ArtCorps Artist Allison Havens and 10 Youth Leaders in Conservation pile into a truck to learn firsthand about their ecosystem.
Over the past few months, the sessions with my core group of community service high school students have been devoted to getting to know ourselves better, using art and creative exercises to answer questions like: “Who am I? Where do I come from? What is important to me? Who are we as a group?” We’ve gotten comfortable listening and sharing in a circle, working as a team and learning to encourage everyone to participate. And now…we are ready to get to work on our first project together−a mural!
But first we need to learn a little bit about the topics and issues that we’re going to be addressing in our mural−how the natural environment affects us, our water system and the future of the community. So we are taking a field trip to our water source, the life-blood of our precious ecosystem.
The Mayor’s Representative, Don Marcos, graciously drove half of the group and Oscar, the CARE Watershed Coordinator, gave a ride to the rest of us. 10 screaming teenagers in the back of a pickup truck made for a lively start to the trip! Once we arrived at the base of the mountain, we trekked about 30 minutes through the woods to reach the river. Talk about beautiful!
Oscar and Don Santiago, the President of La Masica’s Water Council, explained how the water system operates hand-in-hand with all parts of the ecosystem to ensure a stable and clean supply of water. We often talk about “the environment” in abstract terms, but it’s hard to have a real understanding of what it means to “care for our planet” or “protect our water supply”. That’s why I wanted our group to see up close where and how we get the water that comes to our homes. And to learn why sometimes the water doesn’t reach our houses or we get sick if we drink the water from the tap. And to identify some of the current threats to our natural resources.
The youth also heard why one member of their community, Don Santiago, decided to volunteer his time to improve and protect this water system for the entire community. When the water doesn’t run or there’s a problem with the water supply, its easy for people to complain, but often those same people don’t work to solve the problem, or participate in the water council meetings. Don Santiago inspired us by his stories and example to be part of the solution.
Overall, the youth loved the experience of the hike, the fresh air, the trees, being in the mountains and being together. Without doubt, these are excellent lessons to take away as well.