As part of the Creation Justice Application in which we outlined FCC’s commitment to environmental justice, the Tasajera Committee shared the below text with the national office:
Over a decade ago, as part of our UCC justice commitment, we were contacted by the Environmental Law Center. One of their projects was working to restore turtle habitat impacted by the Civil War in El Salvador due to resettlement of refuges onto the island. Due to poverty, hunger and lack of education the turtle eggs had become a food resource. We agreed to assist government staff in developing a protected turtle site, which helped pay American dollars for the eggs which were then hatched in the sanctuary and enabled baby turtles to be returned to the sea.
Touched by the hospitality of island residents, we met together to discuss further needs. We learned that the rainforests were impacted by pollution from upriver sugar cane plantations, of fishing disruption and legal issues about the desire to own the land where homes were. Yet when asked to define their greatest concern, they identified the inability to send their children to school past the 8th grade. Due to their poverty and illiteracy they could not afford paying for the daily trip to high school on the mainland or for school books or uniforms. As a church congregation we began developing a partnership with CIS, an agency present on the island which had developed a successful clean water campaign, supported a sewing co-op and the fishing co-op, and had other educational/leadership programs throughout the country.
Our partnership has deeply enriched our church community. We have been able to experience homestay trips for church member families and congregants. Our Mission statement is to “listen and learn”, and we have heard hymns sung in Spanish, stories of hardship, of resilience and faith. We have eaten sustainable meals and participated as delegates in student-led leadership conferences. Identified this year by students attending the Leadership conference is the need to protect the environment while supporting development of the local economy and the need to protect human rights.
To date over 80 students have completed high school, plus many are continuing to seek technology training skills and management training. We have college graduates in education, law, languages, sociology and nursing. Currently, we have a student interested in pre-med. We have assisted residents in attending mainland meetings on environmental concerns and sound practices. This environmental justice commitment has literally stopped the need for immigration to the US to work in manual labor industries which pollute. This project uses fewer air miles because it is located on the west coast, and with upgrades we are able to communicate remotely. As a church we continue to experience immense joy, environmental awareness, and love through this wonderful partnership.