Earth Charter workshops on the island of Nevis

In January 2013, Nicole Helene Augusta Slack, a University for Peace student who also works as Health Planner and Health Educator with the Nevis Island Administration, organized several workshops with children and youth. The following is Nicole’s report about her experience with the Earth Charter.

In addition to welcoming in a New Year in January 2013, over 100 individuals on the island of Nevis, some as young as five years old embraced the principles of the Earth Charter. Although the principles enshrined in this Charter were not new to all, the group sessions conducted over a one week period provided the first point of contact with the Charter for all participants, providing exposure to the comprehensive compilation of core principles aimed at ensuring respect for nature, promotion of universal human rights, attainment of economic justice and the promotion of a culture of peace. Sensitization activities conducted during this period focused on all of the aforementioned principles.

The first set of principles introduced as part of this series were those of Respect and Care for the Community of Life, Democracy, Non-Violence and Peace, Ecological Integrity, and Social and Economic Justice. The target audience during this exercise was roughly 40 undergraduate students of the University of Virginia, from a multidisciplinary academic background. The latter two principles were the primary focus of the activity, highlighting the impact of pollution on health, as well as the importance of the dissemination of information to the general public as preventive strategies to safeguard health with regard to disasters. Attention was also placed on the right to potable water, shelter, and safe sanitation during post disaster periods, a requirement in line with principle 9(a). At the conclusion of this session, a copy of the Earth Charter was presented to the head of the UVA contingent, Dr. Marcus Martin, to be utilized by students as a reference tool for their future academic endeavors. During this session, three employees of the Nevis Disaster Management Department were also exposed to these principles.

The second session implemented during this series was targeted at the religious community, specifically the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Liturgical Dance Group, headed by instructor Ms.Tamu Reid. The mandate of this group is to provide religious education through dance, and as such, a presentation was delivered to this group highlighting the principle of Respect and Care for the Community of Life. An activity based on the resource “Let’s Learn a Sustainable Lifestyle with the Earth Charter” was used to lead a discussion on values, during which students aged 5-15 learned about values and counter values and also completed Activity 1 in Chapter 1, General Concepts. An exercise then ensued where students identified and recited various biblical passages which embodied core values regarding love, equity, and respect, after which students were asked to provide a liturgical dance interpretation of the values discussed. As depicted (see pictures), students were able to express this creatively and will soon complete a full length dance piece surrounding the values of the Earth Charter, which are also clearly exemplified in the bible.

The last activity was conducted at the St. Thomas’ Primary School on January 20th, under the leadership of Principal Ms. Norleen Smithen, and class teachers Althea Liburd and Melanie Huggins. At this site, two sessions were completed with the Kindergarten as well as the Grade 5 classes. In addition to utilizing the “Let’s Learn a Sustainable Lifestyle with the Earth Charter” resource, the “Little Earth Charter” was used to lead a discussion with over 30 students between the ages of 5-6 on water conservation. Students identified uses of water and also methods of conservation. Additionally, students were exposed to Theme 1 on sustainable human development (Let’s Learn a Sustainable Lifestyle with the Earth Charter) through an activity on their “ecological footprint”, utilizing the foot graphics on page 16 of said resource. The session concluded with an artistic activity extracted from the “Little Earth Charter”, during which students colored the Earth and drew other things that were important to them including friends, family, animals, the sun, and clouds.

On January 20th, roughly 30 students in Grade 5 also benefited from a power point presentation on the principle of Ecological Integrity, specifically 5(e) of the Charter which addresses water conservation, an activity that reinforced their recently concluded lecture on the same issue. In addition to discussing water conservation strategies, students also completed a group exercise on the topic: “ Is everyone guaranteed the right to potable water?” The winning group received prizes of Earth Charter bookmarks. Class teachers were also presented with a copy of the Earth Charter, which can be used for incorporation of the Earth Charter principles into future class lectures.

The response to the Earth Charter education series was overwhelming on the island of Nevis, also referred to as “Queen City”. Requests for additional sessions from various groups continue to pour in. Knowledge will continue to be imparted as individuals express the principles of the Earth Charter through artistic and other means. The youth on Nevis in particular have expressed their excitement about this Charter, which is a positive sign towards the realization of the Charter’s mandate. Perhaps they share the enthusiasm of one of their peers who advocated that “we have to protect our environment if we have to preserve tourism”.