This article was written by Bryana Martinez-Pillipow – Environmental Sustainability Project Intern, 2023.
I am Bryana Martinez-Pillipow a recent graduate at the University of Concordia in Montreal, Canada. I majored and specialized in the human environment program. I have been blessed with the opportunity in the summer of 2023 to intern for CEED Concordia, a non-profit organization in Montreal and Gulu that aims to develop, educate, and empower communities. From mid-May to the end of August, I spent my time working on the Environmental Sustainability Project (ESP) where my team and I conducted various workshops on plastic recycling, composting, and tree planting in secondary, primary, and nursery schools. We partnered with TakaTaka Plastics to conduct Plasti Skul and educate these students on plastic waste management and how TakaTaka recycles plastics.
My internship started with a swarm of introductions to people, culture, food, and information. At CEED, we had an orientation week that was flooded with all kinds of important information and new beginnings. I was able to explore Gulu and all of its amazing people and places. I quickly realized how local and important the community was to Gulu residents. Everyone is willing to help in whatever way they can. This is one of the reasons why we wanted to work with secondary, primary, and nursery schools so that the message and information given can be shared with their friends and family to help make the environment better.
Together with TakaTaka Plastics, I attended a week’s training at the facility to learn how the operation works. The first day included traveling by foot around Gulu to collect bottles from the various bins scattered around town. It was a warming experience as people greeted us and even handed us bottles they collected as we walked along our routes to collect. After that, we got to sit and sort the bottles where we removed caps and labels. This was the moment when I realized how bonded the employees of TakaTaka were. The laughs, smiles, and music made it such a joyful environment to be in. For the rest of the week, we learned the crushing and melting/molding of the plastics which was super fun bringing a new life to these discarded plastics.
Plasti Skul was conducted in over eight schools, four secondary, two primary, and two nursery schools. On Sunday we came up with a PowerPoint curriculum to sensitize the students on plastic waste and why proper recycling is important as well as how plastics are a big issue not only in Gulu but around the world. Conducting Plasti Skul was very gratifying as hundreds of students were or became really passionate about plastic recycling and at each school there was an increase in plastic collections so their collection bins were overflowing. Overall we ended up educating over 2,000 students in Plasti Skul.
Over the course of the summer of 2023, this internship wasn’t just about environmental practices; it was a holistic experience that encompassed culture, community, and cooperation. My orientation week acquainted me with the soul of Gulu, highlighting the integral role of its residents in shaping its identity. The willingness to collaborate, help, and learn from one another left an indelible impression on me. As I reflect on this transformative journey, I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of making a positive impact on communities, both in Montreal and Gulu. The lessons learned, the friendships forged, and the shared commitment to a greener, more sustainable world have equipped me with an enduring sense of purpose. I look forward to carrying these experiences forward as I continue my journey toward contributing to a brighter future for our planet and its people.