The problems with excessive waste are far from unique to Jordan or the region that FoEME works in so sharing FoEME’s experience and learning from best practices elsewhere in the world is an important part of our work. From November 12 to 18 FoEME was invited by The East and West Center for Human Resource Development to learn more about waste problems abroad and how to solve them on a practical level at a training course in Murcia, Spain. The training course focused on the “three R’s”: how to reduce consumption, reuse domestic materials, and teach youth about recycling in southern Spain. The training course, part of the EU-funded Youth in Action Program, brought together 21 participants from 10 different countries: Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Turkey, Egypt, Palestine, and of course Jordan. During the course of the week we learned how to deal with waste problems in our countries and shared with the participants our work and experience in these areas.
The training course’s practical workshops took place at the CEMACAM Torre Guil, an environmental education center near a nature reserve in southeastern Spain and finished off with two nights in Murcia, an Andalusian town 15 minutes away, to expose the participants to the local culture. The environmental education center was beautiful and cleverly designed, possessing a natural heating and cooling system through its unique architecture. Our accommodations were built into a mountain and we were treated to traditional Spanish breakfast, lunch and dinner at the cafeteria, which was also integrated into the natural surroundings.
The first day of the workshop focused on participant’s presentations of waste problems in our countries. I presented FoEME’s work in trying to rehabilitate the Jordan River and save the Dead Sea. I explained that the most valuable resource in Jordan is water, and therefore FoEME is working to reduce consumption of water through water saving and reuse strategies, for example through grey water systems, and recycling water through rainwater harvesting. Each country had their specific problems with wasteful consumption, such as lack of public sector support in Palestine and Egypt and lack of financial incentives in Latvia and Spain. In the afternoon we shared environmental education activities that our organization employs to educate youth about environmental stewardship and I shared some of the educational toolkits used for the youth programs at FoEME’s Sharhabil Bin Hasseneh EcoPark.
There were six practical workshops, besides a teambuilding workshop in the beginning and a future projects workshop at the end. In the practical workshops we learned how to make soap from used cooking oil, make jewelry from old CDs, make bags and skirts out of old t-shirts, make decorations out of books and magazines, make puppets out of socks, and make toys out of various recycled materials. A local artist or craftsperson that had personally invented and/or perfected the particular techniques that we learned led each workshop. It reminded me how art and environmental preservation can be so closely linked.
Cultural activities included an intercultural night, where everyone gave a presentation about the traditions of the country they represented and brought a food, beverage, or gift from that country. We were given a tour of the environmental education center CEMACAM Torre Guil and a city tour of Murcia, showing us the medieval Arab King’s palace and his cleverly irrigated garden that had stood the test of time. On the last two evenings they treated us to local food at favorite restaurants in Murcia. During our free time the participants learned about the unique cultures and their respective approaches to environmental problems. The whole experience was not just valuable to me in teaching me new professional and personal skills in helping to reduce waste, but also in allowing me a unique opportunity for cross-cultural exchange where I had the chance to explore solutions to environmental problems from different cultural, political, and ecological perspectives. FoEME will be integrating some of the lessons learned from this workshop in an educational toolkit on recycling for the SHE Park.
This post has been written by FoEME intern Marielle Velander, who is based in the Amman office.