Jamilla Sealy is a young woman from the small island of Barbados in the Caribbean, who defines herself as a person from the outside. I never liked to watch a lot of TV and spend my childhood planting, swimming in the sea, climbing trees, picking fruit… and my mother encouraged it. I remember her taking me on the bicycle to make picnics”.
Because she lived so much outside, it was in the elementary school that Jamilla found her first great love: geography. “There are no rivers and no mountains in Barbados. When I began to have classes about rivers, about mountains, I saw the world was so vast. I fell in love forever for that department”. Although many people tried to make Jamilla change her mind, there was no way, she graduated and specialized in science, environment and natural resources. “They tried to convince me to be a doctor, but I fought a lot to do what I wanted”.
However all the courage Jamilla had to oppose her family and friend had a challenge. After graduation it was very difficult to find a job in her area. Fearless, she didn’t hesitate to accept, when she was 21, to become a Geography teacher! It was in the classrooms, teaching children and teenagers, that Jamilla found her passion for a specific theme: climate change.
Barbados is among the 10 most dense countries in the world and among the 15 most affected by the lack of water. Jamilla observes in practice the extreme climate effects affecting food production and access to water. “In the last two years we have very strong El Niños, above average, resulting in severe droughts. With this, fresh water sources began to have salt water and with the sea level rising we are running the risk of losing some of our sources of electricity”.
Despite all of these effects that can already be seen in day-to-day lives of Barbadians, Jamilla learned in class that few young people are aware or concerned about the situation. So she takes advantage of her position as a geography teacher to instigate her students to reflect and start taking action.
Seeking to bring more knowledge to the classroom, Jamilla joined in 2013 in the Caribbean Youth Network for the Environment, where she helps to research things about her country and also to organize actions. “I try to find out what is the perspective of young people about the environment and then I try to make them understand how they can help”. In addition she organizes events such as beach cleanings and also interacts with young people from the other Caribbean islands who live the same challenges as the people of Barbados.
In the classroom Jamilla tries to approximate to the maximum climate change to the lives of young people. She tries to use a simple language, to show videos and to compare recent developments in the country with the weather. “Recently we started seeing more mosquitoes and having cases like the zika virus. I use situations like this to provoke young people to think about why all this is happening”.
Jamilla begins to form a group of young people that, as well as she, are interested in environmental issues. Her dream is to see all the young population of Barbados interested and well informed about what climate changes are, how can they contribute and how can they prevent their paradise island from suffering. “I know that is very difficult to change people’s mindset, but someone had to start”.