Environmental Education for a Healthier Future

To the benefit of humanity, there exist many people who dedicate their lives to causes for the common good, and it is always a pleasure and inspiration to meet them.

Maurilio Rodrigues de Araújo, better known as Birimbau, is one of these people. Environmental studies teacher at the Programa Art Luz in Macaé, a couple of hours outside of Rio, he is also an environmental educator in Morro dos Macacos, a favela in the North Zone of Rio de Janeiro. He volunteers there teaching children from the community to create art from the rubbish which is not usually recycled – while many recycle cans and plastic bottles, Birimbau reuses packages from food such as beans, rice and cookies.

As well as having a personal interest in the topic, the reason behind Birimbau’s choice to work in environmental awareness was his perception of the degradation of the environment in which we live, brought about by uninformed people who were unaware of their actions. “There came a time in my life when I decided to dedicate myself to an activity that would provide me with dignity and respect, and would make me feel like a useful and necessary person.”

The first collective action in which Birimbau got involved was with the CCS – Centre of Social Culture, located in Vila Isabel: “a collective of people who dedicate themselves to noble and urgent social causes. The CSS freed up a space for me to start an environmental studies project, that nowadays is producing some promising results,” said Birimbau. The activities have been a success amongst the children, who can develop their artistic and creative capabilites while at the same time becoming educated about the environment.

When asked about his motivations, Birimbau responds: “by doing my job, I am given the possibility to dedicate my knowledge to enable others – principally from less privileged communities – to use daily waste in creative ways and/or provide a responsible destination to despose of it, with the aim of reducing the amount of rubbish produced, and I believe that these actions will provide them with respect, dignity and a healthier, more pleasant future.”

Currently, Birimbau is part of a group of educators who form the core of Programa Art Luz in Sana, Macaé, Rio de Janeiro. Birimbau´s role is that of environmental educator in the Fronteira community, as well as in Sana, where he has lived for ten years. The work is aimed at children between 4 and 12 years old, and their familes, and involves raising their awareness of the environment through fun, sustainable activities.

Birimbau volunteers at the CCCRIA – Cultural Centre for Children – in Vila Isabel, Rio de Janeiro, where he develops environmental projects for children from 4 to 11 years old. His work there has produced great results.

He has created several pieces of art, constructed using photographic images and rubbish, and aimed at raising awareness of the issue of waste in our society, and these pieces of art have already been displayed in 8 exhibitions and seen by over 2,000 people.

These days Birimbau´s work is more centred around children; “during these many years of work, research and training, the best and fastest responses has come from activities with children. I believe that through this work we have stimulated the growth of a more conscious and healthy generation, who can transform the harmful way in which waste is disposed of each day. Waste that would have gone to the rubbish dump has been transformed into creative, fun and awareness-raising toys.”

As far as his work with adults, Birimbau only guides the relatives of children who participate in the activities, talking with them about the simple daily practices that can help reduce the accumulation of rubbish.

“My greatest passion is the human being; I believe in and I enjoy life; I believe in and I enjoy human beings; I believe in and I enjoy environmental education.”

Watch our interview with Birimbau: