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Roots & Shoots Fosters Youth Leadership on the Border of Belize and Guatemala

On Wednesday, April 26, EcoLogic hosted a celebration of the Caribbean Roots and Shoots campaign in Livingston, Izabal, Guatemala. The celebration included rural communities whose livelihoods depend on the careful management of the Amatique Bay, particularly its protected areas and fisheries, which are stewarded for and by local people. This includes the Sarstun River Multiple Use Area and the Punta Manabique Wildlife Refuge in Guatemala.

Roots & Shoots is a youth service program for young people of all ages founded in 1991 by Dr. Jane Goodall. Its mission is to foster respect and compassion for all living things, to promote understanding of all cultures and beliefs, and to inspire each individual to take action to make the world a better place for people, other animals, and the environment.

EcoLogic Project Coordinator and local community organizer Cleopatra “Cleo” Méndez opened the event. Her welcome message emphasized thanking participants for their interest and followed with a brief overview and analysis of the importance of the Mesoamerican Reef, highlighting the potential for the Roots & Shoots campaign to help protect it.

In total, there were 40 participants, 36 women, and 4 men. The participants were divided into two groups: a women’s group from the Multicultural Association of Women for Integral and Sustainable Development (AMMUDIS, a local organization started by Cleo) and a youth group from Fundación Mundo Azul. The youth group arrived from Quetzalito, Puerto Barrios. They dramatized their group essays and presented their work and mission.

During the AMMUDIS presentation, representatives of the women’s committees of Barrio Juljá and Buena Vista La Esperanza gave a presentation of their work using plastic bottles, and they also explained the importance of the campaign and their motivation to continue working to help care for their environment and the marine life of Amatique Bay.

A group of young people from the communities of Sarstun and Livingston also presented, focusing mainly on garbage collectors who worked in the communities of Barra Sarstun, San Juan, Barra Cocolí, Barrio Campo Amor, Barrio Crique Chino, Rio Salado, and Baltimore village. Each of the presenters explained aspects of their project, as well as emphasizing the importance of keeping the environment free of trash, particularly plastics. Each community was represented by at least two young people during the planning process, so the campaign will allow communities to replicate these Roots & Shoots projects with EcoLogic’s support.

Finally, the group of young visitors from a village called Quetzalito, supported by Fundación Mundo Azul, presented the Roots & Shoots campaign they had implemented in their community. The organization and commitment of young people to their community was evident, highlighted in their excellent presentation. Quetzalito’s young people shared the entire Roots and Shoots campaign process from planning to fundraising activities, which was interesting for the young men and women of Livingston and Sarstun as they begin putting their plan into practice this May!

After the presentations, prizes were given to the women who participated in the Roots & Shoots campaign. With multiple responsibilities to their families and housekeeping in this traditional culture, it can be very difficult to participate, even just for 3 hours a day, in activities outside their homes. Supporting this kind of local leadership and dedication is what EcoLogic is all about.


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