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Tsam Tsam Trip for 2015 Winners of the Environmental Leaders Award

This February, the student winners of the Environmental Leaders Award from World Environment Day 2015 received their prize – a trip to Tsam Tsam! OELO sponsored 13 kids with chaperones from school and church nature clubs, Amour de la Nature, Nature pour Christ, Jardin d’Eden, and the Mini-justiciers de l’Environnement, for an overnight excursion to experience first-hand the biodiversity of the lake region.

A tour of Tsam Tsam village started the day, where Cyrille Mvele described life on the lake, showing the students several medicinal plants, different bird species, and fishing gear used by fishers on the lake. We also discussed with the students how Lambaréné and the lake region fall in the middle of the largest Ramsar site in Gabon : the Bas Ogooué, a wetland of international importance.

Supplying the students with paper, colored pencils, and markers, we asked them spend 30 minutes alone along trails in the forest and on the beach to observe and reflect on the environment around them. We were so moved to hear poems, letters to parents, and to see drawings of Tsam Tsam and its biodiversity. The students expressed an appreciation for nature and an urge to share their experiences with others.

Before dinner, everyone got a chance to canoe around the lake in traditional dugout pirogues. The next morning, Cyrille led the students and their chaperones on a hike through the forest and savanna. This trip to Tsam Tsam is an opportunity for students to experience the lake region as tourists. For some, it is first time they are in a boat or outside the city. They see real-world examples of the lessons we teach in the Environmental Education program. They explore the biodiversity we have in Gabon, learn about threats, and identify ways they can make a difference. We hope that experiencing nature in this way will keep these students motivated to protect their natural heritage and inspire them to get others involved. Ultimately, they are the ones who will determine the fate of the Bas-Ogooué Ramsar Site.