiversity crisis and many more. Many times the lack of knowledge and comprehension is the main factor leading to future problems. We believe that if everybody was informed and educated about recycling, clean energy and importance of biodiversity we all would have made the conscious and rightful decisions in our daily lives in order not to harm the environment. By exposing the young generation to these issues, they will be more prepared to deal with the challenges of the future.
An illustrated, fun approach to captivate children’s interest
Rather than developing a boring PowerPoint presentation, we’ve decided to write a story about a little boy named Nico, an easily relatable character. Our story will be brightened up by numerous illustrations (on which Jane is currently working) projected on the wall. Using the story and characters, we will introduce some pressing issues we found to be the most critical: water, energy, waste, climate, and biodiversity. Indeed, for the majority of children we will meet, it will certainly be the first time that such topics will be discussed. The aim will therefore be to build a foundation, on which they will be ready to take an interest in the subject, deepen their knowledge and learn to apply environmentally-friendly habits from then on. The moral of the story is simple: our planet Earth belongs to us all and so it’s up to us to protect it!
To leave a trace and support local environmental projects
We don’t want our message to be forgotten after we leave the schools. So we plan on leaving at least a copy of our illustrated story to each school we visit, so the teachers can re-use it year after year with their next classes. After reading our story, we expect the kids to be motivated and encouraged to take part in any eco-project or initiate activities we could do together. We also want to support and promote any local existing environmental project we could discover while travelling, and introduce those projects to the children so they can see that people in their villages already are making efforts to save the planet.
Why South America? Because we have to start somewhere!
We’ve decided to focus our efforts on less developed countries where fewer efforts have been made in the way of environmental education, as opposed to some more developed countries where sustainable development has been introduced. We chose to start in South America because we both are attracted to that continent and since we speak Spanish we felt that we could easily talk to the children, and therefore achieve our goal. If this project proves successful in South America, we will try to spread our mission worldwide. That is our ultimate goal.
IN CONCRETE TERMS
We’ll start our trip in Santa Cruz, Bolivia. From there, we plan on reaching the Andes and then crossing the country before following as well in Peru and Ecuador. We will go directly to the schools in the villages through our itinerary in order to present our project. Despite the difficulties during our trips and local logistics, we will try to visit as many schools as possible.
We will leave on January 10th, 2015, and expect to lead our project for a minimum of three months. Depending on the budget, we hope that there will be many more months….
Our preferred means of transportation will be public and hitchhiking. Depending on location, we will be staying in guesthouses or, hopefully, with local families. The Couchsurfing* community which we belong to should help us find accommodation.
*(Global free accommodating platform for travellers)
We will relate our journey on the travel blog that Pierre has been writing since early 2014: www.globtrot.fr
Photos and videos will be updated during the trip. Don’t hesitate to go check it out right away to see it for yourself!
BY THE WAY, LET'S INTRODUCE US!
I am from Mongolia, but I’m a world citizen! I love travelling, learning, educating, sharing and caring. At the moment I am summing up my second degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern studies in Israel. I have been working as a tour guide in Mongolia every summer for the past 8 years, since I was 18. I grew up in a small village in northern Mongolia close to nature and animals. I always had a love for animals and the passion to protect nature. Since I started educating myself more about environmental problems and the reality that the world is facing today, I promised myself to do everything I can do to help protecting the nature and bringing the natural balance to the earth back. It sounds big and dramatic, but hey, I keep my promises and I believe that I can do a lot!
I’m 27 and come from Strasbourg, France. I love cinema, history books, trekking, playing my guitar; and I never say no to a good beer! For long I wanted to become a teacher, but I ended up focusing on my main studies, in the environmental field. I never totally gave up my first idea though, as I’ve been volunteering to help children to do their homework. After three years working as an environmental engineer, I caught the travel bug and decided to quite my job in the late 2013. Since then, I spent most of my time travelling, mainly in Europe and Asia. I volunteered here and there every once in a while and one of my best memories to this day remain the time I spent teaching English in a Nepali school. Now, with this project, I have the opportunity to fully embrace these three passions that are environment, teaching and travelling; and I hope you’ll take part and help me realize this dream!