This weeks local hero is Victoria from Waste Awareness Action Week in the Ionian Islands, the Ionian Environment Foundation has helped support her incredible work. we interviewed her about her vision and mission below:
What is Waste Awareness Action Week (WAAW)?
The 5 day school programme is an educational course taught in schools across the Ionian Islands. It seeks to encourage a community-based approach designed to promote cross-generational awareness, understanding and most importantly action towards the critical issues associated with excessive waste disposal in the Ionian islands. It is unique, and arguably educationally radical for Greece, in that the programme is based around a Field Trip to the islands’ landfill site where the pupils witness first-hand the devastating impacts of excessive waste disposal and the worryingly low level of local management. This ‘Awe and Wonder’ approach at the landfill is hugely impactful on pupils and arguably serves to motivate them in their desire to take immediate action. Starting in the schools is critical because only then will the islands’ populations mature into a people who turn sustainable waste management into an everyday habitual practice as well as entering into local politics as adults with the environmental understanding and knowledge that is currently so utterly absent.
How has the IEF supported you?
The involvement of the IEF in seeing the programme mobilised has been critical. Thanks to the guidance and support of the IEF together with their contacts and leverage within the Greek ministry of education, I have been able to get the programme officially integrated into the Greek Curriculum. Additionally, following school closures, the IEF supported me, and created a partnership together with ELLET, to create online WAAW teacher training seminars which successfully led to the training of over 30 teachers across the primary schools of the Ionian Islands.
What inspired you to do the work you do?
I have been a Senior School Geography Teacher and Head of Geography at Norwich School in the UK for the last 10 years. I have a home and family on the island of Paxos and have sadly witnessed a proliferation in environmental issues linked to a surge in tourism over 35 years. I care deeply about sustainable development on the islands of the Ionian. I took a sabbatical year to explore these areas of concern in Greece and to find ways to promote action for change at a local level, starting with the integration of environmental education for children. We can no longer wait for the local government to make the best environmental choices for these islands. They have let the children down and set poor examples. Through the WAAW programme, I want to empower the children to become the motivators and leaders in sharing knowledge, understanding and good practice within their community: at school, home and over time in their work place and local municipalities.
What do you envisage for the future of the programme?
I would greatly appreciate the ongoing support of the IEF to consolidate, support, assess and monitor the success of the programme as it is increasingly being implemented in schools across the Ionian Islands. Through social media forums I would like to encourage the schools to work collaboratively by sharing and showcasing their experiences and successes on implementing WAAW action in their schools and in their local communities. I really hope to see the WAAW seminars continuing to evolve and expand over the next year across more Greek Islands…and possibly beyond!
Thank you so much to Victoria for sharing more about WAAW and for all the work she is doing to ensure a sustainable future for the islands. Thank you also to our partner Naturisimo, who has helped us create this series and give our ‘Local Heroes’ the recognition they deserve!