A Short and Mighty Journey: Empty Words Turn Action

Just before stepping through the doors of Maurice Bishop Airport’s security the girls were given these words by the representative of JA Grenada “Recycle. Recycle. Recycle. This is what the judges want to hear.” I was puzzled as if simply throwing these words into their presentation would be enough to swoon the judges. I felt the emptiness of those words and wondered how environmental and social justice were being embedded not just as words to fling at judges but words to inspire and root within youths minds and hearts, words made into action.

I learnt in more detail about Junior Achievement by accompanying JA Grenada team (Go SAASS go!) to Peru as chaperone. Junior Achievement is a worldwide organization that focuses on providing experiential learning for students in secondary schools around entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy. I also learnt JA Americas integrates passionately social and climate responsibility through presenting and integrating the UN seventeen global goals for sustainable development presented in one of the first day seminars to the youth and repeatedly emphasized throughout the three days.

JA Grenada’s project and product (Odds and Ends Craft Supplies) was pretty and practical, using odds and ends, recycled material such as tin cans and wood clothes pins to create usable art such as vases, pen holders, coasters and miniature rocking chairs. The Grenada team also killed their presentation in the best sense! So confident. So professional! And they worked brilliantly as a team. And still there felt a lack of passion, a lack of consciousness related more deeply to the social and environmental impact of their product and project, they seemed to mimic adult words memorized but not necessarily believing those words.

Indeed there project and products held strong social benefits however we didn’t understand this fully yet until the day of the trade fair held in the beautiful Miraflore’s city Park where we noticed Peruvian Elders stopping regularly at our table with great nostalgia and curiosity for the team’s products. The Elders lingered over the products with smiles and asked the girl’s questions. JA volunteers translated and I soon realized Odds and Ends Crafts Supplies held meaning and validation for the Elders. We soon realized the power of those clothes pins was also about acknowledging crafts the Elders were also engaged in when children and as adults too. We began to understand Odds and Ends Craft Supplies was most importantly about building relations with Elders, about meditative community healing practices through sitting collectively and creating art; about the power of simplicity within this modern world of busyness, social media, technology; about inclusivity, Elders not being left out in this fast paced, heads down busy world.

There were other crafty projects like Jamaica with recycled plastic bags of all sizes, colors and styles. And Other projects more modern and high tech like stress bands and baby monitors with special phone apps, miniature cardboard gardens where you could grow easy miniature crops like seasonings, lettuce and tomatoes; wood carved phone holders that amplify sound made out of trees spoilt by a deadly beetle outbreak; hand made journals made out of seed embedded pages (my fav) which meant you could plant them once you were finished filling them up; another phone app that helped folks share with their loved ones their location after a natural disaster; recycled tires made into beds for pets and pet blankets and toys sewn from scraps (Congrats Cayman Islands! The winners!). Just to name a few.

What a thrill to spend the day in Kennedy Park with youth from 14 different countries along with international folks, local community and in particular the Elders.

Our team hopes to turn words into action this holiday season by bringing Odds and Ends to a nursing home here in Grenada; to exercise the major learnings and share time and space in community with Grenadian Elders creating art out of clothes pins and recycled tin cans.

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