15 Aug 2016 Story Sustainable Development Goals

Hands-on environmental education for vulnerable youth

Reducing, reusing and recycling and mini lectures on environmental and resource conservation issues such as saving energy and water are taught alongside developing a market garden in the Casa do Bom Menino.

“We also discuss food security and water availability with the children and youth,” explains Luiz Bispo, 25, who runs the Planting and Learning project at the organization in Piracicaba, Brazil. He joined the project last year.

What is special about the place is that it is a foster house that provides shelter for vulnerable children and youth, often those from families that do not have access to basic rights set out in the Brazilian Federal Constitution of 1988. These rights could include employment, health services, sanitation, education or housing.

As part of the organisation’s holistic approach to child development, the kids learn about the environmental benefits of market gardens (the absence of chemical fertilisers, for one thing) while gaining other essential skills.

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“They can feel closer, part of a real hands-on field project. This is essential for building their confidence and developing social skills,” says Luiz, who joined the project last year and developed the market/food garden.

He points out that there are tangible benefits, too: an opportunity for entrepreneurship, contact with nature, and experience in a sustainable method of food production.

“For those who attend the activities, the project is providing hope for a better future. You can sense that among them when they are chatting with each other while working in the food garden,” he adds.

Feedback, he says, has been positive.

The project is one of six at the Casa do Bom Menino that aim to foster social interaction, develop skills, promote educational learning, provide environmental and financial education and prepare the kids for the employment market.

Luiz says that Planting and Learning contributes to the development of the local community, and hopes to spread a positive environmental and social message throughout the Piracicaba City region, including the idea of having a market garden in the backyard.

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