The following is a guest post by Yasmin Mohamed from the Sustainable Living Project
Our environment affects everyone in our community, and everyone in our community affects our environment. But, it can be hard to communicate how to protect it to people of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds.
My role with the Sustainable Living Project is to engage my local community about how to live sustainably through workshops, field trips and art projects. One recent project called ‘Step Together’ – in which educators like me trained leaders of multicultural organisations to teach their own communities about environmental sustainability – saw me mentoring a representative of the NSW Spanish and Latin American Association for Social Assistance named Maria. I trained Maria to facilitate environmental workshops and to create, design and implement a community project to improve sustainability.
Maria was very passionate and enthusiastic about communicating the value of sustainable living, from teaching her two lovely children about recyclable crafts to educating community groups about protecting the environment.
I was so thrilled to attend her first workshop, not only for the chance to see Maria conducting her own class, but also for the opportunity to see environmental sustainability knowledge pass from me, to Maria, to the Spanish-speaking community and into action.
In her workshop, Maria and the group identified the need to raise more awareness about the importance of recycling and the correct ways to do it. We collaborated on a project to address these issues and worked out ways to support community groups to make positive behaviour changes.
So there I was in a workshop alive with discussions, brainstorming and visual activities – a workshop where I understood no Spanish words but was fully aware of the group’s enthusiasm and engagement. How amazing it was to see people coming together aiming for a positive change! It was inspiring to hear from Maria as she translated back some of the discussion from the workshops how people shared ideas and learnt to minimise their waste through the concept of ‘avoid, reduce, reuse and recycle’.
It was rewarding for the participants to celebrate their achievements at the end of the project and receive their certificates, which acknowledged their contribution. And rewarding also for Maria, who was pivotal in passing on this knowledge to her community.
While the journey through researching, mentoring, planning and implementing the ‘Step Together’ project was full of challenges, I got to witness the message of environmental sustainability crossing the cultural divide, resulting in changed habits and a rewarding outcome for all.
About the author
Yasmin Mohamed works as a bilingual Arabic/English environmental educator as part of the Sustainable Living Project a partnership between the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Ethnic Communities Council of NSW. Yasmin is also a musician who believes in the power of music to link communities and deliver environmental messages. In Sudan, Yasmin was a vet working at a university.