We’re halfway through our fifth annual Viva Fund campaign to empower young leaders in El Salvador and nearly halfway to our goal of $7,000 thanks to the generosity of our supporters. If you haven’t had a chance to, donate before the campaign ends Monday, June 29.
The word “sustainability” gets batted around all too often these days. At best, the term describes that sweet spot where the elements of environmental, social and economic initiatives complement, rather than outcompete, each other. At worst, it becomes an overused buzzword, green-washing our reality with the barrage of “sustainable” solutions to modern living with the next best widget, diet option, or lifestyle choice.
Today, on World Environment Day, EcoViva reflects on the fact that for many people in the world, “sustainability” is not a choice, but a survival imperative. In many cases, the goals of protecting and shaping today’s environment, economy, or social sphere for tomorrow are not just aspirations, they are the cornerstones of a way of life. For communities in coastal El Salvador, there is no other option. Protecting their scarce resources for future generations only works if tomorrow’s generation takes the reins today. After all, those of us who have been working in community development for years won’t be around forever; someone has to step up.
The Mangrove Association’s Youth Program helps develop the next generation of leaders by involving them in the rich “classroom” that is El Salvador’s Bay of Jiquilisco. The complex interactions between humans and nature, and the precarious yet achievable balance between a vibrant local economy and its surrounding environment, are examined in real time, in real situations. In a popular education mantra, local young people “learn by doing”, utilizing their everyday surroundings as an opportunity to reflect about their own situation, the situation of their peers, and how they themselves can affect change in their communities. To date, the Mangrove Association’s model has helped produce community leaders, entrepreneurs, and even active members of local and national government.
As it turns out, environmental issues not only excite and engage youth, they provide opportunities to hone the kind of leadership skills not taught in the classroom or university setting. With support from the New England Biolabs Foundation, young people don’t just learn about their environment, they help public school teachers across a dozen elementary schools develop and implement a dynamic environmental curriculum. Youth learn to collaborate with foreign engineers and agronomists to develop school gardens, irrigated year round by renewable energy to support healthy lunches for school children and an active learning environment about where food comes from. They also work as journalists for community radio and producers of news, discussion, entertainment, and environmental education programming.
These youth programs foster youth leadership for tomorrow while achieving tangible results today. Please consider donating today to support sustainability by empowering young leaders in El Salvador.