Costa Rica volunteers help schools gain eco-friendly awards
One of the primary concerns of the Conservation Project in Barra Honda, Costa Rica, is the integration of the local community with the conservation efforts going on inside of the park. The primary form through which this initiative is realized is through the Bandera Azul or “Blue Flag” program that Projects Abroad volunteers have worked to implement in local schools.
The first phase of this initiative was recently completed with the evaluation of the Bandera Azul program in the three community schools in which conservation volunteer’s work, with two stars awarded to each of the schools involved in the program.
Institutions in the Bandera Azul program are awarded stars through an on-going process of evaluations that are ultimately tied to the Costa Rican government’s goal of becoming carbon neutral as a country by 2021.
“The maximum is five stars, which means that the school is completely carbon neutral” says the Projects Abroad Head of Environmental Education, José Mario González. “Now we have been awarded two in just the first year, and normally they only give one star in the first year.” The schools, according to José, were awarded two because they have bio-gardens and a mini center for recycling, which are items that other schools don’t have.
“In the coming year as we continue with these projects, we will have composting and clean water in addition to the recycling centers and bio-gardens, and if we fix the bathrooms, we could be awarded a fourth star. Four stars in only two years is enormous!” José says this is a realistic goal because, with the knowledge of the staff in the park and with the help of Projects Abroad, it is possible to carry out large-scale projects in the schools.
Influencing the next generation
“What is important with the Bandera Azul, more than the stars or the flag itself,” states José, “ is the impact that the program has on the communities and the children. Really, they are the ones who will grow up to form the communities surrounding the national park. So the things that are problems in the park – forest fires, contamination, hunting, improper use of water and energy, we can take these subjects and bring awareness to them.”
The children are being taught about environmental education, risks to the environment, recycling and waste management. “We’re making an impact on the children while they are young. They look to the park rangers and staff as role models, and they see people coming from all over the world to work in the schools and this leaves an enormous impact on them. So it’s something greater than stars or a flag. The flag is a symbol—a symbol of the work that is being done,” says José
Projects Abroad is extremely proud of the work we are doing via the Bandera Azul program and we will keep you updated on our future progress.
Read more about the Conservation Project in Costa Rica