Alternative Giving

Alternative Giving is defined as a philanthropic gift in someone’s name to a charitable organization rather than gifting material goods.  It’s based on the idea of serial reciprocity, or ‘paying it forward’ to the benefit of a third party. This holiday season many folks, inspired by the spirit of humanitarian compassion, are choosing to give in the name of their friends and loved ones because it presents an answer to consumerism that mitigates the impact of gift-giving on the environment.

Advertising our solar suitcase program at “Alternative Gift Market” in Kansas through Alternative Gifts International

Trees, Water & People offers the ability to give in a way that changes the lives of indigenous communities while encouraging environmentally conscious choices. TWP’s online Alternative Giving Catalog offers a way to tangibly improve life for people and the planet through an eco-friendly gift this holiday season.

Alternative Gifts International (AGI), a non-profit organization which inspires support for humanitarian and environmental causes, has helped Trees, Water & People promote the philosophy of Alternative Giving for many years all over the U.S.

“Alternative Gifts International and Trees Water and People have had a fruitful partnership over the years. We see ourselves as a helping hand, an extension of their work. Their cause becomes our cause. And so, we work to draw attention to and support the needs of the people they serve. Since 2010 we have delivered over $63,000 to support TWP causes ranging from Building Eco-homes for Tribal families to Solar Energy training. We look forward to many more years of providing aid to marginalized communities.” 

– AGI Executive Director, Surinder Moore

“The event hosts asked us to make at least 30 ornaments to benefit TWP. We made 50, and they were almost all gone after the first hour or two!” – AGI Gift Market Volunteer

Whether you’ve already gotten gifts for your loved ones or not, we want to make sure that promoting sustainability and ecological alternatives isn’t limited to a certain time of year or through any singular project. For those looking to match their values with the practice of gift-giving, we are happy to offer a series of options for you to consider during this time of year and beyond!

Visit our gift catalog to learn more here.

Planting Trees, Deeping Friendships!

delta dental.jpgby Eriq Acosta, National Director

This work doesn’t happen without the support of the rest of the world. If one were to ask themselves the question, you might think most of TWP’s support comes from people and organizations that are already deeply invested in environmental causes. In my world, for example, there is no instant or obvious connection between Trees, Water & People and Delta Dental. Like any good friendship, however, this one comes with a story. 

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure to host a group from Michigan, Lansing Catholic High School, to Pine Ridge South Dakota to help plant trees across the reservation. I worked with this group like I do with any other that comes on these trips with us – we explored the culture together, planted some trees, and most importantly, talked about our privilege and how we take that into the spaces we go.

IMG_0794.JPGI love experiential education and I utilized a lot of these methods to emphasize the importance of recognizing how the social privileges we sometimes bring into spaces as volunteers interfaces with the historical context of areas like Pine Ridge. I talked about the importance of being allies for each other and the importance of being aware of what intentions we bring with us when we show up to do volunteer work like we were doing. The group responded really well the rest of the week, and the topic was brought up several times, most frequently by two dads who were the group’s chaperones.

We got really close sharing a lot of stories, as well as learning the invaluable skill of how to play Texas hold ’em! Towards the end of the week, I learned that the two chaperones worked for Delta Dental, though we never talked about teeth or dental insurance. I was especially inspired by the energy these two brought to the group not only as chaperone support but most importantly their enthusiasm to do hard physical and mental work while having fun. Having kept in contact with these two, I shared a picture with them of me playing Texas hold ’em with a group from the Hoopa Solar Training showing off my new learned skills. 4 days later I get a text back thanking us for the work that we do, and letting us know about Delta Dental’s generous donation to support our programs on Tribal Lands! I am personally grateful for the support of people like the folks from Delta Dental not only for investing in TWP’s mission and programs but also for taking the time to open their hearts and minds to what I have to say. 

To read more about the many ways to ally with and support TWP, please visit our Partners page on our website.



Environmental Disaster and the Nicaraguan Political Crisis

By Gem Gifford, International Director

“Patria libre para vivir!” Free homeland to live! people shouted in mass protests this April as the song “Que vivan los estudiantes,” Long live the students! is heard again and again, in honor of the university students who have been the protagonists of the uprising in Nicaragua. Many of them have lost their lives in the last six months. Peaceful protests were triggered due the approval of the reform of the social security system by the Executive of the Nicaraguan Institute of Social Security (INSS) on April 16, 2018, however, a general disapproval of the government has been simmering for years.

Photo taken by Jorge Mejía Peralta

Days before the INSS reform, young leaders called to the Nicaraguan government to demand their efficient response in the face of the environmental crisis that the country was suffering as a result of a large forest fire in the Indio Maíz Natural Reserve. On April 18, youth and elderly people gathered to protest in the cities of León and Managua, rejecting the INSS reform; that day they were also repressed and attacked by police special forces and shock forces. April 19 was inscribed in the country’s historical memory when the first killed students were reported.

From April 19th to the present day, the population has manifested itself in different ways claiming their right to protest peacefully and condemning the repression at the hands of police forces and irregular groups. Sadly, violence from the state has escalated, taking the lives of more than 300 people and leaving more than a thousand injured according to human rights organizations.

crowd nica
Massive protest in honor to the mothers who have lost their sons during the protests. Photo by Jorge Mejía Peralta

As part of the protests, the locals and peasants built barricades and traffic blockades in almost every city of the country as a protection strategy for their neighborhoods, cities and communities, but also to exert pressure through a staggered national stoppage. Those blockades were forcibly removed in July, bringing the country to a somewhat more “stable” place, however, the crisis continues to generate substantial losses in the country’s economy, with over 200,000 Nicaraguans unemployed since April.

The most affected people by the current reality in Nicaragua are those who depend on commerce, tourism and services, including small and medium producers in the agricultural sector that leads the country’s economic activities.

The operations of many companies and NGOs in Nicaragua have been affected, and have had to resort to staff cuts in order to survive, causing unemployment and affecting primarily low and middle-income people. This scenario has political, social, environmental and economic threats, positioning Nicaragua into a period of complex vulnerability, yet also into a time of hope by a population that is fighting for a promising future.

Young woman protects her identity to join the massive march held the 30th of May (Mother´s day in Nicaragua) in honor to the mothers who have lost their sons during the protests. Photo taken by Jorge Mejía Peralta

As it happened in the 80’s during the revolution, Nicaragua has international attention from many human rights and media organizations. Nevertheless, it remains necessary to increase awareness and consciousness about the situation in Nicaragua to extend solidarity and humanitarian aid, as well as international cooperation with civil society.

TWP will keep our projects and partnerships strong in Nicaragua despite the new reality faced by our partners and beneficiaries, and we aim to continue the efforts that have enabled Nicaraguans to manage a better future for themselves. We thank our followers and supporters for staying up to date with us over the last six months.

Fortified Collaborations Throws Heart of Summer Dinner Party for Trees, Water & People

15 August 2018

About two months ago, almost two-hundred people gathered at the MotherLove 120 acre organic farm in Johnstown, CO to break bread, clink glasses, and celebrate summer at a Fortified Collaborations fundraiser for Trees, Water & People.

Local guests preparing for evening dinner on the farm!

Fortified Collaborations is one of the gems that makes Fort Collins unique. They convene the best local food producers, businesses, unique venues, and non-profit organizations in town at six professionally curated dinner experiences that nourish the body and soul.

This summer, they chose Trees, Water & People as the feature organization for their annual Heart of Summer Dinner. While the weather was doing as Colorado weather does (changing drastically hour to hour), we all had a blast setting up at this beautiful venue, and the end result was a fantastic sunset over a farm filled with music, friends and a beautiful spread.

Fortified Collaboration’s founder, Kristina Cash, said about the collaboration with TWP: 

“The Heart of Summer dinner is such a great example of our local food ecosystems at work and Trees, Water, People really embody the importance of that through their work. They are the perfect beneficiary for this event that connects people to the land.

Sebastian Africano, Executive Director of TWP (left) and Kristina Cash, Fortified Collaborations founder (right)

We greatly value the opportunity to share with new audiences, especially in our own community. Fortified Collaborations Heart of Summer Dinner gave us that opportunity, and put a fun exclamation point on TWP’s groundbreaking 20th year.

If you haven’t been to one of their amazing dinner experiences, visit to register for the next one!

Sun setting slowly over horizon on Motherlove’s farm

TWP Welcomes New Staff!

By Sebastian Africano

Last quarter we had the distinct privilege of adding two new talented members to the Trees, Water & People (TWP) team: Patricia Flores-White as Development Director, and José Chalit as Marketing and Communications Manager.  These two positions are critical to our operations, as they are the voice that connects us to you, our donors.


Patricia comes to us from two organizations that she founded in Canoa, Ecuador – The Betty Surf and Yoga School, founded in 2010, and the Vive Sin Miedo earthquake recovery nonprofit she founded on the heels of a 7.8 earthquake in April 2016. Her experience living in Latin America and dealing firsthand with the challenges communities face after a natural disaster helped her jump right into action when Volcán de Fuego erupted in Guatemala during her 3rd day on the job. Previous experience leading International Service Tours in Ecuador and working as an Aquatic GIS analyst for the CO Division of Wildlife make her a versatile and multi-faceted addition to our team.  

José is a Documentary Filmmaker from Denver, CO that came to us from Seattle University, where he produced several independent media projects addressing local issues of social justice, gender, and racial equality. Having spent the first years of his life in Mexico City, and visiting family there every year, he took a particular interest in the plight of Mexican and Central American farmworkers in the United States. José embedded himself as a videographer with a group called Familias Unidas para la Justicia helping migrant farmworker leaders document and disseminate moments from their historic tour of the west coast which helped them win a union contract at their workplace.

Both of these individuals struck us as important torch-bearers for TWP’s message, having an intimate connection to Latin America, being fluent in Spanish, and having both embarked on personal journeys to bridge the gap that often exists between North and South America. The perspective they bring to the team is new and diverse, and we look forward to getting them into the field as often as possible, to capture the essence of our work in fresh new ways.

Please join me in welcoming Patricia and José to the TWP staff!   

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Commitment to the Earth – Bringing It Home

by José Chalit, Communications Manager

Whether it’s helping you find the perfect energy efficient home, or committing to environmentally-responsible business practices, the duo at The Green Team Real Estate (GTR) are dedicated to helping the planet through every stage of buying, selling, creating or investing in a home.

Dave Sanders (co-owner, Left) and Lara Williams (founder, Right)

Lara Williams and Dave Sanders, Co-Owners of GTR, have supported Trees, Water & People since 2010, and we are elated to have them as part of our Partners for a Sustainable Planet program. Their passion and experience in the real estate market combined with their mission and values has helped to connect home owners with stewardship for the Earth and environmental sustainability for years.

In addition to helping home-buyers reduce their carbon footprint by finding and selling energy-efficient homes, The Green Team has partnered with TWP to help fund our various projects in Central America and U.S. Tribal Lands to make a difference in the lives of indigenous people experiencing economic or energy poverty.

By donating to TWP after every home sale or purchase, The Green Team enables us to ensure our reforestation, water cisterns, or clean energy programs are successful and far-reaching in their impact.  Both Lara and Dave even visited Nicaragua with TWP Tours in May of 2017 where they got to visit our projects with our partners, Proleña, and see our cook stove program for themselves. When they stopped by our office recently to chat for our 20 for 20 interviews, Lara said,

“Part of what inspired our commitment to TWP was seeing the cookstoves being built, seeing them in people’s homes, how they were being used, and how they were making a difference in other people’s lives. I just started to understand the environmental degradation that was happening in Central America, and how much impact TWP was having – that was very important.”

(see the full interview here)

Woman in Nicaragua with her cookstove at home

Furthermore, Dave expressed his admiration for our work on Tribal Lands, emphasizing the importance of education for indigenous youth as he grew up traveling to Pine Ridge with his mom who would volunteer to teach in local schools. We are lucky to receive support from people who recognize the importance improving the health of the Earth and those most impacted by the effects of climate change.

We are incredibly grateful for people like Lara and Dave who use their business model to help home owners (or soon to be ones!) offset their carbon footprint by reinvesting part of their sales in Trees, Water & People. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you both so much for your dedication to people and the planet!

To read more about the many ways to ally with and support TWP, please visit our partners page on our website.



World Centric & TWP: A Profound Partnership to Save the Planet!

By Patricia Flores White | Development Director

During a recent trip to visit our corporate grantors, World Centric®, we were able to sit with their staff over lunch to find out more about the work they do. It was so inspiring to speak to folks passionately working every day, to help people and the planet!

world centric eriq
TWP National Director, Eriq Acosta, and W.C. Development Manager, Janae Lloyd

World Centric® was founded in 2004 to raise awareness about large-scale humanitarian and environmental issues. Their disposable food service products are designed to reduce pollution and waste through composting, require less energy and water to produce, come from renewable resources, and are created from waste products that help save biodiversity and habitats. What is most incredible is that 25% of their annual profits are invested in nonprofits like Trees, Water & People to create social and environmental sustainability.

Together, we have invested in a profound partnership to help people and the planet! I truly believe that through collaboration, we allow each organization to specialize in their individual field in order to meet common goals. This holistic model of cooperation through social enterprise is a means to achieve greater societal aspirations addressing social justice and conservation through alliance and cooperation.

world centric design.jpg

Finding solutions by coming together to solve problems that affect the entire planet sets the example of what is possible, of what can be accomplished through collaboration. We have empowered each other to create solutions by working in unison. This asset-based approach to helping people and the planet is a way to build enthusiasm, energy and strengthen relationships that propel people and cultures to the ‘next level’.

On behalf of TWP and the communities we serve, we would like to thank World Centric® for their continued support and innovative vision! To read more about the many ways to ally with and support TWP, please visit our partners page on our website.

Grounding Our Work Across Cultures: Indigenous Perspectives

by Eriq Acosta
Personally, I feel really sensitive and protective of our tribal communities. Although I am not a direct descendant of the Lakota I still feel responsible for keeping our communities safe.
Solar Training in 2017
One can attempt to understand my hesitancy of bringing strangers to the reservations who want to “come see the native folks and their culture”; the thought of doing this didn’t sit well with me at first. The world, obviously not all, has historically held very skewed perspectives of Indigenous people. On one side of the spectrum, we are described as these glorious people who ate all of the buffalo and roam the plains, moving our teepees from here to there, and living off of the land. On the opposite side of this are descriptors like drunkards, poor, sickly and “without”.
The truth is not all of us live in teepees and eat buffalo. When traveling throughout the United States, one will find many differences and similarities between life on or off the reservation: poverty, disease, or corruption as some examples. These are not exclusive to the reservations, it is everywhere. Being an urban Mexican-Indian myself and having lived with people from urban settings and on reservations, I have seen so much beauty. Beauty in the people, the culture, and the land – it’s all around.
It’s not that I choose to turn my head to the struggles, rather I choose to fuel myself with all of that beauty so that I can continue to do the hard work that needs to be done. In Leonard Peltier’s words, “What you believe and what you do are the same thing. In Indian way, if you see your people suffering, helping them becomes absolutely necessary. It’s not a social act of charity or welfare assistance, it’s a spiritual act, a holy deed.” 
With that said, I was hesitant to host TWP tour groups to Pine Ridge Reservation. However, this is the second year I have hosted the folks from Lansing Michigan Catholic High School and the second year that I have been overly impressed. Volunteers were asked to provide an evaluation of the most recent trip and one person wrote:
“It definitely made a mark on me. Being able to help people who are definitely in need and not only being welcomed like we were but also being able to partake in their amazing culture was an experience of great significance”.
They came to Pine Ridge to learn, to be of service, to enjoy the plains, and most importantly learn the story of Indigenous people from Indigenous people! I am honored to call them friends and family of the human race!
Thank you to all who came and offered their time and energy. Your efforts are much appreciated and we look forward to more opportunities like this in the future.
Setting sun over rolling hills of Pine Ridge


Learn more about our U.S. Tribal programs and how you can help here.

Remembering Our Brother Lucas – One Year On

By Sebastian Africano
Today is a heavy day for all of us at Trees, Water & People, and will continue to be for time eternal. One year ago today, on July 12, 2017, we lost our beloved Lucas Wolf on an otherwise perfect day on Cuba’s south coast.


Lucas in Honduras

Among many other things, Lucas Wolf’s final week was spent expanding his personal and professional circles in Latin America, speaking up for the environment on the radio in Havana, Cuba, and exploring this amazing country with his Mom and #1 travel companion, Mary Ellen Keen. He didn’t know it was his last, but he spent every moment of that week working to create a better tomorrow. As Mary Ellen wrote to me recently, quoting a Mark Strand poem:
Nothing could stop you.
Not the best day. Not the quiet. Not the ocean rocking.
You went on with your dying.
Here at Trees, Water & People, we feel his presence daily. We made a conscious decision when he transitioned that we would not lose pace, as he would resent nothing more than his death causing a diversion from the causes he embraced so fully. Rather than retreat, we advanced – shifting, recruiting, and hiring people that could carry on what he and our teams had in motion.
Lucas left more than just nodes and connections in his life. He left living networks of motivated people, all working in some way to improve their communities and the planet. That’s the only reason we’ve been able to plant 243,111 trees in Lucas’s name in the last 365 days – those who loved him have committed fervently to keeping his work alive.
We miss you, Lucas. You really have no equal on this planet. Working with you was a privilege, and carrying on TWP’s work in your name is among my most cherished responsibilities. You continue to inspire us, and we continue to grow and do you proud. Thank you for spending some time with us, and please continue to smile down on the good works your people carry on for you, and on all the complex forces that make good things happen in the world.
We love you.


Planting for Lucas

Read More –

Guatemala Volcano Recovery

Mural in Guatemala depicting the history of displacement

by Patricia Flores White, Development Director

On Sunday, June 3rd, 2018, Volcán de Fuego erupted in Southern Guatemala, unleashing a massive pyroclastic flow that tore down the mountain’s southern flank at 50 mph. 300 are dead or missing while thousands were evacuated to relief shelters. Currently, recovery efforts have ceased and transportation in the area have been paralyzed, leaving the displaced indefinitely separated from their homes and livelihoods.

Among those displaced are the families of La Trinidad – one of Trees, Water & People’s (TWPs) partner communities and a member community of the Utz Che’ network. This is the third major displacement of this vulnerable population in a generation. Guatemala’s genocidal civil war drove them out of their native Huehuetenango into Mexico in the 1980s, only to be later resettled onto the high-risk flanks of Volcán Fuego.

Last year, we were fortunate enough to install cookstoves for 115 families in La Trinidad and to develop a plan to work on several projects with their coffee cooperative, Unión Huista. With the help of our generous TWP family of supporters, we have committed the month of July to fundraise for the community of La Trinidad as it navigates emergency relief, relocation, and negotiation with the State to keep access to its farmlands.

Map detailing area of pyroclastic flow and affected community

TWP is dedicated to improving people’s lives by helping people protect, conserve, and manage the natural resources upon which their well-being depends. While we are not a disaster relief agency we have the opportunity to work intimately with the affected communities in Guatemala during this time of chaos and devastation. We strive to live and breathe our community-based development philosophy in both words and action. As such, our Guatemalan partners, la Asociación de Forestería Comunitaria Utz Ché, have entrusted us to raise funds for the prolonged recovery process facing La Trinidad.

Everyone plays a role in making the world more sustainable and humane. Our donors provide the means, TWP provides networks and know-how, our local partners deliver solutions, and each beneficiary provides local materials and sweat equity. Together we drive change and create dignified, healthy futures for our global community. La Trinidad and their local coffee cooperative Unión Huista will need years to recover their agricultural productivity, and TWP and Utz Ché have committed to be there every step of the way.

We honor and appreciate everything that you do to help vulnerable communities like La Trinidad when they need it most. We could not do this work without your help. You will continue to see this crisis featured throughout the month of July as we garner aid and public support for the communities of Guatemala impacted by this natural disaster.

Give here

Give today to help our partners in Guatemala begin their long and arduous journey towards recovery.