Briana Liu, 2015, Woodrow Wilson School

In South Africa, my primary role was to assist the Environmental Learning Research Centre (ELRC) at Rhodes University with its environmental education and community development programs. I worked with the local youth’s cleaning and greening initiative to install composters and sustainable gardening in the Ward 7 township, a poor district that relies heavily on government funds. I interviewed these youths and wrote a newspaper article to publicize their venture. Another program I took part in was an earth systems education workshop, where I met youth from all over South Africa, discussed the different paths for development, and observed the unique way in which the diverse environmental topics could be taught under a “Habitable Planet” hierarchy model. I also helped develop a box kit for teaching schoolchildren about water systems, using South Africa’s own landscape and Orange-Senqu watershed as a case study. These various experiences allowed me to see that in the face of government with limited funding and low priority given to the environment, grassroots organizations play a critical role in empowering citizens to understand how to live economically self-sufficient and ecologically sustainable lifestyles. I would love to educate people about the environment in my future career.