Trees, Water & People Welcomes New Executive Director

by Sebastian Africano, Executive Director

I have long believed that people have the power to craft their own future. While each journey is unique, we all have the capacity to identify what we value, versus what we don’t, and to forge a path that produces more of the former and less of the latter. If we’re lucky, we have a moment where self-awareness, opportunity, and circumstance intersect, and we take that first step toward the future we want to live.

In 2005, I launched into a career in International Development by accepting an internship with Trees, Water & People (TWP) in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. There were more “unknowns” than “knowns” in the offer, and the pay would have barely covered my utility bills in San Francisco at the time, but as I stood at that intersection of introspection and opportunity, I knew this was a path I needed to follow.

Sebastian Africano with clean cookstove
Sebastian Africano got his start with Trees, Water & People as an intern helping with clean cookstoves in Central America in 2005.

Now, 13 years after my first conversations with co-founder Stuart Conway, and almost 20 years since the organization was founded, I am happy to take the next step on this path by accepting the role of Executive Director of Trees, Water & People – effective May 15, 2017. This shift comes after years of thoughtful succession planning and several deep conversations and interviews with TWP staff and board.

TWP set me on a path to discover the world through the smoky lens of traditional cooking practices, giving me an intimate, ground-level introduction to what life is like on the margins of global society. Through this experience, I’ve acquired a broad perspective of the uniqueness of life on our planet, and have made hundreds of allies who value our planet and global community enough that they have dedicated their lives’ work to protecting them.

Sebastian Africano working in the field
After many years of working in the field in Central America, Sebastian Africano will be spending more time in Fort Collins as Trees, Water & People’s new Executive Director.

Despite the hard truths inherent to our work, I find tremendous inspiration in the grit, hustle, hope, and smiles exhibited by the people we serve, both in Central America and on Tribal Lands in the Great Plains. Only by working together can we achieve a more sustainable future for our planet, and I’m privileged to support their struggles and aspirations daily through my work at TWP.

In this new role, my goal is to engage more meaningfully with you – our community of generous supporters. None of the impact TWP delivers would be possible without your support, and I know that together we can redouble our efforts to improve the lives of people and the planet.

I’m ready to craft our future together. Will you join me?

Richard Fox, Trees, Water & People’s co-founder and former Executive Director will be stepping down after 19 years but will remain on staff as the National Director through the end of the year. When asked about the transition, Richard had this to say, “I am honored to step down and for Sebastian to become the next Executive Director of this great organization. He has been trained for this position for many years, and we could not ask for a more compassionate, capable, and competent person to provide the next generation of leadership for Trees, Water & People.” Following his retirement, Richard will remain involved with TWP as a board member.

Trees, Water & People is excited to welcome our new Executive Director, Sebastian Africano! 

Great report from the National Wildlife Federation: “The New Energy Future in Indian Country”

This report highlights many of the great renewable energy opportunities available to tribes around the United States. Thank you to the National Wildlife Federation for producing such a great report!

Sponsor a Lakota family

Through friends we came to understand that Lakota people living on reservations were paying up to 70% of their income just to pay their exorbitant heat and electricity bills. To help ease this problem, Trees, Water & People has been building and installing supplemental solar heat systems for Native American families living on reservations in the Western U.S. These solar heaters save 25-35% on heating bills, and we estimate that they will stay in service for 20-30 years. Besides keeping families warmer in the winter and saving significant money, the heaters have other benefits. Many families must choose between paying for heat, food, or medicine…a choice no one should have to make. Many families use the savings from our heaters to buy more food and medicine, so the heaters help improve health and nutrition.

Many Lakota women make beautiful star quilts. They often have to move in with other family members in the winter because their homes are too cold or too expensive to heat. When families are consolidated, there is no room for work on quilts, so this important source of income is lost during the long and bitterly cold winters. Each solar heating system costs about $1,200 for all of the material and the cost of installation. Currently, we have funding that covers about $800 of this cost, so we still need to raise about $400 per heater so we can get as many installed as possible before this next winter. We’re asking our friends and supporters to consider sponsoring a Lakota family so they can receive one of this heaters. You can help at whatever level you feel is appropriate. The Lakota are struggling…and they are holders of great wisdom. They still hear the life within the land and move with their ancestors along a powerful way. We hope you will help us to preserve this important culture and these important people.

Richard