Youth: River cleanup in Brazil promotes environmental stewardship


multiple people are shown, all wearing masks, many of which are youth
Concerned with the improvement of the environment of their neighborhood, youth engaged in Bahá’í community-building activities recently drew on support from their municipality to remove 12 tons of trash from a local river.

São Sebastião, Brazil — When a group of youth in São Sebastião, Brazil, in August were exploring how they could clean up a local river littered with trash, they had yet bigger questions in mind.


“If we clean the river, how can we prevent the trash from returning?” asked one of the young people from the Vila do Boa neighborhood.


To answer this question, the youth turned to insights they have been gaining through their participation in Bahá’í educational programs that develop their capacity to analyze social reality, identify the needs of their communities, and serve their society.


“We need to raise awareness of the protection of the environment alongside the cleanup,” said one of the youth from the group.


four images are shown of youth baha'i gatherings
Different groups of youth from Vila do Boa participating in Bahá’í educational programs that develop their capacity to analyze social reality, identify the needs of their communities, and undertake activities for social action.

As conversations among the youth unfolded, they arrived at the conclusion that a newsletter could be an effective way to raise consciousness about the environment and share more broadly insights from local efforts to contribute to the wellbeing of their neighborhood.


Titled Vila do Boa—Só Notícia Boa (meaning Good Village—Good News Only), the name of the newsletter is a play on the term "boa", which translates to "good".


“There is only bad news in the newspapers, violence and sad things, so the idea came to share positive and good news, providing hope to neighbors and inviting them to participate,” said Marlene, the facilitator of the group, in an interview with the News Service.


Still more challenging questions followed as plans for the cleanup began to take shape. “How will we collect so much trash? And, how will we carry everything, like discarded TV sets and furniture, to the main road for removal?” asked the youth early on.


It did not take long, however, before the youth received an answer to their questions. A municipal official, after hearing about the project from one of the mothers of the youth at an event about water access, offered to meet with the young people to learn more about their initiative.

6 people are shown, four of which are youth, two are the facilitator, all of them are holding up a sheet of paper with information regarding the clean-up
Youth and the facilitator of their group (left) visiting the office of a municipal official (second from left) to describe the aims of the educational programs offered by the Bahá’ís of Vila do Boa and to share their vision for the improvement of the environment of their neighborhood.

The official, inspired by his meeting with the youth, immediately arranged for trucks and workers to assist, and provided the youth with several sign boards that were painted and posted near the river, encouraging people to keep the area free of litter.


In the meantime, the first newsletter was made and delivered to over 120 families in the area. Nicole, one of the youth in the neighborhood, summed up the experience of the conversations with the families, stating: “If we plant good seeds, good things will grow from them.”


On the day of the cleanup, the commitment of the youth to support the initiative inspired the municipal workers to expand their efforts beyond the river to other parts of the neighborhood, resulting in the removal of 12 tons of trash.


four images are depicted of the cleanup, the top two are of the trucks and workers involved, the bottom two are of the workers in action
Inspired by the commitment of the youth and others who had shown up to support the initiative, Municipal workers expanded their efforts to clean up the area beyond the river to other parts of the neighborhood, resulting in the removal of 12 tons of trash.

“It was hard to work in the heat while wearing a mask, but the project created stronger friendships in our neighborhood,” said Esdras, a youth from Vila do Boa.


Gabriel, another young person, described how the Bahá’í educational programs that gave rise to this project have inspired many youth to be of service to their neighborhood over the years. “More and more youth are coming to learn about how they can participate and finding a greater sense of purpose by helping their community. This is how we’re building our lives, through friendship, service, and unity.”


Liese von Czékus Cavalcanti, member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of Brazil, elaborates further, describing how these efforts have opened the possibility for closer collaboration between area residents and the municipality to address the different needs of the community and have fostered a collective will for action among neighbors.


“Social transformation requires building unity among individuals, communities, and institutions. The power to effect lasting change is not in opposition and war. It is in unity. This is the power of transformation.”


four images are shown of the youth helping out, three of which are them helping to paint walls and tires, one of which shows them helping out at a garden
Youth across Brazil who are engaged in Bahá’í educational programs undertaking different activities of social action for the well-being of their communities.

two images are shown of the youth visiting people's homes to raise awareness about the environment and are shown with multiple pieces of paper in hand
The youth delivering a newsletter they made to raise consciousness among neighbors about the environment.

three images are shown of the youth painting two signs to raise awareness
Youth created signs and placed them near the river, encouraging people to keep the area free of litter.

four people are shown picking up trash in between trees
Some youth from the Vila do Boa neighborhood picking up litter around a local river.

two people are shown next to the river in between trees
A view of a part of the river after the cleanup.

Originally published on the Baha'i World News Service

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