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St James group looks for environmental solutions

Thursday, July 19, 2012
Cleaning up the Mess

This week the executive of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Small Grants Programme (SGP) presents the first part of an exclusive series for Cleaning Up The Mess on the hopeful theme of how they help civil-society groups, ordinary people who care about our environmental issues, to make a difference.


St James, Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural Mecca, once dubbed the city that never sleeps, is home to a longer stretch of bars and pubs per metre than any other urban area in the country. It’s also home to a dedicated group of people who are concerned about their community and are doing something to make a difference.


Enter Glenda Gonzales, the 36-year-old, dedicated mother of six who has called St James her home for 12 years, after moving there from Las Cuevas. Her day starts at 5.30 am. By 7.30 her children are fed, lunches packed and everyone is off to school. She professes her life revolves around her children and the community group she has been a member of for the past six years— the St James Empowerment Foundation.


Speaking with passion and sheer conviction, Gonzales stabs the desk repeatedly with her index finger as she describes why community work matters to her. “We live in a paradise here. We still have clean springs and green trees, all is not lost. So in order to do my part to make this country better for me and my children’s children, I work with the foundation to empower residents and raise their consciousness about how the choices they make impact the environment.”


Case in point has been her involvement in the foundation’s latest project. Frustrated by accumulated and improperly-disposed-of-waste washing into waterways and causing numerous public-health issues, the St James Empowerment Foundation has taken on the city’s solid-waste management system.


More than just a clean-up campaign, their idea involves engaging, educating and securing the buy-in of the community and partnering with regional corporations, the Board of Engineering and the Association of Professional Engineers. Community groups like the St James Empowerment Foundation, led by everyday citizens concerned enough about their community’s fragile ecosystem to do something about it, can be found throughout Trinidad and Tobago.


They represent a growing movement of conservation and sustainability advocates finding solutions to issues affecting the environmental, social, and economic space in which they live. This labour of love is not without its challenges. While many community-based organisations (CBOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have ideas they believe can address environmental challenges confronting their community, resource limitations and the inability to transform these ideas into viable projects  make it difficult for some groups to get their ideas off the ground.


Fortunately civil-society organisations are getting the help they need to address these issues from the Trinidad and Tobago Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). This article appears courtesy the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grant Programme (SGP) public education series.


The GEF/SGP provides grants of up to US$50,000 to civil-society groups for projects in biodiversity, climate change, international waters, persistent organic pollutants and land degradation. For further information on applying for GEF/SGP grants please visit: SGP/or If your company or professional association is interested in partnering with the UNDP to mentor or coach grantees of the GEF/SGP, please call 623-7056 Ext. 252


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