Honouring and renewing Mother Earth in Latin America
By Celine Woznica
On April 22, International Mother Earth Day will be celebrated worldwide with a plethora of activities and calls to honour our Mother Earth. In Latin America, reverence for Mother Earth (la Madre Tierra) has deep roots reaching back to indigenous Incan, Mayan, and Aztec cultures. Events over the past few generations, including civil wars and the exploitation of the land for commercial interests, have scarred not only the Earth but also her beloved people. Child-focused organisations in Latin America, some implementing Child to Child methodologies, work to promote healing and restore harmony among all living things on Earth. Our Child to Child of the Americas Director Celine Woznica writes about some inspiring child-focused projects from Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, and El Salvador.
Outskirts of Lima, Peru
Because of national political unrest which started in the 1980s, tens of thousands of farmers fled the violence and bloodshed in their rural communities and settled in the desolate hills surrounding Lima. Without water, sanitation, or other amenities, life is difficult in this colonia popular. However, on weekends the children gather in a humble community centre to play, create theatre, and carry out arts and crafts activities that heal – heal the Earth and their families.
According to local volunteer Alberto Bailetti, a favourite activity is to paint old car tires bright colours, fill them with soil, and plant herbs and flowering bushes in the centre. The children also paint rocks to construct small garden terraces, restoring colour and life to the drab hillside. Their efforts are contagious and have attracted the attention of community members, local authorities, and non-profit organisations who are providing technical support to “make the hill green again.” Dozens of trees have been planted and are meticulously attended by the children with the help of their families. The Earth is healing, and so are the families. “A dream,” remarks Mr. Bailetti, “which once seemed impossible.”
Nuevo Horizonte, Guatemala
Care for the Earth as a healing process after civil war is also evident in Nuevo Horizonte, a community in the remote Peten area of Guatemala. Formed after the Peace Accords in December 1996, Nuevo Horizonte is a cooperative composed of former combatants and their families who were given a tract of land that used to be an overgrazed cattle ranch. Their first effort was a reforestation project, and then the associates began to build homes, schools, and public spaces with a focus on restoring environmental balance.
According to promoter Alex Diaz, children are an active part of Nuevo Horizonte’s efforts. As part of their school curriculum, they tend community and home gardens, assist with the tilapia fish farm, participate in weekly clean-up campaigns, work in the reforestation project, and help maintain individual family farmland. Working alongside their parents and grandparents who spent years in makeshift encampments in the mountains, the children are appreciative of the healing power of planting, tending, and cultivating Earth’s bounty.
Care of the invisible world of microbes
Child to Child promoter Silvina Alessio is based in Cuenca, Ecuador and describes the rivers, lakes, mountains, animals, microbes, and humans as all part of nature, sharing the same Mother Earth and striving living in harmony with each other and all living beings. Over the past generations, however, Ecuador has experienced a rise in ‘super-bugs’ that do not respond to locally available pharmaceuticals, resulting from the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in farming and health care. This development has adversely affected the health of children. In response, the local Child to Child program has developed a school-based educational unit to involve children in promoting balance and harmony in the smallest of environments. Through songs, skits, games, and storybooks based on Child to Child methodology, children teach others about the role of bacteria in environmental equilibrium. Taking care of the invisible world is also caring for the Earth!
Festivals in San Salvador
La Casa Verde, located outside San Salvador in El Salvador, combines art with children’s imagination all year long to celebrate Mother Earth. Coordinator Norma Vaquero explains that leading up to Earth Day 2017, children in La Casa Verde embarked on three major activities: The ‘Reciclarte’ art competition challenged children to come up with artistic creations made entirely of recycled materials. The message was clear – art arises and renews the Earth. Team members of ‘Green Circus’ celebrated inner harmony and strength, teaching life skills to a group of students who then shared their learnings about Care of the Earth and the common good with other children. Finally, ‘Green Saturdays’ built community as children celebrated nature and enjoyed natural, organic projects. Earth Day 2017 will finish with a four hour program of workshops, songs, exhibitions, and a special homage to Mother Earth.
Children in Latin America understand that as we work to renew the Earth, the Earth renews and replenishes us. Although there will be special activities on April 22, every day is Earth Day for those in need of its healing power.