Think Beyond Plastic, Mesoamerican Reef Project
During my internship role as the Mesoamerican Reef Project Program Coordinator, between September and December 2017, I worked diligently to strengthen the Plastic Reduction Initiative taking place in the Bay Islands of Honduras. I used an array of outreach intervention strategies that included:
1. Mobilization: Outreached to schoolchildren, business owners and civil society through a Plastic Reduction Initiave campaign that included power point presentations and interviews. Additionally, I supported collaborative local efforts and NGO campaigns for plastic awareness activities and focused on strengthening partnerships through participatory planning of several events Ex. Contamination Week and World Oceans Day.
2. Capacity Development: Trained youth leaders on public speaking to strengthen the Environmental Education Programs led by local NGOs. Strengthened local beach clean efforts by developing a game plan of collecting data, advertising, sharing results and gained partnerships to increase support.
3. Demand Generation: Repeatedly engaged with businesses to provide “Bring your own container incentives” that resulted in several businesses advertising on social media the introduction of that service. Applied a social marketing approach to publicize plastic alternative products using constant social media updates, exchanges and visits.
4. Knowledge Dissemination: Distributed Plastic Reduction Initiative stickers, developed Plastic Pollution Awareness power point presentations, and created Plastic Pollution awareness surveys that were distributed to schoolchildren in Utila.
5. Resource Assistance: Facilitated the donation of reusable water bottles to schoolchildren as well as copies of childrens’ book and in-cash payments for the “Plastic Pollution Ambassadors” leading the Think Beyond Plastic presentations.
Immersing in this community was not an easy task at first. I was given a list of contacts with contact information, and only had a couple of e-mail exchanges with them before my arrival. Some of them had already established good relationships with my Partner Organization, and other stakeholders were a work in progress. However, I have come to appreciate the importance of recognizing that there is always a system in place and tapping into local knowledge is key. Efforts built on leveraging the experience and resources of partners help mobilize, share knowledge, expertise and financial resources to support the achievements of projects, and ultimately were the causes for making this immersive experience a wonderful experience for my professional and personal development.
The cross-sectorial nature of these immersive experiences have provided me with a strong foundation of human-centered design thinking that was also embedded into my Partner Organization, Think Beyond Plastic’s bloodstream. Throughout my internship, I believe I was able to use my Spanish fluency, my dynamic skills and my inter-disciplinary experience to help accelerate the impact that the Plastic Reduction Initiative is having on the public health, on the environment and on the local economy of the Bay Islands of Honduras.
As the Outreach and Education Coordinator of this project, I see the dire need of reengineering education towards a service-oriented vessel, where every volunteer opportunity is perceived as a fundamental strategy to learn about the community, and apply what is learned in the classroom and hopefully will result in better decision makers in the community. I am continuously seeking for exposure in embracing organizations that engage in community development that will focus on humanity and environmental sustainability and deal directly with the underrepresented populations like those I experienced while growing up in Perú and through this immersive experience in the Bay Islands of Honduras.