Sowing Seeds of Hope: A Marist Global Youth Gathering on Ecology

November 18, 2023
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Written by Sam King

On November 17th, more than 70 student leaders came together from Marist schools across the U.S., Guatemala, and the Philippines for the first-ever Sowing Seeds of Hope: A Marist Global Youth Gathering on Ecology.

After an opening prayer from Marjorie Raneses, Joe Nacianceno commemorated the 75th year of the Marist Brothers in the Philippines and affirmed the need for hopeful action to answer the cry of the Earth and the cry of the poor. Leann Rosali then offered an overview of the dynamic range of student projects addressing ecological issues in their local communities.

Celestine Ledres, Euanne Tiamzon, Francine Gayle Deocadez, and Michael John Silva, student leaders from Notre Dame of Marbel University Integrated Basic Education Department Senior High School, began with a presentation on bioaccumulation in the freshwater fish of Lake Lutayan, Sultan Kudarat. Through studying the gastrointestinal tracts of tilapia, karp, mudfish, and gourami, students detected the toxic contaminants C-NO2 and azoxystrobin, the likely byproducts of boat fuel and chemicals used in surrounding rice fields. The students concluded that the local government should investigate the source of the pollutants, establish regular monitoring programs, and engage stakeholders to promote sustainable practices.

Dean Muniz followed with an overview of the Ecology Club at Saint Joseph Regional School, highlighting the school’s outdoor Environmental Classroom with native plants and a water feature for migratory birds. He also described school-wide efforts in energy efficiency through LED and motion sensor lights, as well as other initiatives in water conservation, recycling, and composting.

From Liceo Guatemala, Pamela Sofia Duarte Arriola, Javier Alejandro Cifuentes Garrido, Lesly Camila Tobar Marroquin, and Carmen Lucia Morales Zeped presented their award-winning load wheel, a solar charged device designed to help rural farmers transport heavy materials.

Mica Siba Gatdula then shared an array of green projects at Marist School Marikina, including a novel water filtration and waste management system, solar panel installation, and Laudato Si poster exhibition. After highlighting the role of social media in promoting environmental awareness, she concluded by invoking the Filipino word kasama, or the camaraderie made present when working toward a common goal.

Representing Christopher Columbus High School in Miami, Andrew Vasta shared the design features of his school’s first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified building. He also gave an overview of the school’s innovative plastic circular economy program turning plastic waste into green apparel, pens, pencils.

Finally, Andrea Sofia Lara Lopez, Julio Eduardo del Cid Muñoz, Mariandré Meighan Quezada, and Christian José Vanegas Vázquez from Liceo Guatemala presented their novel food product called Jimbene, a tasty, nutritious sweet made from medicinal plants, an effort to promote sustainable practices and improve children’s nutrition in Guatemala.

Br. Dan O’Riordan, Provincial of the Marist Brothers USA, offered a closing message thanking the student leaders and expressing his support for their efforts in integral ecology. He assured them that they are living out the mission of St. Marcellin of Champagnat, who believed in the power of young people to make a positive difference in the world.

This Global Marist Youth Gathering on Ecology was organized by Princess Joy Dicto, Joe Nacianceno, Vanessa Ivy Natabio, Marjorie Raneses, and Leann Rosali from the Philippines; Frida Villafuerte from Guatemala; and Sam King from the U.S. It came just two weeks before the United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP28) in Dubai, where Pope Francis will address world leaders in hopes of galvanizing a rapid and just transition to a more sustainable future.