High Fives Only Come When We Take Care of Our Oceans

Something pretty incredible happened today.  Today we drove 20 minutes down the road to Soufriere to visit their primary school.  The purpose of our visit was to hand out 250 reusable bags to the 110 students in grades 1-6.   We pulled up to the school just as they were breaking for lunch.  The students – girls in their skirts and boys in their pants – were all dispersed and looked to be heading home for lunch.  But we were two women who were obviously not from Dominica and that was enough for some of the children to stop and stare.

With advisement from the teacher we started to unload the bags onto a table.  The children became even more interested and pretty soon Mandy and I felt like celebrities.

We couldn’t travel anywhere without asking for a little walking space and the children were even willing to push their classmates out of the way to get closer to us.

When the bags started to be passed out there were big smiles, screaming, and shouting all around.  As groups of kids got their bags I would ask them why they think we brought these bags.  With a couple of hints they made the connection that reusable bags meant less plastic and healthier oceans!

Then a teaching moment presented itself.  A girl who was in the huddle that surrounded me dropped her gum wrapped on the ground.  I made a big gasping sound that got everyone’s attention and asked what that litter might mean for animals in the ocean.  Other students were quick to shout, “It makes turtles sick!” She picked it up and held onto it.

Then a boy in the back of the crowd saw a plastic cup and picked it up to show me what he found.  “Did you just pick that up?!!” I exclaimed.  He sheepish nodded yes and I gave him a high five.  You would think that a high five was me handing him a $5 bill because his face lit up with the recognition.  Suddenly, all the children wanted high fives.  I politely informed them that high fives only come when we take care of our oceans.

I went over to the rain ditch on the side of the road.  The ditch was about 12 feet deep with a steep bank on either side. The ditch led the water down the road several hundred feet before dumping into the ocean.   There was water running through and amongst some of the rubbish I spotted a clear plastic bag trapped under a rock.  I again used it as a teaching moment, “See that bag?  It looks just like a Jelly!  What a shame that it’s headed to the ocean.”  I turned away to point out how close the trash bin was and talk about how easy it is to dispose of our trash.

A few minutes later, to my disbelief, I saw a girl headed down the steep bank to the running water.  She quickly grabbed the bag, scrambled back up the bank and even more surprising she didn’t show me.  She walked quickly past me avoiding eye contact to put it in the trash.  I don’t think she cared to be recognized.  She just cared.

I hope the reusable bags are a success and that the village of Soufriere can someday become plastic bag free.  But today had already become a success.

-- MM

For more information on the International Fund for Animal Welfare effort to educate children around the world on animal welfare issues, visit https://www.ifaw.org/education

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