Every great joke starts with a conventional setting where you can find characters that wouldn’t usually be together. Like “there were two Argentinians and two Hondurans in a car heading to visit a small little village.” Yet this time this is no joke, it’s a story. And a really cool one.
During the summer, I had the amazing opportunity to work with a small NGO in my city, called LARECOTURH. This organization was formed by a group of people from different communities, that wanted to develop tourism and to help these other communities discover their own potential as well. Within each community, they had assign delegates that represented the organization. This way, the organization is much more closer to the community, as it basically trains their members and makes them form part of the organization through specific roles. The organization carries out different projects and many of them involve the environment, since the main type of tourism in the northern coast of Honduras is ecotourism.
One project that I got to follow was located in a small little village that had tremendous problems with waste disposal. In this little trip I met an Argentinian couple who had met in Australia (let the internationality sink in!). Martina and Ezequiel were sitting in the back of the car while we were heading to Nueva Armenia. Martina always called Ezequiel ‘Bono’, cause his last name is Bonomi, so I adopted the name for him as well. They undertook a trip around Latin America to promote the initiative of a campaign for the reduction of single use plastics in general. Their goal is to help communities transition into a healthier lifestyle.
Martina and Ezequiel had a desire to make a change and difference in the world through an aspect that they both were passionate about, the environment. Martina has lived and studied in Australia, and noticed that people there were very involved in initiatives that took the environment into account. Ezequiel said that the main reason he decided to go on this journey was the fact that he was in a stable job but he did not feel any passion for what he was currently working on. So he decided to try out his love for nature and help out. Martina felt like if she spoke Spanish, she had to help spread out the message through Latin America. The plan of the project was to start from Tijuana, Mexico and to finish in Patagonia, Argentina. As they travel from village to village they give talks to as many people as they can. Until that point they had spoken to about 4,500 villagers.
They explained to me that the idea is to raise awareness. Many people use plastics once and have no idea where they end up after that. So as they show them the harms and impacts of plastics, they also teach children and adults how to do their groceries without plastic bags or how to create their own toothpaste, in order for them not to buy plastic products. Martina and Bono are very down to earth. They approach people and genuinely want to help them out. Their philosophy is to plant a seed but not leave it to its own devices.
One of the things that the couple finds rewarding is the reactions and gratefulness they receive from community members. Martina said that at times she would show videos that would help her prove a point, and usually she would love seeing the little kids reactions, like their bright little eyes of fascination in front of the screen. Bono said that what he loves is when something good comes out of it, when they reach people and through these talks actual change is generated. When people are truly involved and a positive outcomes grows out, and as a consequence a community develops itself thanks to this little seed they implanted. Their passion goes beyond a self driven purpose.
Indeed, Bono and Martina are really discrete individuals, and this project that may not seem transcendental proves an important point. It is not necessary to be a gigantic organization to be able to help. At the contrary, sometimes, big enterprises pretend to be saviors of small little villages and install projects but immediately leave. Martina commented that the whole point for them is to establish a connection, plant the “knowledge seed” and then keep in contact so that these seeds are able to grow into a plant, or even a tree.
Although both have admitted the job has not been easy at all, they valued many experiences as rewarding. Martina narrated this one experience she had in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico. She said that she gave a talk and afterwards she proposed a groupchat with the environment enthusiasts and NGOs. She also proposed to add a member of government so that this would create an interesting dialogue. Indeed, afterwards, many law initiatives were proposed and the ban of the plastic bag was one of them. Martina said that this was very fulfilling, to see that a little contribution could become something so concrete and impactful. As for Bono, he says he really loves this one experience in Laguna de San Ignacio, Mexico. This is a small village of about 500 households and he tells how about 5 to 6 people attended the talk. At first he was disappointed. After the talk started he noticed how engaged and interested people were. For him, it was great to see the sense of happiness emanate from them. One thing Bono believes is that the numbers matter but not that much as interest. For him, one person really interested and enthusiastic could create a great change in a community, and that is what counts the most.
It’s true that a couple travelling around talking to people doesn’t seem too promising and yet they have influenced so many community and even law initiatives! One never knows the impact one might cause. At the same time, Martina and Bono are very aware that it’s not going to work well every time with every community. “Sometimes you know that seeds will grow and some others will not,” Martina told me. There are cases in which the seed get to grow into a plant and other were it gets to grow into a tree. However, always have in mind that the seed might not even survive under certain conditions. Both Martina and Bono know this well but still have a very positive approach.
Finally, the Argentinian couple concluded with a crucial part of why they took this initiative. “It is to move to actions, we have many studies in the world already. We need to get to the people!” they proudly said. Indeed, what good is it to study people from a little cubicle in front of your laptop, and find the best solution to their problems if you can’t adapt the solution to them? As for their journey, I really admired their sense of community. To me, Latin American has been too divided and recently becoming more xenophobic towards each other. As this couple travelled around it, it made me think it was a great example of how even our environment connects us. There’s not need for us to look for differences to separate us. Instead let us take care of nature, let us save the forests that give us oxygen, let us appreciate the ocean and the sun, the freshness of the mountain. Let us embrace that connexion.