Supporting school sanitation, solid waste management in developing nations

Published on: 
October 02, 2013
David A. Weiss

Global Communities supports Green Apple Day of Service worldwide.

Every year at Global Communities, we see the increasingly negative effect of climate change on the lives and livelihoods of our partner communities in more than 20 countries worldwide.

Our work involves supporting local governments in providing necessary services to their citizenry and can involve building schools, clinics, citizen service centers and other critical infrastructure. We see firsthand the places where they struggle to afford the energy and maintenance costs in community schools and clinics and where water is scarce.

In response to this, we are committed to developing green construction techniques, and have already been leading the way in, for example, the West Bank and Kosovo.

Joining the green schools movement

To support that commitment, we joined USGBC as a member, and later started working with the Center for Green Schools, an organization committed to safe, healthy and efficient schools. And last year we proudly supported the Green Apple Day of Service, an initiative that improves schools through local service projects.

We enthusiastically joined this movement, because it offered the potential to more directly engage the private sector in working with communities to raise awareness and improve conditions in schools. Last year, working with local partners and corporate volunteers including USGBC members like Caterpillar and Interface, Global Communities supported projects in six countries involving more than 30 schools and 4,000 volunteers. We planted trees, beautified school grounds, organized recycling and clean-up campaigns, conducted energy audits and pledged to continue to work together for the longer term to green our schools.

Our 2013 project plans: Improving sanitation, solid waste management at low-income schools

Our Green Apple 2013 journey officially began Sept. 19, with our first event in a small indigenous village in Colombia, and then traveled east to the low-income communities of Pune and Bangalore in India, launching a week of activities with more than 10 schools and colleges focused on improving sanitation and solid waste management. The journey continues with events with two schools in Nairobi, Kenya, a school in the West Bank, and with the most impoverished elementary school in Montgomery County, Maryland, near our headquarters in Silver Spring. Our celebration of the Green Apple Day of Service will come full circle to Colombia on October 4, when our team will help a village protect a stream – their only source of drinking water – and install bathrooms in the community school.

On September 28, I rolled up my sleeves and worked side by side with students, parents and teachers at Broad Acres Elementary School in Silver Spring. Volunteers from Global Communities, IMPACT Silver Spring and other area organizations helped weed new vegetable beds the school has created in an interior courtyard and picked up trash around the school and neighboring park. Our efforts here paralleled the efforts of my colleagues overseas as we worked together to help adapt to climate change worldwide. It also provided Global Communities a welcome opportunity to support our own local community here in Silver Spring.  

The seeds planted and friendships formed at a one-day service event can lead to lasting relationships that support long-term community-driven change. We’re already looking ahead to 2014 and how we can continue to grow our Green Apple Day of Service connections and reach more communities with the message that where children learn really does matter. 

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