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Strengthening Community Engagement in Sarteneja

In April, CAI collaborators from Blue Ventures, Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD), Wildtracks, the Sarteneja Community Library and Sarteneja Primary School took part in a skill building clinic and community art projects in Sarteneja, a traditional fishing village in the Corozal District on the northeastern coast of Belize.

Blue Ventures is a team of diving experts committed to collecting critical marine data and initiating community conservation projects.

Wildtracks is an all-volunteer organization providing rehabilitation for primates and manatees among their education, research and conservation programs. SACD is a community organization promoting the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources for present and future generations, and the co-manager of the Corozal Bay Wildlife Sanctuary (CBWS), in partnership with the Forestry Department.

13 staff members from all five organizations set out for a deep dive into developing leadership skills, strengthening communication, and fostering inclusive collaboration to strengthen conservation education and outreach efforts with the greater Sarteneja community.

The Problem Tree/Solution Tree activity open up a space for vibrant dialogue about topics like protecting mangroves and wildlife, the very real issues of waste disposal and pollution (Belize has no current recycling program) and mitigating the devastating impact of the invasive Lionfish.

Tyrell Reyes, Blue Ventures Science Coordinator, shares pollution conclusions with the Problem/Solution Tree.

Drawing upon the outcomes generated from the creative thinking activities of the skill building clinic, participants didn’t let the tropical heat stop them as they co-implemented a conservation themed mural and interactive educational hopscotch art project with the local community, including 50 youth members of the Sarteneja Fishers Association group at the Parque el Almedro. Co-collaboration between the five organizations in hosting future community events inspired by the Creative Conservation online curriculum is underway. Ideas for possible projects include a giant illustrated story book featuring mangrove wildlife and their messages for humans (Based on the Council of All Beings activity) to educate and share with primary schools and the library, illustrated wildlife species protection flashcard games and puzzles for local schools, and the use of theater, videos and comic books featuring the theme of the interconnectivity of human and natural systems.

CAI would like to thank our guest graffiti artist, Maria Rosa Szychowska, for sharing her skills in the mural Introducing the Villain Marine Lionfish, and to everyone who participated in the community events.

With a very special thanks to our partner, New England Biolabs Foundation for their support of this project.

These activities will greatly support me. This year, Wildtracks is looking to drastically increase outreach, but there has been a lack of fun and creative activities to engage the youth. This clinic brought the conservation community in Sarteneja together for much greater collaboration, and developed skills to more effectively implement creative activities for positive message reinforcement. - Emma Farlow, Outreach Program Manager, Wildtracks


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