Recycling is a word we hear often in our daily lives in the USA and nothing feels better than throwing that plastic bottle into the green bin instead of the trash can. Now in Peru this is a relatively new idea and big cities are still having so many issues with trash collection that recycling is not even on the agenda yet. For this reason many volunteers try and do projects to promote taking care of the environment and recycling. From making recycled paper to having contests between classrooms to see who can recycle the most in a semester, many of my peers are igniting a passion for recycling in their communities! (Like Megan pictured below with one of her elementary classes who started recycling and turned a cement slab into a veggie garden.) One of the best days of my service so far happened on accident. I was in the bigger city 2 hours from my community, where I get mail and we have meetings, and I came across a recycling fair put on by the local high school students. Sierra communities in Peru are so secluded due to location that life is about 30 years behind the coastal cities that are exposed to more Westernized thinking through media etc. so to see an event of this size focused on creative recycling was amazing! As we walked around, all of the students proudly showcased their creations and explained the materials and the possible uses. There were tons of DIY decorations and ideas… It was like a live Peruvian Pinterest board! The very first project that caught my eye was a beautiful dress made of newspapers! After that a life size swan also made of recycled paper. There was even furniture made from bottles. Now I was very skeptical that a plastic bottle couch could hold my weight… but lo and behold it held the weight of me and three Peruvian kids! That’s some fine craftsmanship. Then came the recycled arcade. Talk about creativity! There was a fully functioning foosball table made completely from recycled materials and a checkers board game station complete with table and stools. Seeing the kids actively using their creations was so fun. During the event I had commented on how cute and creative some of the student’s projects were and at the end of the fair the most touching thing happened. A teacher came up and asked if I would take a picture with some of the students (totally normal question at this point) and after the picture the two girls told me that they wanted me to keep their projects! A beautiful broken Barbie doll that she had refurbished by attaching to a plastic bottle base and crocheting a dress to put over, and a calendar made from recycled bottle caps. Earlier in the fair I had stopped to talk to a student about his model of the Eiffel Tower made out of used straws (I promise he washed them) and I was telling him about Paris and showing him pictures of the real Eiffel Tower and how my old room used to be Paris themed. He also asked if I would come by at the end and take a picture with their school, and before I left he ran up and handed me his model! He said I should take it for my room in Peru so it will feel more like home. Not only was it so re-energizing to see first hand how passionate these youth are becoming about taking care of our planet, but I was personally touched by the kindness and caring spirits. So often there are down days and then a day like this comes along and brightens my spirit for weeks! To the students of Chota, thank ya’ll for saving our planet and brightening this gringa’s day.