This spring, the kids at Westlake Elementary School in Santa Cruz California made a meaningful connection with another group of kids in Mexico, donating their used soccer shoes and other equipment to the boys and girls who participate in the Azulita Project. This is an innovative program in Los Llanos, Guerrero, Mexico, that combines soccer and getting discarded plastic out of their communities. We at Earth Links have been working with Azulita since the summer of 2011 and we’re excited and pleased that the bond between Santa Cruz and Los Llanos is getting stronger.

Azulita has found a very creative way to get kids involved in recycling plastic and other positive activities. In exchange for collecting plastic bottles from local roads and rivers, the children earn participation in a soccer league. Shoes and uniforms, as well as English classes and art projects, are part of the deal. The plastic is collected, bundled, and recycled in Ixtapa, and the money earned is used for soccer equipment and school supplies. Six small towns are part of Azulita and they all come together on weekends for exciting tournaments and environmental activities. Lots of fun is had and tons of work gets done! The beaches and endangered turtles benefit along with all the communities. (You can read more about Azulita here and at their own website.)

Azulita Kids and Westlake Kids, Summer 2012

Westlake teacher Liz Smith volunteered to oversee the soccer shoe drive and then to deliver the equipment to the Azulita Kids. Over about six weeks, Westlake students enthusiastically piled up all kinds of soccer equipment for the kids who participate in Azulita’s soccer league. Liz reports that her own children Ryan and McKenzie, who attend Westlake, each “did a presentation to their class explaining the recycling program and the environmental impact on Mexico and the whole coast in general. Students brought in shoes and we ended up bringing almost 50 pairs, plus lots of shin guards, socks and jerseys!”

Once the equipment was gathered, the Smiths and other Santa Cruz families took a trip to Los Llanos to meet Erwing Rodriguez, who runs the program, and the Azulita kids themselves. The kids had a chance to meet and play together. Liz told us that “for our children, it was a highlight of the trip!”