PouBèlAyiti and World Environment Day: A Conversation with Angie Bell
Art made from trash at World Environment Day, organized by PouBèl Ayiti and SOIL Advisory Board member Angie Bell.
SOIL recently had the opportunity to speak with the inspirational Angie Bell, founder of PouBèlAyiti and member of SOIL’s special advisory board. In our conversation, we learned about her Cap-Haitien initiative, World Environment Day, and her work promoting awareness about waste management, nurturing the environment, and teaching school children about the importance of keeping Haiti clean.
Every spring for the past seven years, PouBèlAyiti has been spearheading World Environment Day celebrations in Cap-Haïtien. “Our purpose is to collaborate with students from neighboring schools, artists and locals to encourage the community to keep trash off the streets,” Bell said. Students, community members and volunteers plan and participate in three days of environment-focused activities that include an Awareness Walk to promote a cleaner environment, a Conversation and Cocktails event that features a panel discussion about waste transformation and protecting the environment, a beach clean up day, and workshops to teach kids about waste transformation, turning trash into art and how to make jewelry from plastic.
This year SOIL participated in the event by setting up a booth where information was shared about SOIL’s sanitation service, along with workshop activities (led by SOIL’s Senior Manager, Romel Touissant) teaching about composting waste. SOIL also provided the public toilets for the event which, Bell said, “helped the kids make the connection between poop and compost–they were able to see all of the pieces come together and understand how it all works.”
Bell’s deep love for Haiti and for its people is what motivates her work. She founded PouBèlAyiti as an artistic movement focused on keeping the streets of Haiti trash free and promoting a “clean” lifestyle. She believes that it’s important that everyone does their part. “You don’t wait for someone else to do it for you when it’s too late; if you see a problem you do your part while there’s still time.”
Geared to children across the island, the project is also used as an educational tool to bring more awareness and action towards climate changes. “Most people in Haiti don’t think about climate change because they don’t know about it,” Bell said. “There’s a lack of awareness about the environment and climate change in general–it’s not taught in schools and so if you’re not on social media or reading the news you really don’t know.”
The purpose and hope of PouBèlAyiti’s ambassador program is to spread the word about the importance of keeping the streets and countryside of Haiti clean, “we need to teach the kids about how to do the clean up and the trash cans and then hope that they will go back home and teach their friends and families and neighbors.”
“Eventually what we want to work on is to create an opportunity for kids to recycle enough that they can use the money from recycling plastic to pay their own school tuition. The schools produce so much plastic waste, everything they use is plastic and now they just throw it all out into the street. What we want to do is create value out of the plastic that can help with educational costs.” The PouBèlAyiti team is looking for partners to help dispose of the plastic and sell it to a recycling company to create the value.
Bell believes that educating people about the importance of keeping a clean environment is a fundamental foundation for a healthy society. “The young people need to understand that nobody is going to come and save you; we have to do it ourselves.”
Several of the World Environment Day activities, like making trash cans out of oil drums and planters out of old tires, encourage the kids to take notice of their local environment and provide actions for them that they can replicate. Often in Haiti, trash is thrown into the streets, but once the kids have painted, decorated and used trash cans at their schools, they know what it’s like to have the trash cleaned up.
“I love Haiti and I have to do anything that I can to make it an environment that is clean and healthy,” she says. “I will keep working to make the changes.”
We are so proud to partner with PouBèlAyiti and with Bell. As an important community leader and advisory board member, we are excited to continue our work together to raise awareness and provide resilient solutions to protect Haiti’s valuable environment
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