Grassroots international relations is the keystone of our model. Students engage their international peers on global issues such as climate change, healthy food access, and water scarcity. Students also share strategies for local change-making with their US and international peers. Every year over 500 GSE ambassadors travel to Nicaragua and Ecuador from the states, working with local students and families to develop and maintain organic gardens, and reforest communities. Our host communities send a delegation of Ecuadorian and Nicaraguan students to the US as well, where they support school garden programs, participate in restoration projects, and explore beautiful California. Reciprocal exchange is a key element of GSE’s mission. Sharing local culture and providing students the opportunity for international travel breaks down stereotypes and cultural barriers, and gives both parties increased global awareness with a global context for their environmentalism.
GSE programs in Ecuador and Nicaragua are small, theme-based, and utilize an experiential curriculum designed to empower the next generation of global citizens with the tools to actively pursue careers as agents of social and environmental change. Our programs are action-oriented, engaging students directly in locally driven projects that demonstrate small-scale solutions to global health and environmental problems. In Nicaragua students support the development of Grow Biointensive Mini-Farms at schools that serve as outdoor environmental classrooms and produce food for school lunches. In Ecuador, students support local eco-clubs in their efforts to reforest the surrounding community, planting approximately 35,000 trees per year. Students contextualize their work in a global environmental movement, and learn skills that they can take home to their own communities. When Nicaraguan and Ecuadorian students visit on our reciprocal exchange, students are eager to show off the projects they’ve begun in the states.
Each January, scholarships funded by our generous supporters enable student representatives from our partner communities to come to California to participate in our local exchange. Students stay with host families and engage in a full month of activities focused on collaborative projects with GSE students in Northern California. The exchange reunites friends, brings new momentum to local projects, and often is the first time that visiting students have been to another country. Local Service Projects Student ambassadors visit each of GSE’s project sites and get involved with local students in the planning, maintenance, and expansion of projects. Many of GSE’s projects have been catalyzed during our local exchanges including the building of 2 food forests, expansion of numerous school garden projects and the reforestation of native trees and shrubs across the greater Bay Area. Ambassadorship Student ambassadors are selected to represent their communities based on excellent leadership and participation in their GSE programs. Our visiting students give presentations about GSE projects in their home community to students at local elementary, high schools, and universities. These presentations and discussions give students the opportunity to tell about their country, their culture, their youth leadership experiences, and themselves. GSE works to break stereotypes and remove cultural barriers through building friendships, working together and representing our local cultures. Exploring Communities In between school visits and work on local projects, students visit the Sonoma Coast and the Redwoods. We take a trip to the Bay Area to see the amazing murals in the Mission, walk the golden gate and explore the city. Trips spark conversations about ethnic, social and economic dynamics of the area and of the larger U.S.