Over spring break, scholars got to visit Belize, Costa Rica, Morocco, and Tanzania, all within the comfort of their own home! While international travel is still restricted, our Global Citizens Program teamed up with the United Nations’ World Leadership School to reimagine travel and offer our scholars a virtual immersion around the world. Each day scholars “visited” a new destination to learn about how local communities and organizations are working to address specific UN Sustainable Development Goals.
So, how did we go about this ambitious endeavor? In each location – Belize, Costa Rica, Morocco, and Tanzania – scholars heard from leaders on how they and their communities are working toward the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the challenges they face.
• In Belize, we learned about the effects of plastic pollution on the Belize Barrier Reef. Scholars visited the Tobacco Caye Marine Station and learned about the harmful effects of microplastics and unsustainable fishing practices on the marine life and biodiversity of Tobacco Caye.
• In Costa Rica, we explored the country’s emphasis on eco-tourism and its effects on natural ecosystems. Scholars met with Daniel Vega, the president of an organic farmers organization. They learned about his personal experience of participating in unsustainable farming practices, which included cutting down trees at night to evade authorities before pursuing his own farm. Daniel shared with scholars that he feels like he is “planting life” because “the food is such good quality for everyone who eats it and [he] knows it is safe.” Scholar participants also had the chance to ask Daniel questions such as his advice for people who live in apartments for starting their own garden, his motivation to keep going despite the adversities he has had to endure, and what invasive species he has to contend with.
• In Morocco, we engaged with NGOs working to create opportunities for economic growth. Scholars learned about how Morocco is working to reduce and limit climate emissions through innovative transportation systems and ensure environmental sustainability through renewable energy.
• In Tanzania, we took a look into groups working to create sustainable communities. Scholars learned about the importance of protecting endangered animals from poaching and illegal hunting. They also learned about creating sustainable communities by planting trees that bear fruit for environmental benefits and community consumption.
Each virtual immersion added a new perspective to help scholars think about how these initiatives can be applied to our very own communities. Our hosts raised the question, “Looking back on all of the people we’ve met and how they are combatting the challenges they face in their countries, what are some ideas for how you can better your own community?” We had wonderful responses, such as creating a free food delivery service to help families in need, developing a robot that can pick up the plastic in the ocean, and starting a program to instill a love of reading in children. We also led brainstorming sessions to discuss initial steps to achieve these goals and make them a reality.
Though we aren’t able to travel the same way we’re used to, there is still so much we can learn about the world, even through a screen. The greatest takeaway from this virtual immersion experience is that children can find something they are passionate about and use it to be change and peace makers.