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UNT Future Without Poverty members learn about ecotourism at world summit in Costa Rica

UNT Future Without Poverty members learn about ecotourism at world summit in Costa Rica

UNT student organization Future Without Poverty visits Costa Rica Oct. 8. The students visited Mollejones, a village in the country to learn about rural tourism. Courtesy | Future Without Poverty

UNT Future Without Poverty members learn about ecotourism at world summit in Costa Rica
October 19
12:54 2017

Members of the UNT branch of the international nonprofit organization Future Without Poverty returned from a three-day summit about eco-friendly tourism in Costa Rica on Oct. 8.

The FWOP world summit helped members learn about sustainable tourism and its role in developing and reducing poverty in rural areas.

FWOP aims to build global sustainable communities with the goal of reducing poverty. The organization’s mission is focused on the four Es: education, empowerment, enterprise and environment.

“Sustainability is possible,” Whitney Carr, economy senior and UNT FWOP member said. “And it doesn’t hurt your diet or living.”

Fifteen to 20 UNT-associated FWOP members including students, faculty and staff attended the summit hosted at the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center or CATIE Institute in Turrialba, Costa Rica. CATIE is an international institution focused on research and graduate studies on agriculture and environmental conservation.

UNT offers a two-year Master of Science in International Sustainable Tourism (MIST) in partnership with the CATIE Institute. Students of the program spend the second year of their studies at CATIE, learning from industry experts at a location UNT calls a “pioneer in environmental conservation.”

“Costa Rica is a huge hub for tourism,” Carr said. “Their government is so great with conservation and making sure that the ecology is in sync with society.”

Students stayed at the “sustainability house” at CATIE, a residence focused on clean living including recycling, composting and community gardening.

The 2017 FWOP summit began with presentations from the various organizations in attendance, all of whom partner with FWOP to work toward environmental conservation and increase resource access.

Stan Ingman, the UNT student FWOP chapter’s faculty adviser and gerontology professor, is one of the co-founders of FWOP. The current vice president of the board, Ingman founded FWOP in 1998 with the help of current President Sylvester Flores and Secretary/Treasurer Tom Benjamin.

“I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the presenters presented, and how participants loved them,” Ingman said, adding he had been to a lot of conferences, and none matched the feeling at CATIE.

On the second day of the summit, attendees split into two groups and visited either the rural tourism industry in the village of Mollejones or the city of Santa Cruz to learn about small-scale agriculture and livestock production.

UNT FWOP Vice President Heliana Onomo said the trip was aimed to further collaboration between FWOP and its partner organizations.

“We went as a network to kind of see everyone’s faces and to connect all the dots,” Onomo said. “We wanted to come together and say, ‘this is how we’re going to work collaboratively to accomplish this goal.’”

The final day of the summit was focused on the future of FWOP. Members discussed one of the main goals of the conference, to establish a sustainable technology training center at CATIE, as well as how to expand membership among younger people. The group spent the rest of their time in Costa Rica touring the capital city of San Jose.

UNT’s FWOP chapter, like other local chapters, takes part in a local and an international project. The university chapter is currently working on a community garden at the Renaissance Courts apartments in Denton.

For their international project, the group is partnered with Grand Prairie-based Exquisite Water Inc., an organization which helps rural communities in Nigeria access clean water.

Distributing solar shelter kits to rural or homeless populations is another project of FWOP’s. The solar kits are made in China and can charge the included torchlight as well as phones, iPads, and as the group discovered, the air filtration devices they also took to Costa Rica. Torches can be charged for up to 55 hours with the solar panel, a feature of significance for communities with electricity or safety issues.

FWOP sells the kits for $50, using the profits to donate kits to people who need them. Students can contact Ingman or UNT FWOP to buy the solar shelter kits for a discounted price of $35, or to buy kits for donation.

Onomo said she is considering establishing a FWOP branch at a Denton High School to begin student involvement at an earlier period.

The organization is looking to have a mini-summit in spring 2018 in Nashville, Tennessee. Goals for the summit will include teaching individuals in an area detention center and an assisted living facility made largely of veterans about sustainable gardening. Three Tennessee universities have committed to participate, all of which are Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and Vanderbilt University is in talks to participate as well.

Students who wish to become involved in FWOP at UNT can go to weekly meetings on Tuesdays from 5 to 5:30 p.m. in the BLB 255, or email Ingman at

View FWOP’s video from the 2017 world summit here.

Featured Image: UNT student organization Future Without Poverty visits Costa Rica Oct. 8. The students visited Mollejones, a village in the country to learn about rural tourism. Courtesy | Future Without Poverty

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Sarah Sarder

Sarah Sarder

Sarah Sarder is the Senior News Writer for the North Texas Daily.

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1 Comment

  1. stan
    stan October 23, 13:16

    Well done !

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