Student leaders and high school teachers in Oriental Mindoro have teamed up to carry out conservation projects in their schools and communities in an effort to help protect the threatened sub-watersheds of Naujan Lake National Park, program organizer Haribon Foundation said.
The Eco Guardians and Eco Rangers training program by environmental group Haribon Foundation implemented conservation programs geared towards the reduction of threats to the environment, restoration of forests and the sustainable use of resources, the group explained.
Seventeen participating schools in the communities surrounding the national park took part in the program.
At Apitong National High School students implemented proper waste segregation through trash bins made of recycled plastic bottles. These plastics bottles were also used to maintain the soil in their vegetable garden, which is usually eroded with rain.
In Aurelio Arago Memorial National High School – Alcate Annex, a native tree nursery was installed to accommodate the school’s source of seedlings for their tree planting activities.
The battle against waste generation is winning in Bayuin National High School through an intensified plastic ban advocacy in their school.
Meanwhile, Guillermo Calima High School strengthened mangrove protection in their community through arts-based awareness-raising campaigns using mural paintings.
Eco Guardian Glenda Rayos from Guillermo Calima High School told Haribon that the experience in doing the conservation initiatives brought them closer as a school and community. She remarked that while she initially had reservations about its completion, she is now resolved that their collaborative work for the environment will be successful.
“At first, I was anxious if we are going to accomplish well the projects that we proposed. But after a successful presentation to our school principal, the local government and barangay (village) officials, we were assured of their full support,” enthused Rayos.
Rayos is one of the 17 high school teachers who attended the Eco Guardians and Eco Rangers training program conducted by Haribon on September 20-23 and October 24-27 last year.
Brigitte Gonzales, Eco Ranger from Inarawan National High School, said that the program has instilled in her a newfound sense of responsibility as an active part of the community.
“As a youth, I have a role in caring for the environment,” Gonzales said. She recalled the earlier phase of the program wherein she and 41 students from other schools underwent a four-day training program.
“I learned a lot about the different ways I can start the change for a better environment, which I was also able to share with my classmates,” said Gonzales.
During this phase, participants were taught about environmental topics including ecosystems, biodiversity, watersheds, waste management, climate change, and environmental laws.
“These young leaders are no longer new to environmental issues such as illegal logging and improper waste disposal as they witness them first hand in their homes, schools and neighborhood,” explained Noel Resurreccion, Haribon Project Manager.
The training was a combination of interactive discussion, learning activities, and exposure trips. As part of the excursion, participants were brought to the sub-watersheds of the Naujan Lake National Park to learn about its value and the threats it is facing. Even as Mindoreños, most of the students were seeing the lake and its surroundings For the first time.
“These milestones are the fruits not only of their learning from the trainings we conducted last year, but of their hopes to help in the urgent need to conserve our life-giving watersheds,” said Resurreccion.
Haribon’s Eco Guardians and Eco Rangers Program was made possible with funding and support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Czarina Constantino/Haribon Foundation