Pez Maya Attempts to Tackle the Colossal Waste Problem

Last night Pez Maya (a remote Mexican conservation area where I am currently working) was educated on waste and the substantial affect it has on the ocean – a situation which is seemingly hopeless and needs immediate attention.

The facts that were presented before us were disheartening especially when informed about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; the world’s largest ‘landfill’ which is estimated to be two times the size of Texas (LA Times, 2006). The vortex was founded in 1997 by Captain Charles Moore and resembles a plastic sea-soup.

Volunteers at Pez Maya witness the issue directly every Friday on a weekly beach clean, where they endeavor to clean 200m of the Sian Ka’an reserve. Last week a team of 8 collectively picked up 26 kg of waste, which accumulated to 723 bottle caps, 283 pieces of plastic cutlery, 142 straws, 28 toothbrushes, 23 pens, 8 syringes and so on.

Although it’s devastating to see such a naturally beautiful area polluted by our unsustainable lifestyles, I personally was confronted by the issue when cleaning out turtle nests on Yu Yum. Tracing turtle tracks under plastic bags, finding nests next to used forks and watching babies crawl towards the sea surrounded by bottle caps almost made the experience less magical. We were there to help but it seemed ironic that, collectively, we are the problem.

It was difficult for our small Pez Maya community to believe that we could make a difference to this astronomical problem, however by making the following changes to our daily routines we learnt that we could make a difference:

1. Drink out of glasses not plastic bottles
2. Use stainless steel water bottles not plastic bottles
3. Refuse plastic bags and carry reusable bags
4. Look at what you’re buying and chose stuff with less packaging
5. Do not use glad wrap and avoid Tupperware – try and save glass jars and use these instead.

Teaching and Learning in Punta Allen

I have been teaching on and off now, for a couple of years, I am accustomed to an array of western classrooms, however I had never taught English as a second language up until the other day.

I arrived at Pez Maya, fresh from teaching at a traditional American summer camp, I had the sole ambition to dive, conduct research and detox from children. However, a few days in I was asked to visit Punta Allen; a remote fishing village located down a dusty road ridden with pot-holes, and lend a hand to Pez Maya’s community project which focuses on teaching English to school children. To my surprise I jumped at the opportunity, I was happy to give up a day diving too immerse myself in an unfamiliar culture, get a negligible perspective on the Mexican school system and once again interact with children.

Headed by Rachel, a dedicated Pez Maya staff member who is adored by all the students; the project runs once a week and helps those from the ages of 3–14 learn basic English – a skill which has become more vital in recent years since Punta Allen’s slight tourist influx. Different to western schools, the classes are small with a variety of ages and abilities. With only one Kindergarten, Primary and Secondary school in the village, it was a shock to see the large size of the kindergarten compared to that of the secondary school. Having only ever read about high school drop out rates in areas such as Punta Allen, being confronted with the reality made me appreciate the positive affect projects such as these have on local communities.

The morning consisted of classroom activities at each school, which included games, songs and flash cards. After our lunch break at a small local café, we made our way to the ‘kiosk’ – a central area of the village which resembled a band stand; here children voluntarily partook in a craft workshop (or football), where cards and pictures were made out of recycled material.

Typically British, I speak no other language except for my own, although this had its draw backs I found all the children to be friendly and eager to participate, a rarity that I feel would be hard to come by back home. All in all I had a great day; I gained an insight into how GVI’s projects positively make a difference whilst feeling a sense of self accomplishment.