Mauro José Ramírez Azofeifa has long felt a connection to nature and knows he wants to do something to protect the environment. As a boy growing up in Palmichal, Costa Rica, he dreamed of becoming a member of an environmental club that promoted education and ecological initiatives among the 4,500 residents of his rural community. But the absence of such an organization made this impossible. Now Ramírez Azofeifa is helping to change that.
Visionarios de Paz, an organization co-founded by Ramírez Azofeifa in 2021 with a $10,000 grant from Davis Projects for Peace, empowers dozens of children and others from the Palmichal area to empower local water systems and forests improve while learning about the role of marketing, innovation, entrepreneurship and finance in relation to environmental issues.
The group also maintains a self-built greenhouse that serves as a classroom and meeting place for learning and sharing. In the greenhouse, students plant, harvest and sell native trees. This gives them the opportunity to apply what they learn in the Visionarios program, which helps keep them motivated, Ramírez Azofeifa said. As it develops, the tree business will help ensure the financial sustainability of the project.
By combining his experiences with the Clinton Global Initiative and a subsequent one With a grant from Michigan State University’s Network for Global Civic Engagement (NGCE), Ramírez Azofeifa has extended the lives of Visionarios de Paz and brought them closer to long-term profitability.
“The most exciting thing about this work is witnessing a real impact on my hometown. I love to see the smiles of the children and young people,” he said. “I believe that education can change the world, but first we need to change the mindset of the new generation and teach them the importance of taking care of the environment.”
Education is at the forefront of the $10,000 Ramírez Azofeifa received from NGCE for “collaborative and sustained engagement” between Michigan State University Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, MSU College of Social Science and Visionarios de Paz. Learning, growing, maintaining: A radically mutual and experience-oriented one Curriculum focused on environmental issues and global engagement in rural San Jose leverages the work Ramírez Azofeifa has done with Visionarios to “create and test a curriculum for Costa Rican youth that has the potential to serve as a model for youth programs worldwide,” Michigan state officials wrote in the award.
The project “is highly aligned with NGCE’s mission to make a difference globally Knowledge and peace and human security through global reach,” officials wrote. “This work of building bridges for cogenerative engagement that decentralizes knowledge and focuses on root cause — in this case, relating to climate justice in the Palmichal de Acosta region — reflects the network’s commitment to radical mutuality.”
Ramírez Azofeifa is working on the project with MSU professor Brian Egan and student Casey Christy, whom he met while involved in other projects and with whom he worked on an assignment Writing for nonprofit organizations, a COA course taught by Rhiannon Lewis. This course and several others, he said, had a profound impact on the development of Visionarios de Paz Starting a new businessan independent study for entrepreneurs and The hatcheryCOA’s Sustainable Business Accelerator, Ramírez Azofeifa was able to channel his ideas, communication skills and business acumen to pursue his passion for bringing environmental education back to his hometown.
“These courses have shown me the importance of developing businesses that maximize profits while improving the quality of life for people and the
of the world’s natural resources. I’ve learned that we can really make a difference by changing the way entrepreneurs do business and how consumers value products and services,” he said.
Ramírez Azofeifa is a graduate of United World College Dilijan and a fellow of Davis United World College. One of the main reasons Ramírez Azofeifa joined COA is the Sustainable Entrepreneurship program, he said. His self-designed study path included many educational and business-related courses. One of his favourites Klassen, he said, was with COA during his first term. change school, change society, Taught by visiting lecturer and educator Todd West ’00, Ramírez introduced Azofeifa to the power of experiential learning and the inequalities that exist in education. After completing the course, he became interested in how companies can adapt educational programs abroad, which eventually led to Visionarios de Paz.
“Working with Mauro on COA’s Sustainable Business Program has been inspiring,” said Kerri Sands, COA’s Sustainable Business Program Manager. “Like a true entrepreneur and human being Ecologist Mauro has sought every opportunity to test and commercialize his ideas, make connections and advance his work—in the classroom and beyond. It is exciting to see how he has applied his knowledge and used his radiant optimism to make a real impact in his community.”
As a 2022 Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) participant, Ramírez Azofeifa is part of a community of youth leaders creating innovative solutions to world challenges. His efforts to promote environmental education and alleviate pollution and water shortages in his hometown are supported by the CGIU network, he said. His goals are the financial stability of Visionarios de Paz and the acquisition of land in Palmichal for reforestation with native trees and biodiversity protection.
“The most exciting thing about the CGIU program was the mentoring aspect, getting to know the other students and the networking opportunities. I received so much insightful feedback on my work and was able to network and learn from other students about their entrepreneurial ideas and the changes they want to create in the world with their projects,” said Ramírez Azofeifa.