Issue - February 2009

February 2009

In this issue: Sara Vinci interviews Guido Ripamonti about Willaldea Project their time in Bolivia, and future plans; Gaia Pacha Foundation's spoke with Rebecca Wearmouth about the Ecoteca Project and the different environmental ideas they have to teach children; How to protect our rights in Bolivia is one of the main concerns for Amnesty International, Victoria Cowell talked to them; and Walter Sanchez tell us more about Cochabamba's more...

February 2009

Teaching is Easy…
it’s All About Creating the Right Environment

Would you know how to cook your meals using cow waste? Could you use a solar kitchen? Do you know how a food dehydrator works? Well thanks to the Gaia Pacha Foundation’s Ecoteca, more and more children throughout Cochabamba can answer yes to these questions as well as countless others on environmental issues.

Rebecca Wearmouth
Projects Abroad volunteer
Stockton - United Kingdom

In an effort to promote environmental education and raise cultural awareness, Gaia Pacha has conducted studies into the effects of climate change in South America and the differences between organic and traditional farming in Potosi. Now the foundation has set up the Ecoteca, an environmental education centre aimed at children, right here in Cochabamba. The Ecoteca is a place where
children from both local schools and orphanages can go and learn
about environmental protection, as well as experiencing it first-hand in the mini ecofarm. “We have two big areas,” explains Alejandra Kolbe Acre, Gaia Pacha member, “the first area involves environmental interpretation and is where the kids can go through, following a path, and see the new technologies.” Whilst following this path around the eco-farm, the children encounter a variety of impressive environmental innovations: there is the biodigestor that
turns cow manure into methane gas, the food dehydrator, composting dry toilets, a water tank to capture shower and kitchen water, a solar kitchen, a small rabbit farm, a traditional medicine and herb garden and several compost heaps. However, the children do not only get to see these new technologies, they can also interact with and use them, “The dry bathroom is the only bathroom here so the kids have to use it and see that it works” says Alejandra. The second area of the Ecoteca is the “house” which is an eco-friendly building made of local mud, straw and plastics bags and is where the lessons and games take place.

The Ecoteca aims to “change the behaviour of kids; to make them sensitive to environmental issues.” Alejandra explains that the Ecoteca seeks not just to teach children about protecting the environment but also to implement an actual change in the behaviour of the children. The Ecoteca is aimed at children and young adults because “it is easier to teach them and to shape their behaviour before it becomes a routine,” but its not all work and no play: “another goal for the Ecoteca is to make sure that kids have one place to forget about school, formal school, and come and learnand play and to have fun doing it.”

Those working at the Ecoteca clearly put vast amounts of effort into ensuring the project is a success. This hard work is evident in the wide variety of games which have been adapted in order to make the children’s time at the Ecoteca both entertaining and informative:
there are role-play games, games involving props, games involving arts and crafts, as well as countless other fun and interactive games. “(The children) get really, really messy but its not just play; we teach them … all the ways we know how to recycle.” says Alejandra. The commitment of those working at the Ecoteca is also apparent in their efforts to make it accessible to children of all ages; just as I was visiting, the staff were making puppets for the younger children that visit the project. Through monitoring the amount each child visits the project, the team at the Ecoteca tries to ensure that the children return to the project and do not forget its lessons, as Alejandra explains. “This allows us to create what we call leaders in the kids, so if we see that one of the kids is coming, say, three times a month, we can teach them more so that they can go to the place where they live and teach other kids to come here,” thus the children that visit the Ecoteca recycle their knowledge as they pass it on t other children; an apt formula for an environmental program.

The diligence of the team at the Ecoteca obviously pays off as the project is undoubtedly loved and enjoyed by the children, with many returning of their own free will: “We have children that start to come here by themselves, with the teacher’s permission, and say “OK what can I do here? Can I cut some cardboard for the next kids that come? Can I clean?”” The Ecoteca’s aim to “shape behaviour before it becomes routine” seems to be working, as Alejandra is able to cite numerous examples of children who, following a visit to the Ecoteca, sought to change the behaviour of those around them: “One child came and said, “OK, how can I teach my brothers to reduce their use of water?” And so we made a chart for him to put on the wall. Another girl came with school and then came back with her parents so she could show them. She had said to them “I want to make compost” and her parents had said “No it’s too hard”. So she brought them here to show them.”

So what does the future hold for the Ecoteca? Alejandra reveals that they are hoping to begin work on a second Ecoteca, “outside the Museum of Natural History we are trying to have a few little smaller sites, each focusing on a particular topic. It would be a place where the kids can play and understand what is inside the museum, before going into it.

”We are living in an age where environmental concerns seem inescapable; the environment is a much emphasized issue across the globe, with campaigns and projects all around the world seeking to promote environmental awareness. Within this spectrum, the Ecoteca is a refreshingly successful project as it manages to balance important and serious issues with a sense of fun and, as a result, the project seems to truly capture the imagination of the children that visit. The Ecoteca is inspirational in its efforts to contribute to Bolivia´s future as it proves that children really are concerned about the planet on which they live and are making an effort to protect it. If this much can be achieved simply by educating children, imagine what could be achieved if Cochabamba’s adults decided to follow suite.

Human Rights in Bolivia

Created in London in 1961, Amnesty International is an international movement of volunteers and activists working to establish respect for human rights in all corners of the globe. In Bolivia it officially became active in 1989 with action groups in La Paz, Cochabamba and Santa Cruz. Their members organize themselves in over 150 countries and number over 2.2 million, with more than 4000 active, local groups. Since its inception AI has concentrated solely on civil and political rights, campaigning tirelessly to put an end to the grave abuses against the rights to life and physical and mental integrity,

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