By: Melina Costantino (Original in Spanish)
In the Assumption we have always had ingrained in our essence the defence of life in all its manifestations, so much so that I keep in my memories as a student during my time in the classrooms of the school, the work of the teachers and religious who were instruments in developing in us a solid criterion for opting for life, the protection of the weakest, putting us in contact with them, with the humble. Only in this way, by presenting reality to us from the tangible, were we able to be convinced that the values of the Gospel are our mark, which characterizes an Assumptionist anywhere on the planet, making of us a passionate people who are convinced that solidarity, justice, peace and care for creation are the path and, in turn, the means to contribute to the building of the Kingdom.Years later, just as the birds disperse the seeds to reforest the forests, I returned to the Assumption with another role, now as a teacher, where I have the opportunity to orient my mission in our being guardians of creation from the area where I work, involving the entire educational community in the environmental projects that we have implemented in the institution, because education is the perfect means to awaken in children and young people respect, sensitivity, love, responsibility to care for and protect everything that has life, and to assume the commitment that we have as humanity to be agents of change to counteract environmental problems through concrete actions. What could we do then? Where to start? Years ago we had already participated with the students in the last years of school, in the cleaning of the mangrove, but that could be but very little, a casual activity. They say that God's times are perfect, and it is very true. In September 2011 an invitation arrived to participate in a reforestation program with native species, organized between the El Universo Newspaper Foundation and the Sambito Company. They donated the trees and the Assumption committed herself to provide them with a place where they could be planted in the institution and to take care of them. We decided to sign up and it was on September 7 of that year that the educational unit has not ceased to promote the care of nature, to motivate each member of the Assumptionist community through environmental projects, to be guardians of creation because ecology is one of the pillars inherited from our Mother Foundress, Saint Marie Eugenie of Jesus. The first sowing in 2011 was in charge of the boys and girls of the First Year of General Basic Education, at that time called Preparatory School. at the age of five they became the protagonists of our own history that from "home" we are taking care of our "common home".The following year, the pre-kindergarten level was started in the institution, where three-year-old boys and girls are given the opportunity to continue with the reforestation project with native species, and so each year the group of the youngest children are in charge of planting and watering the seedlings throughout the year, a mission shared with the higher levels according to the schedule that their teachers organize at the beginning of the school year. But why do we only plant native trees? Because it was necessary to recover the vegetation cover in some sectors of the school, knowing that it is located on a hill that decades ago was part of the tropical dry forest of the region, an ecosystem with very important plant and animal species for the planet that today is less than 1% of the world. Therein lies the relevance of the project. We are contributing to save an ecosystem from extinction and give back to the birds a space of refuge and food. Among the species of trees planted we have: Guayacán de la Costa, Guasmo, Guachapelí, Pechiche, Pomarrosa, Pigio, Anona de Monte, Chirimoya (custard apple), Fernán Sánchez, Colorado, Cascol and some others. "The Earth is a place of glory for God" (St. Marie Eugenie).We felt that the mission was not over, that we could still contribute to the well-being of our common home, and through that continue to strengthen the values in our students. I must insist that nothing is casual and for God everything happens at the right time. In the city of Guayaquil in 2012, a style of recycling had been implemented, I say style, because there were solid waste sorting containers in many places, but really there was no conscious awareness of it. It was not a habit incorporated in the citizen, recycling was not part of their lifestyle.Based on this local reality, we decided to incorporate the recycling project in the institution to train young people capable of giving the planet a break by minimizing the waste generation and extending its useful life and in turn, contributing to reduce the extraction of natural resources. I am amazed as I write these lines, but it is true, that that is what recycling does and the Assumptionists in Guayaquil are a generation that no longer recycle because it was once a fashion but because they are people who are convinced that recycling is part of the solution to environmental problems. We began by emphasizing the collection of used sheets of paper and other waste materials from the classes such as paper towels and cardboards. At the beginning of the school year, the high school students are in charge of decorating the cardboard boxes that will be used throughout the school and college in which to place the paper. Each classroom has a box so that the students can internalize the habit of recycling as a natural action in their lives. The project has a logo that was created by a group of students. It has been the symbol that invites students and teachers, administrative and maintenance staff, to classify and place the paper in its proper place. Later on, the collection of plastic bottles was incorporated. In different places in the courtyards there are some metallic containers in the shape of bottles destined to the recycling of plastic bottles. The students are responsible for collecting the recyclable material and taking it to the copy centre, then it is sold to the recycling company. These funds are used for the maintenance of the environmental projects. .
Although we recycle every day, in August it is done with greater emphasis because among the activities of the Gymkhana, which is one of the ways to celebrate the month of the Assumption, each course of the school has to collect a large amount of newspaper, cardboard and plastic bottles, and in this way we are taking better care of our common home.
In 2014, we observed that in the city there were few places where used batteries could be collected to receive the environmental treatment they require and to avoid their being thrown away in the garbage or worse, thrown on the ground or in the bodies of water of the branches of the Estero Salado or in the Guayas River. Due to this concern, the project called "Assumption batteries, better if you don’t throw them" was born. The name and logo were created by high school students. In each classroom of the school there is a bottle so that children, motivated by their teachers, can deposit the used batteries they bring from their homes. At the end of the school year, they are weighed and the classroom that has collected the most batteries is made known to the institute. What is collected is given to a company that has an environmental license for its final disposal.
The parents have also been involved in the projects. They collaborate from their homes in the collection of recyclable materials and do not throw away the used batteries. These actions are strengthening the habit of recycling in the Assumptionist family, making us all actors committed to the care of the planet. "I want to contribute my stone to the work of God" (Saint Marie Eugenie).
Our radius of action does not only stay in the school facilities. We have also organized clean-up campaigns from the Environmental Education field of the Student Participation Program and among the activities of the coexistence program. Students and teachers have visited ecosystems near the institution, such as the tropical dry forest and the mangrove swamp to collect the garbage that unfortunately deteriorates the environment. It is a way for young people to get in touch with reality by observing in what conditions the bad habit of not throwing garbage in its proper place can turn nature into a dirty, ugly and unpleasant place. We go prepared for the mission where we must face a hard reality, but in the end it leaves us with a feeling of joy and satisfaction that we have done something good for the planet that day. "When one lives willing to do God's will, everything becomes service and love" (St. Marie Eugenie).
Another very strong component of JPIC in the Assumptionist community is solidarity. I can mention many activities, all of them very important, the first one that comes to my mind is the construction of the 60 ‘Hogar de Cristo’ Homes the year after the earthquake in Manabí. Sister Gina Landaverea was one of the promoters and she put so much energy and faith into making this project of solidarity a reality in 2017, coinciding with the 60th anniversary of the establishment of the school of ‘La Asunción’ in the city of Guayaquil. The project that received the name of "Builders of a New Humanity" had the active participation of teachers, administrative and maintenance personnel, students, former students, parents and friends of the Assumption, who travelled on several occasions to collaborate with the mission. It was a wonderful experience where beautiful moments were shared, not only were wooden houses built but also bonds of friendship.
Actions of solidarity have also gone beyond the borders of Ecuador when natural disasters have affected Assumptionist communities in other countries. In situations like these, the Sisters, student councils and lay people organize campaigns to collect funds or food that have been destined for the places most in need.
The students go out to meet others in social solidarity projects, where they get to know the reality of the marginal sectors, whose living conditions are in great need. When they make contact with this different reality from the one they live in, they develop projects to try to improve the quality of life of these families, strengthening in the students, sensibility, empathy and solidarity.
Solidarity is also lived within the Assumptionist family when a colleague requires help, and the desire to support someone going through a difficult situation, be it family or health, is awakened in us. In short, the value of solidarity is so characteristic of the Assumption that it is always present and is activated with so much creativity that it facilitates the accomplishment of the goals that we set for ourselves.
This is what the Assumption is like in Guayaquil, an Educational Institution full of experiences in contact with others, with reality, with nature, carving the furrow of the earth with our eyes fixed on the extension of the Kingdom. We are instruments of the transformation of society from concrete actions because in the end "It is folly not to be what one is as fully as possible" (St. Marie Eugenie).
Acciones de solidaridad también han pasado las fronteras del Ecuador cuando los desastres naturales han afectado comunidades de la Asunción en otros países, en situaciones como estas tanto religiosas, consejo estudiantil y laicos organizan campañas de recolección de fondos o víveres que han sido destinados a los lugares más necesitados.
Los estudiantes salen al encuentro del otro en los proyectos social – solidario, donde conocen la realidad de los sectores marginales, cuyas condiciones de vida son de muchas necesidades. Al tomar contacto con esa realidad diferente a la que ellos viven desarrollan proyectos de emprendimiento para intentar mejorar la calidad de vida de esas familias afianzándose en el alumnado la sensibilidad, la empatía y la solidaridad.
La solidaridad también se vive al interior de la familia asuncionista cuando un compañero de trabajo requiere ayuda, se despierta el deseo de apoyarnos cuando alguien esta atravesando una situación difícil sea familiar o de salud. En definitiva, el valor de la solidaridad es tan propio de la Asunción que está presente siempre y se activa con tanta creatividad que facilita cumplir con las metas que nos proponemos.
Así es la Asunción en Guayaquil, una institución educativa llena de experiencias en contacto con el otro, con la realidad, con la naturaleza, labrando el surco de la tierra con la mirada fija en la extensión del Reino, somos instrumentos de transformación de la sociedad desde acciones concretas porque finalmente "Es una locura no ser lo que se es con la mayor plenitud posible” SMME.