Initially Jeremy was part of a gang of boys that enjoyed causing trouble in their local neighbourhood, but that was all soon to change…
North Baluarte is one of the Philippines’ many illegal shanty towns; rickety bamboo houses on stilts, built out over a filthy tidal river. The community is unprotected by any kind of surrounding vegetation and is therefore particularly exposed to the might of Filipino typhoons. Most of the surrounding mangrove forests have been cut down to make way for building and to use as fuel.
Signpost International and the residents of North Baluarte began collecting and growing seedlings as part of an environmental project, helping to protect their community through the replacing of the mangrove forests.
But the community were soon devastated to find their newly-planted mangrove seedlings uprooted and destroyed. All their attempts to replant new seedlings were met with the same response.
“It was very upsetting”, said a local resident. “A lot of hard work was going into the project, and everything we did was just being destroyed.”
Jeremy and a small group of local boys were largely responsible for the persistent vandalism of the mangrove plants.
“They were bored and thought it was funny to destroy the plants that the rest of the community were trying to nurture,” says Signpost worker Loryjane Barrocamo. “They didn’t understand what we were trying to achieve.”
Signpost staff began to work with the boys and, when they held a community seminar on Mangrove Conservation and Rehabilitation, the boys went along.
“It was like a light being switched on”, says Loryjane. “The boys suddenly saw what we were trying to do.”
The boys now call themselves the Mangrove Watchers and Jeremy says,
“We thought it was fun to destroy the mangroves, but now we help out instead.
“We are collecting new seedlings to make a plant nursery and we keep an eye out in the area to make sure no-one else tries to damage the plants.”
“We know how important the mangroves are now!”
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