Traveling With a Deeper Purpose

Gregorio Correa, Contributor

During the trip to La Guajira, Colombia the Columbus School was able to connect the social, the economic, and the environmental aspects we so badly we wanted to achieve. We have gone in the past and observed that our presence can create a cultural threat and  leave a high carbon footprint despite our good intentions. While we helped the communities in need from the northern parts of La Guajira, we also avoided using material with a long decomposition rate such as plastic and styrofoam. With the help of outside donors we gathered goods that helped us lower our impact on the environment, and allowed as to make the living conditions of those who live there higher. One example of this was providing plate and silverware sets for local communities to avoid using disposables that do not decompose. We also brought large bottles and refillable bottles to avoid purchasing small, plastic bottles for drinking water.  With these small actions we proved that you can travel in good conditions, and at the same time create a better environment. But we were also lucky because the constant contact of the western people as the Wayuu and other indigenous communities refer to outsiders, is causing a cultural crash and damaging their ancestral way of living. To show their gratitude for our help, the Kogi community of Palomino allowed us to participate in their activities, and gave as a blessing. With this we learned that, opposite from what school often teaches us about looking to the future and innovating, we need to learn from these communities and the way they live connected to  the environment. They are connected and thankful to the environment, because of that, they harm it the least possible, and if they can, they will always keep it clean and free of trash. We should not only learn but adapt their traditions to our everyday lives. With our trip we look forward to inspiring more schools to take charge of their environmental impact and consider how to protect and learn from threatened cultures.