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From Colombia to Bolton: Environment protectors spread climate awareness at Bolton school

9 November 2021

8 November 2021

Environment protectors from Colombia are spreading awareness on the impact of climate change in their community at a special eco-assembly in local Bolton school on Monday 8th November. 

Arriving in Bolton from the Glasgow COP26 climate conference, Maryury Mosquera Palacios, a guardian of the bio-diverse region of the River Atrato, environmental lawyer Viviana González and human development professional Alejandro Perez, spoke to the pupils at Thornleigh Salesian College on the importance of preserving and protecting the River Atrato in Colombia, and the planet as a whole.  

Maryury, 36, represents 12 communities of people who live along the Atrato River. She shares why this is an important time to educate young people:

“I believe that educating young people becomes an important tool for continuing to promote the protection of the river, the protection of the environment, but also the protection of the territory and the communities’ ability to continue living within the territory.” 

Adding what her hopes for the future of the Atrato River are, and how decisions made at COP26 will affect it, she says: 

“I hope the decisions made at COP26 will generating actions that mitigate the negative effects of climate change, but also that communities are empowered to care for the river and nature as a whole, together with allies who accompany the work in defending and caring for our territory.” 

The Colombian visitors got the pupils taking part in role play sessions, Q&As and workshops to present how the climate emergency is affecting the Atrato River and learning about the vital role and responsibility of the Atrato river guardians in Colombia. 

A Year 10 pupil at ThornleighSalesian College who was inspired by the talks and activities said it’s important that this crisis is taken seriously and acted on:  

“It’s important to look after this planet because we have to remember, we aren’t just doing it for ourselves, we have to think of the generations to come who will be dealing with these issues.  

“Not only will they have to clean up our mistakes, but with every year that passes the issues get worse, the climate gets warmer and more and more green space is lost. If we did everything, we could to fix the issues now we could work to make the planet a better place for us, and all the future generations to come because we all have to remember we only have one planet so let’s make it one everyone can thrive in.” 

Andrea O'Callaghan, Headteacher at Thornleigh Salesian College said:

“The staff and students at Thornleigh Salesian College are delighted to welcome our visitors from Colombia following their participation in COP26.  

“The chance for our students to hear first-hand of the vital work of the Atrato River Guardians is a unique opportunity to see how young people from across the world are taking responsibility to care for our common home seriously. 

“This awareness raising, and direct-action approach will, we hope, encourage our CAFOD Young Leaders in school, and all our community to do what we can in our local area to protect our own environment and support others around the world to do the same.” 

The Atrato river flows through Colombia's Pacific rainforest - one of the most biodiverse regions in the world. The river is a source of life for many Afro-Colombians and indigenous communities living along its banks. But the environment has suffered badly as a result of illegal mining, logging, and armed conflict. It is often dangerous for local communities to protect their environment.