We spent a lot of days these past two weeks in the greenhouse. We were taking cucumber plants down, planting radishes and lettuces, putting strings up that the tomatoes could follow when growing, and beginning to prepare lots of banks that are outside the greenhouse. The tomato strings actually took a surprising amount of time as they were quite fiddly but we powered through and managed to get the job done in a final session on Saturday morning. The banks outside are now ready to be planted on and we have all became quite good at working in the greenhouse. Sadly we had our last working day there, but we are hoping to be able to go back before we leave and see how the vegetables are doing.

Luke and Danielle had an initiative a couple of weeks ago to do some environmental workshops to try and educate young people about throwing litter in bins and how they could recycle some of their waste. Luke wrote a speech, which Laura then translated for him, and he performed this to a group of about 60 school children aged 15 to 18 on Thursday. Everyone was very impressed with his Spanish accent and understood every word. It was very impressive. 

After this we split into two groups and did a clean-up of two areas, La Laguna and a playing field called ‘Llano el Espino’. We handed out bin liners and gloves and we went around picking up all the litter we could find. This was a two hour process and there was a lot of rubbish collected which was then sorted into items that could be re-used, for example bottle caps and crisp packets, and things that could not be re-used, for example used tissues and baby wipes. This was good as it meant the young people had to go through rubbish and figure out what could be re-used and recycled. All the young people left at five o’clock and we spent another hour bleaching the recycled rubbish so that it could be used the day after.

The second stage of the process was an artisan workshop which was led by Danielle. This was to make the young people aware of some of the things they could do with their rubbish. We had four separate stations with different activities. The first was a jewellery making station where we taught them to make earrings out of bottle caps, necklaces out of plastic bottle tops and bracelets with straws as beads. The second station was using cans to make decorative candle holders. The third was using plastic bottles to make small plant pots and decorate them. The final station was using things like crisp packets and polystyrene plates to make collages. The purpose of the workshop was not to show them everything they could do with the materials but to get them thinking about the possibilities of using this waste in another way, and also to open up their creative minds! It went really well and we were all very happy with the impact and response we had.

The following week we did another workshop in the community of El Tigre. This was with a smaller group of young people but was equally as effective. We spent the morning collecting rubbish from the nearby areas. The young people participating were so pro-active and collected many bags of rubbish, which we sorted in a similar fashion as before. From this the young people of El Tigre have decided to introduce bins in their local area to try and reduce the littering. They are also going to continue doing cleaning campaigns to keep the area clean. This was a response above and beyond our expectations so we were really pleased with the change we had inspired.

In the afternoon we did the artisan workshop where we showed them some examples of items they can make out of the waste. They took to this with enthusiasm and many of the boys were showing their creativity by adding their own individual touches to the products we were showing them. Hopefully they will continue to think up new ideas and items. Carmen from IMU informed us afterwards that a local school had heard what we were doing and invited us to present a series of workshops. Unfortunately we have no more time, but it's great that Conjuve have decided to take forward our initiative. 

We have also been working with the youth in El Tigre with Conjuve, the youth organisation we work with, to create an environmental short film. On one of the days we had a workshop to stimulate thoughts on the topic of climate change. It was interesting to discuss such an issue with the young people as even though we are from completely different countries and cultures we all agreed on the same fundamental problems.

This was just an introduction to the work we will be starting. The following week we split into three groups and decided on the story lines for our short films. The themes for the different films are littering, disregarding nature and polluting water. They are three contrasting ideas but are all contributing to the larger problem

We are all looking forward to filming. All in all we have had a very busy and productive two weeks and look forward to continuing our work on the environmental films. 

ICS volunteer Tamara Short writes from El Salvador. Photo: Tamara (right) and fellow volunteer Malaika collecting litter at 'Llano el Espino' playing field.