Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Helping Central American Communities in Need of Clean Water

Lake Managua in Nicaragua is One of the Most Polluted in Central America
(photo by Ryan Ballantyne)

For 83 percent of the world’s under-developed countries, tourism has become one of the top export producers that have literally transformed the landscapes of former desolate areas into some of the most popular international travel destinations. For the countries within Central America, this change has come almost too quickly with some disastrous results. This can be seen especially in the countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua, and Panama. Although it appears that this influx of currency would highly benefit each country, many of the local communities still continue to exist as some of the poorest areas in the world.

Photo by Julien Harneis
Obviously, not everyone in the smaller communities benefit from this financial support and it is up to innovative travelers to rethink ways to make a long-lasting difference. Traveling should no longer be about just staying in a luxury resort with state-of-the-art spas and ocean views. It should be about exploring destinations while finding some way to create some type of change for social, health, and environmental issues. 

One of the most important ways to begin is by finding a way to bring clean and safe drinking water to people in need. The non-profit organization Travel2Change (www.travel2change.org) is holding an international "innovation contest" to identify and fund the most creative proposals for improving sustainable management of water in travel destinations. Each contestant with the best idea in each category will be awarded a trip to the country to realize the project. Although the proposals can include any country in the world, it would highly benefit any area in need in Central America. 

The proposal deadline is July 10, 2011, and the ideas can be submitted in any of the following four categories:

Health - Provide an innovative way to bring safe drinking water to under-developed areas. Many areas do not even have a reliable plumbing system or clean well-water supply. Perhaps your ideas can provide a change.

Environment - Plenty of areas within Central America include polluted water. Some of the lakes that were once pristine are almost beyond repair and many have stopped everything from recreational boating to commercial fishing. Submit your ideas to help provide a change since much of the water also sustains the surrounding communities.

Education - It is usually stated that education can make the difference between success and failure for any project. If ideas such as workshops about sustainable water could be taught to the communities, perhaps it could help facilitate a long-term change. Education can provide empowerment for not only individuals but large communities as well.

Sports - Water sports can be a great way to help self-esteem and provide team-building skills that can teach youths about respecting the water and all of its positive aspects.

The emphasis on each sustainable project should rethink travel based on the theme of water as a life source. For those who have stood on the shores of a polluted lake in Central America, you will truly understand how important this contest is for the region.







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