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Southbanker

09 Feb 2017

Southbanker Image

When they’re not based in their City Rd apartment, Angelo Indovino and Amy Barrientos are working tirelessly in Colombia to teach future generations about the importance of preserving the environment.

The now retired Southbank couple established the Soñar + Verde Foundation in Amy’s home city of Cartagena on Colombia’s northern coast in 2011, which is currently home to more than one million people.

Having specialised in chemical engineering for much of his career, Italian-born, Australian-raised Angelo was working for Shell in Colombia when he first met Amy who was his translator at the time.  

With a shared passion for the environment, since they both retired Angelo said the pair had been determined to find a way to minimise the country’s impact on human-induced climate change.  

“Amy remembers 50 years ago, when the waters in Cartagena were cleaner, her father used to fish in the local creeks and canals and you can’t do that anymore. It used to be cooler and now it’s very hot,” he said.

“We started a foundation because there were a lot of environmental groups in Cartagena but none that were doing it properly. There was a lot of talk but no change.”

With a combination of personal funding and support from the private sector in Colombia, the organisation originally began running reforestation, water, energy and litter programs in 12 primary and secondary schools.

With the support of the Colombian Environment Protection Authority (EPA), that number has now grown to 30 and the pair hopes to extend its outreach to 50 schools in 2017.

As a former teacher herself, Amy said the projects were focused on changing wasteful habits in schools by measuring and monitoring results with students and teachers.  

“We’ve made it evident and schools realise it has been a big wake up call for them. Some schools have responded really well,” she said.

“Some headmasters are getting very keen to take it over themselves. We are encouraging everyone in the institution to move forward so we can meet our targets.”

Under the foundation’s five-star system, schools are annually rewarded for excellent results in each of the four project areas. The fifth star rewards leadership in an effort to encourage schools to eventually manage the programs independently.

Angelo and Amy now divide their year into six-month blocks, one of which is based in Colombia and the other here in Southbank, which they both described as a “very convenient” place to live.  

When in Melbourne they also volunteer their time to a number of environmental organisations and Angelo also sits on the City of Melbourne’s parks and gardens committee. However, most of their energy is devoted to their work in Colombia and Angelo said the foundation had high ambitions for the future.  

“The objective is quite ambitious and the idea is that every school in Colombia is included and they need to be able to show that they’ve got good standards just by the measurements,” he said.

“We want the idea to be recognised at a national level and that we get asked to help. If it works really well we might even go to other countries but we’ll take it one step at a time.”

While mainly written in Spanish you can follow the foundation’s progress via Facebook by searching Sonar + Verde. You can also visit sonarmasverde.com

 

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