In the third of our spotlight series, this week we interview Rebeca Melendez Rengifo, a 21 year-old Shipibo woman who has been giving environmental education workshops and conducting community consultations for Alianza Arkana since September of 2012.
AA: Please tell us about the work you do with Alianza Arkana, Rebeca.
Rebeca: I give workshops in community schools, working with students from all three levels; elementary, primary and secondary school (6-18 years). These schools are in the Shipibo communities that Alianza Arkana supports. The workshops are about contamination and how to protect our environment. For example, I teach people that it’s important not to litter and to be mindful of how they dispose of their waste, while also teaching them alternatives and solutions, like making eco-bricks from excess garbage. I have also been to nearly all the communities where Alianza Arkana works; six here nearby in Yarinacocha district and seven in Iparía, to interview local people, conduct community needs assessments and teach them about environmental issues.
AA: What do you normally find are people´s greatest needs?
Rebeca: The three things people stress most are electricity, water and drainage or sanitary issues. I made a report with the results from these community consultations, which has been used to define priorities for Alianza Arkana projects. For example, as drainage and sanitation are big issues, Alianza Arkana developed a community compost latrine that floats when it floods.
AA: What do you enjoy most about your work?
Rebeca: I love teaching children. I think it´s very important that they grow up knowing about their environment, contamination, how to separate their waste, etc. If they grow up with this education, the future can be better for everyone.
AA: How did you first get into this work with Alianza Arkana?
Rebeca: When I was studying in school I also worked as a promoter for another non-profit, Manuela Ramos, which focussed on issues of sexual and reproductive health and education for young women. At the time there was a big problem with unwanted pregnancies amongst girls, but there was a large group of promoters like me and we really made a difference. Now, there are few pregnancies amongst girls of 13-15 years in my community. What we achieved motivated me to do more of this kind of work.
When I heard there was a position with Alianza Arkana as an assistant for their Zero Waste Programme, I was really excited because I would be able to work with and teach children. It has also been a great way for me to pay for my studies.
AA: Where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
Rebeca: Well I´m studying business management in college so one option I´ve thought of is starting a small business that helps people from communities, especially my fellow Shipibo. In the future I´d also like to help more in Alianza Arkana’s management. I’m getting trained in this so I think I’ll be able to offer a lot. I’d like to continue working in an environmental NGO, and one that also does great work with children.
Saturday, 15 June 2013