Banknote Collection Helped Me Learn About Other Cultures

by Salem Afeworki, Chile, ELP 2014
Written on July 21, 2014.

Ever since I can remember, I have always been drawn to diversity and different cultures. I chose to apply to the Beahrs ELP at UC Berkeley with the goal of meeting participants from different walks of life, while learning about environmental sustainability and eco-friendly business practices. Thanks to this program, not only did I connect with environmental leaders from all over globe, but I also learned about different countries through exchanging money.

Banknote collecting has been my hobby for many years and has helped me learn about countries that I have never been to through their beautiful images and useful information printed on them. At the ELP, I managed to gather banknotes from Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Mongolia, Thailand, Tunisia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Singapore, Brazil, Vietnam, South Africa, Peru, Laos, Mozambique, Nepal and East Timor!

Here are some of the things I have learned from other ELP fellows:

Madagascar is a home to exceptional animal species and Ariary (Malagasy currency) is full of exotic plants and rare faunas. I learned from a course mate that the country is currently financing ecological and biodiversity related projects through small grant programs.

I also found out that Nepal is home to the world’s highest mountains and Nepalese Rupee is full of stunning illustrations of mountain ecosystems. The dramatic differences in elevation found in Nepal result in a variety of biomes, from tropical savannas and subtropical forests to grasslands & ice at the highest elevations. Through an ELP fellow, I learned that WWF Nepal is running wildlife conservation projects by encouraging local communities to work towards sustainable livelihood.

Senegalese Francis CFA is a perfect reflection of Senegal’s rich cultural heritage. I learned from an ELP 2014 participant that the country has an active health NGO that is trying to identify the correlation between the environment and the wellbeing of its citizens, mainly focusing on transmitted diseases control as they are expected to worsen as a result of climate change.

The banknotes from Myanmar, known as Kyats, reveals the traditional way of living including their handcrafts. As an economy that is slowly opening up to the world, the country possesses precious stones and exports them internationally. Thanks to the ELP, I came to know that Myanmar is focusing on sustainable natural resources management and climate change resilience measure on a national scale.

Mozambique, the land of extended agricultural land and thriving tourism, has a note called New Metical. The country has a tropical climate with a wet season from October to March and a dry season from April to September. I learned from my course mate that CARE INTERNATIONAL is working towards increasing local consciousness on climate change, while supporting community based adaptation initiatives across the country.

Lastly, I learned that Sri Lanka, despite its size, has declared 24 wildlife reserves, which are home to a wide range of native species such as Asian elephants, leopards, the unique small loris, sloth bears, a variety of deer, the purple-faced langur, wild boars, anteaters and porcupines. From my colleague at ELP, I learned that the Asia Development Bank is actively working in the country of Taka (money from Sri Lanka) to support projects on forest management and sustainable agricultural practices.

Since I finished the course, I am more prepared and connected to make a difference as a sustainability professional and I will have enough local money to buy myself a soda in any of the above-mentioned countries (if I ever go there)!
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