Meet the Teen Redefining the Way We Tackle Global Waste

I met Gus Blanco in February of this year, just one week after my first day arriving at Hello World as Senior Community Manager. Gus wowed me within the first two minutes into our conversation. With his bright smile, confident personality, and eagerness to share his mission, he was seeking genuine feedback from our team on his amazing storytelling abilities that he displays through his video responses. Simply put, he is an example of how our community of global talent is influencing the future of our world for the greater good of humanity and the planet. Talking with Gus will quickly lead you to discover his life's work and passion: using the power of technology and education to preserve the natural environment of both his indigenous culture and land. What could be better than that?

In the spirit of #EarthMonth, read on as we speak with Gus on his passion, the uniquely diverse natural environment of Bolivia, and how his simple idea could dramatically impact the ways we take care of our planet.

Mayah at Hello World: What has inspired you to share the story of your Amara culture through science, technology, and visual story-telling?

Gus: I think that everyone’s story is very unique and important, and, overall, it deserves to be heard. My Aymara roots shaped my values and helped me grow as a person and a leader. It taught me values of reciprocity and community service, which I consider the most important ones.

We live in a globalized world, which means we can feel or, even somehow, be part of what is happening on the other side of the world, which sometimes does not make you happy.

That is why I decided to share positive energy and also my inherited knowledge.

Once, Rigoberta Menchú said that if we take and apply the ancient knowledge that has been given to us, then, we may progress as one world.

My Aymara culture believes in this, we believe that the world is only one big house. It is not divided into physical or ideological frontiers, so if we are only a big house we must take care of everyone in the house and look for the common benefit.

Through my story, I always try to share my Aymara knowledge with the world, so one it can help or be beneficial to others and break all the frontiers that make us different. Then, we can focus on the fighting fight for common purposes.

Devastation caused by an excess of waste in Uru-Uru Lake, Bolivia.

HW: Can you tell me more about the Uru-Uru Project? How are you testing this to solve the global waste issue and its detrimental effect on the environment in Bolivia and your community?

G: The Uru-Uru project is an innovative solution that plans to decontaminate the water from the Uru-Uru lake that is being polluted by wastewater that comes from the city households through plants. The process we are trying to apply is called phytoremediation.  As Aymaras we learn that Mother Earth is so wise and we can learn everything from her, so we can take care of our pairs. Seeing our lake suffering by contamination is something that breaks our heart because is like having a family member seriously ill.

In the last few days, the contamination of the Uru-Uru lake has gone viral on social media and many authorities and volunteers are going to take action to clean this 7th and 8th of April the contaminated lake with plastic bottles, bags, and another type of trash.

As a project, we, of course, are planning to join this action. However, after this, we want to apply phytoremediation, our project, through floating rafts with our native plants making their fabulous job of cleaning the contaminated water running through channels that discharge into our lake.

The way to clean our Uru-Uru lake is very long but we know that with our action we can benefit the lake and also our community, so time must not be an excuse

The problem.

Our solution.

Some articles about the project.

Gus cleaning up Uru-Uru Lake with help from many organizations, made possible by sharing his project on social media.

HW: What do you feel the impact of having access to technology and education would have on your community, your school, and overall development in your community and beyond?

G: I think it would make a really positive impact. It is very sad to see that especially in the rural areas where most of the Aymara community are there is no access to technology, which makes it really difficult to access opportunities, especially for young people.

I think we have to take advantage of globalization, technology, especially social media. I try to inspire others to apply for more opportunities, so we can share to the world our Aymara culture because as I was inspired by many others in the past and know how it changes your world. I truly believe that access to the internet will give them a chance not only to connect to the world but change their lives.

HW: Recently, Hello World introduced you to Eric Simon & Jay Withgott. How has that experience helped you and what is the most interesting thing you learned from virtual mentorship that you least expected?

G: It was amazing. Thanks to Hello world I got to meet so many great mentors. Jay and Eric taught me how to look into scientific papers I did not even realize that a person a long time ago suggested helping the Uru-Uru lake through phytoremediation basing his statement on real proofs that it can work.

I was not aware of that source and thanks to both, I was able to sustain my project. In this scientific paper and now I try to contact the author, so he can collaborate with us on our project.

I just imagine the marvelous thing young people like me could do if we can have mentors like them. Thank you Hello World¡

HW: How do you envision the Uru-Uru Project evolving and how do you see it being put into action in the future?

G: I hope and fondly believe that we can solve the problem of contamination and save our Uru-Uru lake in a sustainable way. It seems big but possible. After this, we hope to be an inspiration for many young people that may be afraid to implement and apply their own ideas. We hope to be that inspiration for many more to take action to care for our planet, our Pachamama that is suffering right now.

We hope to empower Youth, so we can help the world.

HW: Finish this statement: Having a voice and being heard and seen in this world means...

G: ...inspiring others to raise their voices and take action.

We are so happy to conclude that Gus has just been accepted into Princeton's Class of 2025. It is the stories of youth like Gus that drive us in our mission to discover and develop talent in teens around the world. Want to join us and connect with our global community? Say hello and learn more about hosting an opportunity on Hello World.