Peace Corps volunteer Ashley Gleason, from Temecula, is working with locals in central Panama to start a recycling and sustainable solid waste management system.
Through the recycling program, Gleason and her community will construct recycling centers for solid waste materials. The recyclable material will eventually be sold to a local recycling company.
“Our recycling program will offer a safe alternative to burning trash while also educating the community about the importance of environmental conservation and improving local health standards,” said Gleason, a graduate of the University of California, Los Angeles. “Community members will acquire a better understanding of the practical ways we may positively affect our world.”
Since arriving in her community in 2010, Gleason has been teaching environmental awareness and proper trash disposal.
The plan includes building three recycling center. A portion of the funds for the centers were raised through the Peace Corps Partnership Program, a program that supports Peace Corps volunteer community projects worldwide.
“Aimed at providing awareness to the community as a whole, this project is rooted in promoting healthier lifestyles,” said Gleason, who has been working as a community environmental education volunteer since April 2010. “More than 90 percent of community members currently manage waste by burning their trash in their yards on a daily basis. This practice is dangerous for the environment as well as the health of all community members.”
The funds raised through the program will be used to build wooden boxes and buy large metal trash bins to collect recyclables. Gleason’s community has donated manpower to construct the recycling centers and provide transportation for the construction materials.
In order to receive funding through the program, a community must make a 25 percent contribution to the total project cost and outline success indicators for the individual projects. This helps ensure community ownership and a greater chance of long-term sustainability. One hundred percent of each tax-deductible donation goes toward a development project.
More than 2,030 Peace Corps volunteers have served in Panama since the program was established in 1963. Currently, 223 volunteers serve in Panama. Volunteers work in the areas of community development, English education, environment, health and agriculture. Volunteers are trained and work in the following languages: Embera, Ngabe, Spanish, Wounaan and Naso.
- By Kelly McCormack, spokesperson for the Peace Corps