A crash course in changing the world.
The shaking of the plane stops as we descend out of a huge bank of clouds, rapidly approaching the tiny runway that is a strip of grey in a sea of green. The tiny airport at Puerto Maldonado doesn’t look any different from when I came here ten years ago, but the jungle surrounding it definitely does. Healthier, more vibrant.
I came here over a dozen years ago to help empower the local youth to reimagine their communities. We also learned about composting, gardening, and recycling, sometimes the hard way. Their laughter didn’t stop for days after the time I tried to build a Western-style compost pile and found out in the rainforest they call those “fire ant hills”.
Now its 2020, and those 7-12 year old kids are grown up. Some of them have already finished college, but their impact has already been felt. By helping them take leadership in their neighborhoods before they even reached high school, we awakened in them the ability to take charge and implement ideas that successful adults couldn’t even imagine.
One of the girls, Flor, took the lessons we shared about recycling and founded a business before she graduated high school. They started a sorting program for all the local schools and universities, separating green waste and then processing it in a sustainable facility here in the rainforest. Now the high-grade, compostable polymers they produce are the packaging for all of the crackers and food distributed
throughout Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, and Ecuador, and their model of eco-plastics is spreading like wildfire in the West as well. No longer does Flor cry when she sees her friends and family throw
packaging into the headwaters of the Amazon; now, she knows it will just nourish plants and animals downstream.
Another of the Ninos from ANIA, Briseth, is finishing a degree in agroforestry at the local university. In high school she helped introduce the Green Ambassadors, a program to empower youth to educate
their peers about sustainable technologies. She helped translate the program to Spanish and adopt tropically relevant innovations that created food forests and eco-corridors throughout the jungle. Now she’s a Rhode’s scholar, just about to go to Yale to get her post-graduate degree so she can go work for the IMF to help more girls like her create regenerative systems in their communities around the globe.