A Journey from Waste to Art: students demonstrate how community awareness can be achieved through creativity and passion for the environment

Sep 27, 2015

This is Mariyam Leen, a seventh grade student from Gaafu Dhaalu Thinadhoo, who is taking the bold steps in championing for recycling waste through creative artwork in her own island community.She represents a generation of young Maldivians who are acutely aware of the environmental concerns of their respective communities and beyond.

“I think when it comes to the future, everyone has a stake. Protecting our environment is the first step we take in investing in our future. Everyone has a role, everyone needs to play their role,” explained Leen, who just turned thirteen.

Her passion for environmental activism and advocating for safer waste management practices, she explained, stemmed from trainings and workshops that were held in her island school.

Leen’s passion demonstrates the success of the approach of reaching students through academic institutions such as schools and helping them to take action on environmental issues.

She spends a lot of her time creating colourful and intricate artwork from simple waste items such as milk cartons which most people discard without a second thought.

The two-day workshop organized by the Mangroves for the Future (MFF) in Alifu Alifu Ukulhas provided the opportunity for Leen and class mate, Fathimath Shain Mohamed and their leading teacher Ms. Shifa Mohamed to showcase their talent. The creativity of students like Leen, seen from the artwork displayed during the workshop, left almost all the participants impressed.

Apart from the artwork demonstration and display, the Ukulhas workshop also helped participants from Gaafu Alifu and Gaafu Dhaalu Atoll to learn more about safe waste management practices as well as learning from the efforts of people of Ukulhas in setting up their exemplary waste management system.

Leen, an artwork demonstrator as a well as a participant of the workshop, was adamant in reinforcing the idea that not all waste has to be simply thrown away because with a little ingenuity and craftsmanship, one could always find another use for it.

“I’ve learnt to make several new things from this workshop too, which I’ll be sure to replicate in the island” she said optimistically and full of conviction and certainty.

But despite the efforts of well-informed and proactive students, the reality is that a lot of young people are unaware of the inherent harm waste could do to their environment.

This highlights the imperative need of academic institutions to include environmental issues in their curricula to help students become more aware about their precarious island environment and further inspire them to take action. But, parents can play a critical role, too, in moulding such environmental champions such as Leen. 

Leen, whose mother not only accepted her efforts, but support and encouraged her activism in such activities. “[She] is a great inspiration and she got me involved in environmental issues” Leen explained. 

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