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Taking good care of Planet Earth

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Humanity4Water combines fun with learning

Omileye Achikeobi Lewis
How do you get children to enjoy learning?
You slip them factoids while they are eating or playing. At some point, it might hit them that they actually learned something new and interesting. This is what happened to the children of Lancaster who attended the third annual Humanity4Water Award ceremony, “Island Earth Party for Our Children.”
The children scrambled for sweets, played new games, danced to live African and island steel drums and listened to stories, while discovering 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe comes from oceans.
The Humanity4Water project was started by my husband, Derrick, and I, to raise environmental awareness and encourage green leadership.
We literally started the initiative from our living room to do something to help water, the planet and humanity.
Now in its third year, the initiative has grown into an internationally recognized and applauded effort.
Why have an awards ceremony that focuses on children instead of adults? Simply put, we believe our children are the future and deserve to feel special.
The inspiration of making the awards evening into a children’s party was the miraculous birth of our daughter, Omololu, which means “My child is my blessing and my hero.”
The island theme comes from the fact I was born in the United Kingdom, but my heritage is from Trinidad and Jamaica.
Once the idea was formed, we chose the Carole Ray Dowling Health Services Center at the University of South Carolina at Lancaster as a venue and contacted various youth organizations for support and feedback.
We received an excellent response and turnout.
The educational and fun evening started out with children and adults filing into a room filled with the vibrant colors of red, yellow and orange. You could see their bodies immediately begin to sway as the beat of island steel pans drew them in. Generating these sounds was Nate Brown, an exceptional music educator and entertainer.
The children were given goodie bags before the welcome and opening prayer. They enjoyed Clyburn Delights’ healthy and delicious island food, which included mango salsa, island turkey, coconut rice, cooked plantain, tropical punch, mango-covered salad and mildly spicy mixed vegetables.
The 2010 Humanity4Water 2010 award winners are true humanitarians  in every sense. They include South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu for  compassion; Dr. Paul Watson, Green Peace co-founder and founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, for outstanding commitment to action; Canadian author and anthropologist Dr. Jeremy Narby for outstanding commitment to action; Baba Credo Mutwa, keeper of the Zulu knowledge, for transformation; Rebecca Fowler and Lisa Moore of Natural Awakening in Charlotte, for outstanding media awareness. Fourteen year-old author and aspiring ecowarrior Kem Ra Joseph – Achikeobi of London received the Polar Bear Award. If you don’t recognize any of these names, Google them. They are worth knowing.
Those who were present were able to hear from all of the winners through pre-recorded audio, Skype and e-mailed messages.
“If people could see the crazy hiccups that were going on behind the scenes in terms of trying to obtain Skype messages, they would truly have laughed,” Derrick said.
One of those moments involved the Skype interview with Watson. Afterwards we realized the interview did not record and we had to start over. Watson, who spoke live aboard the MY Steve Irwin in the Southern Ocean, was a good sport about the recording glitch.
Watson, who is there in an attempt to deter Japanese whaling, said the human race must be committed to living harmoniously with the earth.  
“Know that everything you are told is impossible is actually possible,” Watson said. “Impossibilities become possibilities.”
Narby, who is working to help save the Amazonian rain forest and its inhabitants, spoke to the children in a fun, but serious tone from his Swiss home. Narby said knowledge – not material things – is the measure of worth.
“It is possible for one organization or even one person to make a difference,” he said. “It takes one step after another, 20,000 steps, no highlights and no awards, just doing it. You can really make a difference if you go about it this way. Our ambition should not be about saying, 'Hey baby, look at what I have got, but look at what I know.'”
Mutwa spoke to the children via a prerecorded telephone conversation from South Africa.
“Children of the world, study hard and be compassionate,” he said. “Most of all, be loving. Know that you are the bright stars that shine in the darkness.”
Tutu, who was on a cruise ship conference, took time out to e-mail an inspirational message to the children.
“I believe, like so many others, that you are all our future,” Tutu wrote. “It is my deep wish that you all will realize you are special and powerful beyond measure. There are many great things that each of you can do to help us all live in a happy and peaceful world.”
Fowler and Moore encouraged the children to be difference makers and take ownership of the actions and abilities.
Joseph – Achikeobi, who was at the awards ceremony, received a standing ovation after explaining his career plan is to study conservation biology.
He has already penned “The Chronicles of Endangered Animals,” which will be released next year.
Award-winning slave re-enactor and retired educator Kitty Wilson-Evans was there to perform as Kessie and weave an African Christmas tale for the children.
Ashley Miles, one of the young adults who attended the awards, was impressed by the event.
“I just loved everything, especially Kitty’s educational performance,” she said.
Lancaster City Councilwoman Linda Blackmon-Brace, who attended with her husband and children from her after-school program, called the evening inspiring and educational.
“This year, I have been made to realize one moment in your life can inspire you and change your life forever to the point where it motivates you to create a moment that will inspire another person,” she said.
Beverly Sanders, Lancaster Children’s Home director of development, said the children she brought found the whole evening very uplifting.
“They were exposed to knowledge they had never encountered before,” she said. “They kept asking, ‘what’s that, what’s that?’ which shows the knowledge and activities touched them.”
Based on the positive feedback generated, we have already started planning the Humanity4Water event, “A Message for Our Children Earth Summit.”
Its aim is to encourage children and adults to become Well Planet Leaders.
We also hope to launch school and community activities across the globe through a Well Planet Leadership Experience to make green leadership fun.
Another project, “Does Love Matter?” is a global rice experiment which visually shows the power of loving words in action.
For more information on the Humanity4Water project and awards activities, contact us at Omileye@EbiOlOsun.com or DLewis84@MAL4Youth.com.
You can also call (803) 577-4878 or visit, www.EbiOlOsun.com.

– Former journalist Omileye “Ome” Achikeobi Lewis is an author, spiritual healer and health educator whose passion is improving the environment and the world.