Filipino student wins world environment awardBy Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
LEVERKUSEN, Germany — For promoting environmental education among children with special needs, a Filipino student won the Bayer Young Environmental Leader Award Thursday night here (early Friday in Manila) along with three other young environmentalists from around the world.
Mary Jade Gabanes, 19, a Special Education major at the West Visayas State University won the top prize with delegates from Kenya, Indonesia and Ecuador.
Winners will receive project support from the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and global company Bayer, which have been jointly implementing the youth program since 1998.
Gabanes hopes to inspire others to take better care of the environment by showing that special needs children could do the same despite their limitations.
“If you see special needs children doing something for the environment, wouldn’t we take a second [look] at ourselves and ask what we can do?” said Gabanes in an interview moments after her win here.
A panel of judges composed of representatives from UNEP and Bayer picked the winning projects out of 18 top country winners from across Asia, South America and Africa.
Gabanes’ project engages special children aged 12 to 22 in environment-themed sessions, from arts and crafts, using recycled materials to performing environmental songs, at a locally supported special education center in her native Iloilo City.
The articulate and animated Gabanes impressed judges at final presentations on Wednesday, responding to questions about her project without pause.
When one judge asked how she coped with the known challenges of teaching special children, Gabanes said: “I’ve never had a problem. I’ve always had a soft spot for special needs children.”
Bayer flew in winning environmental envoys from around the world for an exposure trip around Germany, engaging them in discussions on trends in environment protection, experiments in Bayer laboratories and site visits around Cologne and Leverkusen.
Aside from Gabanes, three other Philippine envoys were invited to the field trip: Reymart Canuel of the University of Baguio who designed a website called “GreEnitiative” which aims to raise awareness on forest conservation;
Cris Viray of the St. Paul University of Quezon City who organizes youth environmental camps and training programs in his native Rizal; and Alfie Desamparado of the West Visayas State University who wrote and performed 10 original environmental songs in bus and boat terminals in Guimaras and Iloilo.
Delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Thailand, Venezuela and Vietnam participated in the youth conference.
Some 550 students from around the world have been invited to visit Germany since the program started 13 years ago.