Friday, April 26, 2013

Final post from Noelle in Honduras

I can’t believe I’ve been living and working in Utila for over one month and that I only have 3 weeks left here! While time has gone by quickly, I feel like I’ve contributed a significant amount to the project at IRBS, keeping busy with a diverse mix of activities.

Volunteers from the IRBS including myself have continued helping with the recycled glass bottle workshop at the local NGO Bay Islands Conservation Association (BICA). The glasses we’ve made have been sold to several other bars in town, showing that the recycling trend is picking up in smaller businesses too!

One of the projects I am most involved with is in Environmental Education, where I have helped compile a manual as an informative guide on environmental themes including ecology, anthropological impact on the environment, climate change and sustainable tourism. After meeting with local school teachers on March 11, we will establish a schedule for IRBS volunteers including myself to help give presentations on these topics to the students.

Overall, I believe that one of my biggest feelings of accomplishment has come from coordinating the recycling workshop with the local children, both girls and boys. I’ve noticed a change in attitude in the children in terms of creativity in using a wide variety of different materials and openness to trying new things. Since my last update, we have made a “city” built on cardboard with toilet paper rolls and juice boxes. We also hope to make a mangrove mural made out of bottle caps along the same concrete wall where the museum that hosts the workshop every Friday afternoon is located. During my time here, I have also really appreciated giving tours to international tourists about the local flora, fauna and iguana conservation issues, and to the police to inform them of the issue of iguana poaching on the island.

Last week was unpredictably busy due to a tragic accident that had happened the previous weekend. A family of 3 – the driver, his wife and daughter – was on their way home riding along the airport’s unlit road when they were hit by a drunk 18-year-old driver on another motorcycle, causing tremendous injury to himself and to his two-year-old daughter, leading to his death and his daughter’s deteriorated health. As a result, a raffle fundraiser was held on March 1st for the local Jackson family in order to raise money for the costs incurred by this terrible event. IRBS volunteers promoted the raffle event and informed tourists about what had happened, bridging the gap between the locals, the IRBS volunteers and tourists by showing our support within the community. We also donated all of that week’s proceeds from the tours and movie night events held at the station to the family.

This past week we went to the Western Path mangrove site to monitor the Swamper iguanas. Here, we spotted 36 Swampers in an area of close to 1km², the largest number recorded to date! Yesterday, a few IRBS volunteers, myself included, helped experts in mangrove restoration that had come from Mexico and Honduras’ mainland research in Utila’s mangroves. This group does environmental consulting for the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on a regular basis. 

My contribution included measuring four 1m² transects, counting the amount of pneumatophores, small roots growing upwards to promote the absorption of oxygen for the rest of the mangrove plant. Of the total found in the area of study, I was required to extract 10 percent for lab work. It wasn’t an easy task, but getting dirty in the mangroves is rewarding if it is followed by a rinse-off in the crystal clear sea! After discussing my internship with FBC with one of the specialists, they mentioned working on mangrove restoration with another FBC intern in Omoa…Brittany Macgillavry! What a small world! I am so grateful and excited to have been a part of this project, and to have had the opportunity to gain technical experience in the field! 

 On top of promoting its environmental education and iguana breeding and monitoring programs, t
he IRBS hopes to serve as a model of sustainable living for its national and international volunteers and as a demonstration centre for visitors, by transforming itself into an establishment that produces minimal waste. I have already begun working on developing a vegetable garden and improving its compost system. I hope to see these projects through before the end of my placement.

Overall, the experience I have gained from living and working in an intercultural context such as Utila has made me aware that internships like these are so important for recent graduates to gain hands-on experience in their field of interest for future work and study opportunities, and to gain new skills in the process. 

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