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 Flores-White, Development Director
José Chalit, Marketing and Communications Manager
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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As the incoming Development Director at Trees, Water & People, my job is to raise the funds that will keep the organization running. Even before taking this position, I knew that to do my job successfully I would need to visit the places where we work, shake hands with our partners, smell a kitchen with a clean cookstove, and touch the soil where we are growing our trees.
This opportunity came in the middle of January when I got to travel to Nicaragua for a week-long stay with Gemara Gifford, TWP’s International Director, and Paul Thayer, a TWP board member. Shortly after arriving at the Managua airport, Paul, Gemara and our fabulous tour guide (and partner of past International Director, Lucas Wolf), Valentina, drove directly to Gaia Estate. The Estate is a Certified Bird-friendly coffee farm outside the town of Diriamba and is owned by long-time TWP friend Jefferson Shriver. Jefferson greeted us with a glass of wine, dinner, and conversation about Nicaragua. He stressed the importance of promoting farming systems that integrate overstory trees (i.e. agroforestry), and high-value and environmentally-friendly products like vanilla and turmeric. After a good night’s sleep, we awoke to the smell of fresh coffee brewing, beans that had been picked and harvested from his farm just days before.
We spent the next day with Proleña visiting Tierra Verde, our newly opened climate change education center in La Paz Centro. Since TWP’s last visit, the first floor of the dormitory has been built and 600 trees have been planted on the property (25 different species in all) as well as infrastructure for the site including roadways and electricity. Having seen Tierra Verde in many photographs, it was essential to see the property and hear about the exciting events planned for 2018.
Although more construction will be taking place this year, the vision for the center is starting to take shape. We talked in detail about the workshops that we have planned, including bringing in local farmers to talk about agroforestry, university students to discuss climate change, and TWP Tour participants to visit the center. We discussed plans to complete the tree nursery with at least 50,000 trees in the first year, as well as demonstration sites for clean cookstoves, and adding a greenhouse for growing and genetically testing trees.
After our visit to Tierra Verde, we toured Proleña’s workshop in Managua and visited local urban cookstove beneficiaries. I have always been aware of the impact of clean cookstoves, but it was a completely different experience to see and smell the difference. The women we visited graciously welcomed us into their kitchen and explained the changes in their lives and their health after the clean cookstove had been installed. Although my Spanish is limited, it didn’t take me long to realize how these women felt about their clean cookstoves. They would pat gently on their chests and touch their eyes, implying that they could breathe easier and their eyes were less irritated.
The last day was one of the most profound for me as we visited the rural communities surrounding the northern town of Jinotega, in particular, the remote village of La Cal. To get there, we had a few hours’ drive on an impossibly steep and windy dirt road with a one hour walk up a steep rocky path. The village was tucked away in a mountain valley and one of the most remote communities I have ever visited.
Upon our arrival, we were introduced to the only teacher in the community, a young man who gave us a tour including the one-room schoolhouse and various family homes. The families we visited we welcoming, kind, and joyful. We interviewed many women about the impacts of their clean cookstoves, played with the kids, saw how much time it takes to gather wood, and the challenges of living in rural Nicaragua. As we drove back that evening to Managua, the feeling I had wasn’t sadness at the rural living conditions, but a sense of awe at their resilience.
On the plane ride home, I was thinking about my biggest take away from the trip. What was I going to bring back to the TWP community of donors and supporters? Without a doubt, it was the unique community-based approach that Trees, Water & People uses when working in Central America and U.S. Tribal Lands.
TWP’s approach is based on the philosophy that communities have the best judgment of how their lives and livelihoods can be improved, and if given access to the right resources, they should make decisions that will be most impactful for them. I believe that this community-based development is the most effective way to create change. Change does not come easy for anyone. Changing the way someone cooks their food can seem impossibly difficult. But, TWP’s approach to involve the community and a local nonprofit (in the case of Proleña in Nicaragua) allows for the change to be approached on an intimate, community level.
This type of grassroots change is not the easiest route. It is complicated and complex and takes years to actualize. Luckily for TWP, we have been planting seeds this way for 20 years and will continue to for many, many more!
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Thank you to our generous friends and donors who helped make 2015 a great year! Working closely with our local partners, community members, and volunteers, we were able to continue important conservation work throughout Central America, Haiti, and on tribal lands in the United States that benefit people and the planet.
To learn more about Trees, Water & People’s community-based conservation projects please visit www.treeswaterpeople.org. Cheers to a productive and green 2016!
Happy #GivingTuesday! Today, the world is celebrating the millions of nonprofits and NGOs working tirelessly to create a better future for all. We hope you will take a moment to make a gift to one of our community-based conservation programs that improve people’s livelihoods while conserving the environment.
Trees, Water & People’s unique community-based development model is based on the philosophy that the best way to help those most in need is to involve them directly in the design and implementation of local environmental and economic development initiatives. This creates ownership, involvement, and financial sustainability well into the future. Our proven development model of training and execution, coupled with an enterprise approach, engages and inspires local residents to preserve their precious natural resources.
Celebrate #GivingTuesday by making a contribution today!
Since 1998, Trees, Water & People has been working with our partners and local community members to design clean cookstoves that greatly reduce deadly indoor air pollution, deforestation, and high fuel costs. These cookstoves are designed according to specific cooking needs and cultural context, which is why they can look very different from country to country. However, all of these stoves have one important thing in common: they make cooking much safer for women and their families.
To learn more about Trees, Water & People’s Clean Cookstove Program please click here.
Changing the world has never been easy. Nor has it ever been more necessary. Technology propels us forward at an unprecedented rate, yet there are billions of people without enough food, electricity, or clean drinking water. Add the stress of a changing climate, and you have an enormous challenge to face as a global community. That’s why I am so glad to have you helping.
It would be impossible to get up every day and face this challenge otherwise. But every day, all of us at Trees, Water & People receive your emails, donations, and phone calls, all combining to inspire and motivate us. Together, the community we have created is a force for good, creating long-term, positive impacts for people in need.
Internationally, your donations in 2014 helped plant hundreds of thousands of trees in Central America and contributed to the construction of nearly 4,000 clean cookstoves, among many other conservation projects.
Doing any of your holiday shopping online? When you order from AmazonSmile, Amazon donates 0.5% of the purchase price to Trees, Water & People. This is an easy way to support our programs, so sign-up today!