This series is about youth who strive to develop this generation into one of compassion. They are responding to the brokenness in the world by taking action with Compassion Canada. We hope these stories inspire and encourage you.

Words by Alyssa Esparaz

Passionate youth are leaders in environmental care in their hometowns—and we are inspired!

Caring for creation is one of the first commands God gives to humans (Genesis 1:28). Around the world, youth in Compassion’s programs take that command very seriously. Beyond being a beautiful form of worshipping our Creator God, caring for creation is especially important for people living in poverty. They are often the most affected by environmental degradation, since their agricultural livelihoods, water sources and shelter are particularly vulnerable to it.

Here are two stories of youth around the world who are taking intentional steps to steward the environmental resources God has placed in their care. We hope they inspire you to grab some friends and take action wherever you live!

Resisting pollution in Bolivia

Photo by Galia Oropeza

Cochabamba, Bolivia is known by locals as the “Garden City.” Ironically, it is also considered one of the most polluted cities in Bolivia. 

It is also home to Lilian, Noe, Karen, and their peers—a dynamic group of teenagers who won’t stand for the pollution of their city. It’s a passion that first bloomed in their Compassion centre classrooms.

“We were taught that God created everything beautiful, but we are destroying it. God gave us the authority to take care of what He created, so we have to do that,” says 17-year-old Lilian.

“God teaches us to take care of what He has given us,” adds 19-year-old Noe. “We have to be good stewards.”

That’s why these teens—119 in total—took part in an initiative to clean their community and raise awareness about pollution. Splitting into four groups—each in charge of picking up a different kind of waste—they cleaned along the borders of a main road in their city. They also put up signs and talked to their neighbours about the importance of properly recycling or disposing of waste. 

Photo by Galia Oropeza

Karen, another member of the group, says that raising awareness is an important step in changing attitudes and habits. “When we [pollute], we don’t think it’s affecting us, but we are destroying our planet and contaminating our environment, [and] that is destroying us, too.”

In total, the teens collected 50 bags of waste. They inspired many of their neighbours and are confident that they will make this initiative a regular practice.

Protecting the forest in Thailand

Photo by Piyamary Shinoda

Protecting Thailand’s forests is the top priority of the country’s Royal Forest Department. Unfortunately, local villagers who live near National Parks are often seen as a threat to this cause by park rangers. For many locals, burning, hunting, and cutting down trees in the forest is their source of livelihood.

The situation has unfortunately led to mistrust between the villagers and rangers. The rangers “come and observe the villagers, and people are afraid they might take their homes,” says Ekkachai, the director at TH0811, a Compassion centre near Mae Moei National Park.

Building trust and rapport between the locals and rangers has become an important project, and the youth at TH0811 have taken the lead in their community.

As part of the programming at their Compassion centre, Compassion-sponsored teens participate in training camps with the park rangers twice a year. They learn about forestry conservation and gain practical skills, such as how to create firebreaks in the dry season and dams in the rainy season. They also learn how to observe and take notes on the health of the ecosystem. Then, once a month, they venture into the forest to put all that they’ve learned into practice!

“When we come to the forest to make a record in our notebooks, it’s my favourite,” says Naphat, one of the program’s participants.

Ekkachai has observed tangible signs of increasing trust. “Since we started the program, [the rangers] don’t come to bother [the villagers] anymore.”

For the youth, the program is instilling in them hope of a bright future—one in which they will continue to live with a thriving forest for generations to come.

Field reporting by Galia Oropeza (Bolivia) and Piyamary Shinoda (Thailand)