A bleak hillside in the La Molina neighborhood of Lima, Peru, turned from brown to green when almost one-hundred IBM employees and managers teamed with a local school and a non-governmental organization (NGO) and planted more than one hundred and fifty trees while also teaching about sustainability and the environment.
On June 15, 2011, the IBM centennial day of service, Brenda Cavero, an IBM sales management support professional, helped lead a large team of IBM volunteers and their families, to work side-by-side with young people from Buena Esperanza School, putting into practice the lessons they had learned about conservation and the protection of natural resources.
“When Deborah Avilez, our corporate citizenship manager, came up with the idea to focus an activity on the environment, and she asked me to help, it was easy to say ‘Yes, of course, I would love to do this.’” recalls Brenda. “There are a lot of people who do not have access to good resources and this project with Mukmu was the start of something that can spread across the country.” Brenda was previously part of a team in Peru recognized by IBM for excellence on a different volunteer project—working with the NGO Minkando to help children in adverse conditions.
Mukmu, which means “sprout” in the Quechua language, is an NGO in Peru that seeks to raise awareness about respect for the environment.
It’s not easy being green, but it’s worth the effort
Proper trash disposal or recycling principles may be challenging to adopt when a family struggles simply to have a roof over its head. Therefore, as Brenda says, “It’s important to begin with educating young children. We want them to grow up with a culture of taking care of the environment.” She adds, “Some of the conditions in our poorest neighborhoods could be improved through better environmental awareness. The plan is to replicate [the project] approach across several neighborhoods.”
Their pilot effort took place in a section of La Molina with fewer resources than other parts of the area, but with an eye towards taking the project to districts with much lower economic conditions.
About two months before the tree planting, volunteers from IBM and Mukmu trained approximately 50 students and teachers from the Buena Esperanza School on responsible consumption, energy saving and solid waste management. The team also tapped two established activities from IBM’s library of volunteer resources—“Help Kids Go Green” and “Teach Kids Freshwater Protection.”
Brenda believes the upfront training was the most important work because “you are involved in creating positive influence on a kid’s perception. It’s easier for someone to embrace something when they understand why it’s important.”
The classroom component involved several volunteers, but the outdoor phase—the planting—would take a lot more including help from friends, team leaders such as Carolina Rodriguez and Renato del Castillo, coworkers and their families. Brenda played a role coordinating the entire day’s schedule, including filming the event to document all the work.
Finally to make the learning tangible, everyone gathered on that hillside in La Molina, including IBM’s general manager in Peru, Jaime Garcia, to create a green space where none existed before. The intention is that the students of Buena Esperanza School will indeed see good hope in what they have created and will maintain the area with pride.
“It was an amazing day,” Brenda says.
Trying to have hope take root
Brenda and the IBM Peru team were awarded an IBM Catalyst Grant for their project with Mukmu, and they will now extend the approach into a more disadvantaged area. Villa El Salvador, on the outskirts of Lima, developed more than 20 years ago as a slum. Today it has become an emerging district, despite lacking some basic services. It is in this neighborhood that Brenda and the team will look to bring their message of sustainability.
The Peru team is taking the time to assess how they will replicate the La Molina approach in Villa El Salvador. “We need to see everything,” says Brenda. “What the people say they need and want, who is in the community, what we might teach them, what we could plant, what schools to consider. We need to create our roadmap.”
While Brenda acknowledges that going to Villa El Salvador will be challenging, she believes that her IBM teammates are very willing to help. “Everybody is so motivated with these kinds of activities. Plus we have to do more because Lima needs a lot of green areas.”
“If we all get involved, something small can become big. One child plants one seed and it could become a forest for generations to enjoy,” she says. “I feel it is very important to help, to contribute something for the world to be better.”
IBM is marking its centennial year with a worldwide celebration of volunteer service. Throughout 2011, IBM invites everyone to join our global community of employees, retirees, families and friends as we support the communities where we work, live and learn together.