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NWP Global Registry of Apprentice Ecologists - Mayanja Village, Rakai District, Uganda

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Mayanja Village, Rakai District, Uganda
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Registered: December 2015
City/Town/Province: Augusta
Posts: 1
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As I walk down the rusty dirt road of Mayanja Village in southern Uganda I stumble into a goat chewing his cud. I continue walking for a second, but then I do a double take and look back at the goat. “That is some odd grass that goat is chewing”, I think to myself as I look at what the goat is munching on. On closer inspection I discover that this is no grass, but a plastic bag! I quickly pull as much of the polymer out of Mr. Goat’s mouth as possible. I look down the road with disbelief and sadness. The main road of the village is embedded with plastic debris, and the ditches on each side are filled to the brim with plastic pollutants.
I was in Uganda studying foreign aid and development, but this extreme situation I encountered highlighted an even greater world issue: the health of our planet. I consider this moment with the goat to be a very powerful moment in my life.
Growing up in the backwoods of Maine I have been raised by Mother Nature to have an appreciation for fresh air, the plants and trees that provide that air, and the organisms that live amongst those trees. I understand that if we are apathetic towards the health of our plant, our planet may cease to be habitable. It seems that many people these days are preoccupied with #FirstWorldProblems and don't care to consider the future of our natural world, which some humans don't seem to realize we are a part of.
The community I lived with in Mayanja Village didn't seem to see trash as a major problem. I felt I could contribute to my host community by educating the youth about the relevant dangers of pollution.
With my fellow classmate I organized an Ecological Awareness project with the primary school of the village. In the early morning we gathered over fifty students (ages 6-14) from the area onto the village soccer field that they called “the playground”. There we engaged in a series of activities including egg-and-spoon races, water fueled relay races, and singing games. After all of the fun and games (with their attention seized) we split into five groups led by myself, my classmate, and teachers from the primary school. In these groups we talked about the importance of sanitation. We educated the children on the prevalence of malaria in the area, and how disease-carrying mosquitoes thrive and spawn in small, stagnant pools created in plastic bags and other materials. We also talked about how it is unhealthy to eat the meat and drink the milk of animals that routinely digest pollutants. Most importantly we talked about the future of crops and air quality, and the effect consistent pollution can have on them.
After a dialogue with the kids about these subjects, we were inspired to practice what we preached. We doled out huge trash sacks to all of the children and we walked down the main street of Mayanja and picked up every piece of trash we could find. The most moving part about this experience was how children who weren't even a part of the school began to run along with us and help us. Adults would walk up to us and ask us what we were doing and why, and we were able to have positive dialogues with them. We had an active and meaningful impact on our community and its ecology. At the end of the day we had filled over forty extra-sized trash bags with plastic material. We awarded each child a diploma and a soda (in recyclable glass bottles) and then gathered all of the trash in a pickup truck and drove it to the nearest city to be dealt with.
The next day I walked down the noticeably cleaner main street and I ran into a familiar friend. It was Mr. Goat. I thought to myself, “That’s some odd plastic that goat is chewing on”. But as I looked closer I realized that it wasn't plastic—it was grass!
This small project was extremely important to me as I have been an advocate for the natural world surrounding me my whole life, but I have never put many of my beliefs into organized action. Seeing something like this work on a small scale has inspired me to do something like this again, but maybe on a grander scale. Being an Environmental Studies student at the University of Vermont I hope to gain more knowledge about our natural world and what we can do to conserve its now-vanishing health.
Date: December 31, 2015 Views: 5266 File size: 17.8kb, 317.0kb : 2048 x 1366
Hours Volunteered: 200+
Volunteers: 50+
Authors Age & Age Range of Volunteers: 6-14