By Manuel Cubías – Vatican City

Dec 29 2021

Three young schoolgirls in Spain tell us about their calling to promote care for the environment and the safeguarding of creation in their schools and communities.

Everybody today seems to be realising that our economic systems and the way we live directly affect the environment and people.  This includes even those who wish not to acknowledge this reality or do not feel motivated to do something about it. Awareness is growing even among the youngest, the “future generations” of whom the Pope speaks in Laudato si’ and to whom we risk leaving an unlivable world. This is a reason why many schools have become places for raising awareness and asking children a fundamental question: what can be done to take care of the planet in order to defend our common home from pollution, from the disastrous consequences of climate change, from the exploitation of resources, and from poverty?

“DIL”, a concrete response from Torrelodones

A concrete response to this reality has come from Spain. Daniela, Inés and Lucía are three students from San Ignacio de Loyola primary school in Torrelodones.  They told us that “while working on an environmental project, our teachers told us about the need to take care of the planet and the natural resources it provides. Then we started to develop different ideas about small actions that each of us could take.”

While in the schoolyard one day, the three girls thought of sharing with their fellow classmates their feelings and worries over the worsening environmental situation. They proposed an idea: “what if we made an NGO with the objective of taking care of the planet?” They figured, “we realise the Earth is sick because we are not treating it well and we felt the need to change this situation.”

The acronym “DIL” corresponds to the first letter of the name of each of the girls promoting this initiative, which aims starting from their own school to raise awareness of what actions, even small ones, are necessary to promote and implement to care for our common home and the people who live there.

Teachers supporting the awareness campaigns

The effectiveness of good support

Two pillars have been crucial in getting the initiative off the ground: education in schools and support from families.

Inés’ mother is quick to emphasise how crucial the support of the school has been for DIL to become a reality: “If they had not listened to them and given them the means,” she says, “this would not have happened. Instead, this commitment is influencing their personality, their character and they strongly feel the support of the school”.

Daniela’s mother adds: “I like the way my daughter is involved in her project. If she believes in something, it is right that she fights for it, and we will always support her.

A campaign against air pollution

The multiplier effect of DIL

The founders of DIL started their social campaign with posters, convinced of the efficacy of this ‘old’ but still very valid form of communication. “People stop and look at them, they read them and might say: ‘I like it, I’ll go to tell my students’ or ‘this is a good thing, I’m going to tell my friends or cousins who are interested in this topic.’ Just one poster is enough to make the whole world aware of our intent and underscore the great emergency that our planet needs care.”

Daniela, Inés and Lucía, armed with pencils and markers, insist on their desire to make DIL grow: “we would like to be able to put up our posters outside the school so that the elderly and young people, everyone, can appreciate our message.”

The theme of the posters focuses on small actions which, if shared, promoted and put into practice by many, can have a big impact. The first is to keep the communal spaces clean, and this can be achieved through simple but effective gestures such as picking up papers or rubbish that others have thrown away.

The second is to avoid unnecessary consumption and waste of food and instead “give food a second chance”. Leftovers, for example, can be used to fertilise home gardens and the school has one, cultivated by the students themselves.

Finally, they share information on the disposal of batteries and toxic products. DIL insists on the need to know the toxicity of each item and therefore to separate it from other products. The girls warn that “if you fill the Bernabéu stadium with pure water, but then throw in a battery, all the water will be contaminated. Imagine if we throw away this container almost full of batteries and throw it into the sea, all the fish and animals will suffer and die”.

For Daniela, Inés and Lucía, this initiative is also an opportunity to support Pope Francis who, in his encyclical Laudato si’, encourages us to “take care of our Common Home” because they reiterate “this planet is our home, everyone’s home and therefore we must take care of it together”.

A campaign to stop the waste of energy

On the same boat

In the encyclical Laudato si’, Pope Francis speaks about the problem that Daniela, Inés and Lucía are warning people about and the danger it poses to all of Creation. The document says: “Account must also be taken of the pollution produced by residue, including dangerous waste present in different areas. Each year hundreds of millions of tons of waste are generated, much of it non-biodegradable…” (Laudato si’ 21)

“We are on the same boat,” says Daniela. Indeed, she adds: “listening to Pope Francis, we can say a phrase that he often has repeated, especially in times of pandemic: ‘We are all in the same boat’ so if this boat sinks, no one can save themselves. DIL reminds us that there are not two, three or four worlds. We only have one planet, this one, which we all share”.

In their interview, the three friends speak of their commitment to the “Ecoescuela” project carried out by their school and insist on encouraging everyone to participate in this activity of care and respect. They say, “by taking care of our world, we also take care of all the living beings that inhabit it. So far, the project is working. Since we started, we have made about 22 posters and that is what we want, we want to continue, we want everyone to do their part.”

Some of the DIL projects on display

Integral development of the individual and community

The mothers of Daniela, Inés and Lucía, agree on two words when referring to the project’s contribution to their daughters’ overall education: “surprise” and “pride”. Speaking about Daniela, her mother says, “what has surprised us is the way she expresses herself and how she has internalised the social consciousness of doing good.”

“These girls, with their constant and daily work and with a lot of enthusiasm, have been able to show that together we can make the world a place where we can live in harmony”, says Lucía’s mother, who, encouraging her daughter, exclaims: “We love you and we will support you in all the steps you take in life. Keep dreaming of a better world!”

In fact, each of the girls expressed their desire for a better world, echoing what Daniela said: “in my mind,” said the little girl, “I have a very special vision: I see a world full of light, a healthy world, a better world,” and this can be achieved with the conviction that, as someone once said, “the path is as important as the goal.” – Vatican News

Daniela, Inés and Lucía participate in the Day of Good Practices organised by the College of San Ignacio