Portugal’s beautiful beaches are at risk of becoming riddled with garbage and waste.
That’s one of several observations and discoveries made by two Scarborough teens on their international environmental reporting mission to Cascais, Portugal.
Jane Hu attends Mary Ward Catholic Secondary School in Scarborough and Camila Lau is a student at St. Joseph’s Morrow Park Catholic Secondary School in North York. The girls, both 14, arrived at the Portuguese coastal city on Oct. 29 after winning the all-expense paid trip by achieving first place in the Young Reporters for the Environment Canada (YRE Canada) national competition in April 2013.
They won in the video category for ages 11 to 14 with a creative animation about the dangers of litter and waste.
Jane and Camila were joined by students from eight other countries: Germany, Kazakhstan, Slovakia, Macedonia, Latvia, Turkey, Italy and Israel.
Once in Cascais, the students were divided into groups and went on reporting missions to learn about litter and waste issues in the community.
“We picked up garbage at the beach and learned a lot about the simple things we can do to make people more aware of garbage and litter,” Camila said after her return home earlier this month.
“Some ideas were to put posters up near beaches and place garbage cans where people eat.”
When asked about their commitment to environmental awareness, the girls said litter is a problem everyone their age will have to confront in the future.
“When we hear about environmental issues now, we know that they will affect us when we’re older,” Jane said. “We should be taking care of the Earth now so we can prevent more problems from happening in the future.”
YRE Canada, a national environmental education program for youth aged 11 to 18, is co-ordinated by Environmental Defence, a national environmental action organization. Its communications manager, Jennifer Mayville, joined the mission to Portugal to supervise the Canadian students.
“Through the program we encourage and invite youth to find solutions to local environmental issues by going out and investing solutions and expressing them through writing, photography and video,” Mayville said.
Environmental groups from the nine participating countries are members of a Copenhagen-based organization, Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE), which organized the trip for the winning students.
When they were elementary students at St. Henry Catholic School in Scarborough, Jane and Camila submitted their video to the YRE Canada national competition. In addition to winning the trip to Portugal they received a video camera and $500 each.
Jane and Camila’s video also went on to win FEE’s international litterless competition.
“If you win first place nationally, you’re placed into the international competition,” Mayville said. “They (the girls) have done quite well.”
The girls now will present their findings to students at St. Henry Catholic School, and they will also complete another video as a report for Environmental Defence in December.