Nestled quaintly between the Sierra Madre Mountains, its lush jungle and a long expanse of picturesque Pacific coast is the Mexican village of San Francisco, or San Pancho as it is lovingly referred to by locals.
San Pancho is well-known for its beauty and charm. However, it is also well-known among Mexican children, youth and educators as the headquarters of EntreAmigos, an education facility that uses art to engage children in environmental stewardship and sustainability initiatives.
Established in 2006, EntreAmigos founder Nicole Swedlow began teaching arts and crafts on a simple table in front of a storefront she was renting. Sweldow’s vision of using art to unite and teach grew from there.
Through a private donation, the store that had sat as a backdrop to the street art lessons began to be re-shaped into a boutique where local artists could exhibit and sell their work. In the summer of 2006, EntreAmigos held two very successful events — their Summer Workshops and their first Planta San Pancho Reforestation Day. These community engagement events were popular among residents and solidified EntreAmigos place in the community.
Since then, EntreAmigos has moved to a larger space to facilitate their programming; the organization has also opened an onsite library, a diverse recycling program, as well as a scholarship program.
With a mission to educate citizens across the region of Nayarit about environmental awareness and the unique ecosystem they inhabit, EntreAmigos has developed a creative educational tool called The Bote Bio-Divertido. The bright green self-contained unit includes a 20 lesson environmental education program focused on their special region of Mexico.
The program is designed to teach important lessons and concepts related to appreciation and preservation of the local environment. The Bote Bio-Divertido also contains a fun color-as-you-go poster that allows students to track their progress through the lesson plans and engage with each other through art.
The popular environmental stewardship program has been taught to more than 1,000 school children in the region and is currently being taught by University Social Service students across the Bay of Banderas.
At EntreAmigos headquarters, better known as the EntreAmigos Community Centre, the communal hub has grown to host a library, computer lab, classrooms and a sports centre over the last six years. There are also a variety of youth and adult workshops on eco-sustainability, design, as well as entrepreneurship.
With similar values in terms of youth engagement and environmental responsibility education, S-Trip!, a Canadian travel company focused on giving North American high school students a trip of a lifetime, was honored to work with EntreAmigos during the summer of 2015. As recounted in the S-Trip! reviews blog, during the month of July, a group of S-Trip! travelers visiting the Mexican region were asked to renovate and organize a large onsite space into a multi-purpose sports facility.
Community engagement is an important part of S-Trip!’s student vacation model and the company proved eager to help such a vital facility for local residents.
S-Trip! travelers helped to revitalize the space through the installation of bleachers, the cleaning and preparing of the floors, adding tape lines, installing netting and assembling gym equipment. Despite the excursion only lasting a day, the impact on the travelers was immense and evidenced through the S-Trip! reviews they wrote following the trip.
As the name suggests, EntreAmigos (Between Friends) is an organization that is helping to reshape the conversation about environmental awareness one Bote Bio-Divertido at a time.
This post has been sponsored by S-Trip! Image by Tim & Annette, via Wikimedia Commons