Indigenous Women Initiate Recycling with Volunteer Assistance

By Ed Hayes
May 11, 2017

Community Economic Development has many facets in Costa Rica. Ed Hayes shares his first person account of helping an indigenous women's group with a much-needed recycling project. 

While I would say that my experience serving as a Community Economic Development Volunteer in an indigenous site has been fulfilling due to the friendships and cultural exchanges that I continue to partake in, several projects have made me proud to be considered a local by community members.

The environmental project that I’m working on with a women’s group has been my most successful project to date. In July 2016 I helped form a women’s group in my community and later we decided to begin working on a recyclables collection program. Around October, we met with a representative from the municipality of our county, and fortunately, he agreed to transport recyclable material from my village to the collections center for free; we just had to place all of the recyclables in one spot for pickup.

Meanwhile, I was looking for potential financial resources to help kick start the project. I came across the World Connect Accelerator grant and we decided to apply, thinking we had a good shot as it covered two of their areas of focus – empowerment of women and environmental initiatives. Throughout the fall we continued to meet, working on the application little by little. In December 2016, we submitted the grant, and around the same time, had a change in leadership. Shortly after, we were approved by World Connect to receive our $750 grant.

Between January and present day, the women of my community have stepped up to the responsibilities of the project and we have accomplished a lot in very little time. Recently we met with the mayor to not only get approval for the collection of recyclables, but for trash too. I asked the women to present the project. Watching the coordinator, who used to be shy in our meetings, confidently speak made me proud. So far we have conducted three community cleanups, three collections, and three different environmental talks for the schools and the community at-large. We have already constructed a small trash disposal area, covered by a small roof,  that includes four different types of recyclable bins and a trashcan.

While the project has a long way to go, I think we’re on the right track. In the short term, we have acquired enough materials through our grant to make six more trash disposal areas. Through a community contact, we’ll have the appropriate labor to construct all six, and we plan to do so next year. From now until then, we will continue to clean the community and help with the collections voluntarily. Also, we have solicited the "Asociación de Desarrollo Integral," which is a form of local government in indigenous territories, for assistance in the project. In the long run, we hope that they will agree to help us construct a small complex to store our trash and recyclable material with space to have meetings. Also, we are looking at beginning to charge so that we can expand the project to other towns in the territory.

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