Environment

Fort George REAPS it!

BY SASHA ROWE
Environment writer
editorial@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

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In its first year of participating, Fort George Primary and Infant School has won the 2016-2017 iteration of LASCO Releaf Environmental Awareness Programme (REAP).

The St Ann-based school also copped the award for most trees planted in the competition year — 1,795 — and amassed a total of 137 points.

For its troubles, Fort George was awarded 10 computers and two round-trip tickets to the United States or Canada for the teachers, as well as $100,000 for its tree planting which it undertook on the compound as well as in neighbouring communities.

LASCO REAP is geared towards the development of environmentally conscious students through a year-long competition in which they are required to carry out physical conservation projects like planting trees, starting school gardens, and collecting and recycling plastic bottles. Students are also required to showcase their artistic talent with a focus on environmental conservation.

This year, the competition saw 124 schools participating, up from 50 when it started back in 2012. Founder and project director of LASCO REAP Stephen Newland believes the growth is synonymous with the increase in awareness around the issue of saving and preserving the environment and has plans to expand the programme.

“The REAP programme has focused on prep and primary students over the last five years. We intend to extend the reach of the programme by including churches and high schools in the coming years because the impact of human waste on the planet is so far-reaching,” said Newland.

Over the course of this year's competition, the theme of which was “Together We Grow”, a total of 3,704 trees were planted, making the five-year total 15,365. Also this year, a total of 713,313 bottles — the equivalent to 21,615 lbs or 10.8 metric tonnes — were collected. To date, more than two million plastic bottles have been collected and recycled through the initiative.

“This is indeed a phenomenal achievement,” founder and executive chairman of LASCO Lascelles Chin said.

“You all saw vivid scenes on the news recently of the devastation caused by the tonnes of plastic bottles in the floodwaters that descended on communities. That is a stark reminder of what neglect and a careless attitude to saving our land can result in; our land is at a perilous risk,” Chin added.

LASCO has invested over $40 million in the REAP project over the past five years. This includes providing 70 computers to schools and $1.2 million in cash and prizes. LASCO also provides start-up financial support for an entrepreneurial component of REAP, which sees schools operating income-generating projects utilising sound environmental practices.

The LASCO chairman also encouraged the students, while highlighting that they are the ambassadors for Mother Earth and that they must take the message of REAP back to their communities, youth and church groups, as we must all save Jamaica from environmental degradation.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness who was the event's guest speaker, congratulated LASCO for its contribution to keeping the environment clean.

“LASCO, you're in everything; clearly you are a social entrepreneur and for you to put your weight and resources behind such a programme is a sign of good corporate citizenship. But more than that, you believe in Jamaica and you're a good Jamaican,” he said.

Other winners in LASCO REAP 2016-2017 were Bath Primary and Junior High, second, and New Forest Primary, third place.

New Forest, which sold $400,000 in crops and then purchased solar panels for the school library, took the award for Best Garden. The most bottles collected for the programme's duration came from Catherine Hall Primary — 153,915 — the single largest haul over the five years of the programme.

Bath Primary and Junior High won for Best Essay; last year's overall winner Howard Cooke Primary for Best Poem; St Jago Cathedral Preparatory for Best Song/Dub; and Discovery Bay All-Age for Best Visual Art/ Fashion from Garbage.

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