How the Climate Compliance program shaped my life, career and future

Ayrtona-Senna The program laid the foundation for a career and life I envisioned for myself.

Apparently if you love what you do, you will never work a day in your life. Or maybe it is like this that if you love what you do enough, you’ll work every single moment of your life at it. I have been lucky enough to have known what I wanted in my life and its work to be and even luckier enough to have had the opportunity to pursue it. To have had the opportunity to be a part of The Climate Compliance program in the lovely Saint Vincent and the Grenadines was nothing short of extraordinary! A life changing experience. The climate compliance program laid the foundation for my career and life I envisioned for myself.

We’ve reached a point where we don't need to be told about what climate change is and how damaging it has been thus far and will continue to be! Or why it is important to act now. To act in every single possible way that we can as individuals and as a whole against it.

My name is Ayrtona-Senna known to many as Berry . I am an environmentalist and former participant of the Climate Compliance programme at Richmond Vale Academy in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be an Environmentalist. My first introduction to the topic of CC and where my interest to be involved was sparked was with my fourth grade natural science teacher Ms White. I don't remember a lot of the teachers I've had, but she is one I will never forget. With her bright red hair and hands moving around vigorously when she’d enthusiastically talk about nature and protecting it. It was too inspiring not to grasp onto or want to be involved with. Fast forward a few years later when I graduated high school on a gap year ready to be a part of the global fight against climate change.

This is when a dear friend of mine told me about Richmond Vale Academy and the 6 months Climate Compliance program in St Vincent and the Grenadines. Firstly I would be a part of a climate conscious program, where I would learn more about climate change (The What? How? Why?), sustainable living, engaging with the environment and learning more about how to lead a sustainable lifestyle (and at the time I did not know this was probably one of the best times of my life!) Secondly I got to live and explore the beauty that is St Vincent and the Grenadines. Nothing prepared me for what I was to learn and experience throughout those 6 months.

Each individual has a different experience of any one same thing. My experience in the Climate Compliance program was no different but no same to that of any of my teammates. Teammates that I am proud to call friends till now. From our shared experiences, the knowledge we had exchanged and picked up from the program, locals and the island(s). Finding like-minded people who were just as passionate about the environment and wanting to protect it had to have been one of the best parts of the program for me.

My team became my family along with everyone else at school. We lived together, farmed together, built together, learned together. The feeling of community and family was never lost. The simple act of working in the organic gardens every morning has led to life long bonds. The garden work was my favorite part of living at the school. Many of us don't know where our food comes from or how it is produced. That if we were to have simple sustainable food solutions such as organic garden farms in our backyards we would be one large step in the right direction of fighting climate change.

Having been a part of this at the school and taking back what was learnt out into the communities. Teaching locals that they can produce good, nutritious food that is not only healthy and beneficial to them, but a massive step in the right direction or climate change combating was equally a privilege. From the organized beach clean ups, school programs (education and awareness on climate change) and establishing plans, programs and systems within the school to continue further was more than I had bargained for when I left for St Vincent and The Grenadines.

The program for me was about community. The power of people coming together to learn and work together to achieve set goals and unexpected ones along the way. That the fight against climate change is not only individual work. Where you challenge or change your ideas, lifestyle and continuous work, but it is also teamwork. That knowledge is in fact a powerful weapon. The knowledge you achieve and share. Being a part of the climate compliance program has challenged me to learn more about myself and what role I can play in “saving’ the environment; that I wanted to continue to work within communities, eat organically and live sustainably. To know where the water I drink or use comes from, how to harvest water with the conditions that arise due to climate change.

How important conservation of our natural resources is. How important it is to minimize waste and plastic use, to grow one's own food. All information that stuck with me from simply living it and doing it practically. More of an impact than what I had learnt from my degree, but was able to combine and use more effectively because of the wonderful experience the Climate Compliance program had afforded me.

I’d strongly suggest it to anyone because not only is it an opportunity to learn and give back, but it is also an opportunity to change your life forever.

 Ayrtona (Berry) Senna Lewis, South African and Mozambican

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