After moving from Maryland, U.S. to Quito, Ecuador at the age of six, the transition was hard for me mainly because of the language barrier. Even though my parents would talk to me in Spanish at home, my native language was still English. I found it difficult to communicate and interact with other kids at school, so it took me some time to adapt. However, along this process, I remember finding comfort in the environment around me. Every morning I would wake up and right outside my window I would see beautiful mountains surrounding my house. On my way to school, we would drive by a roaring river and depending on the weather conditions, I was able to see the peak of a volcano through the fogginess. Growing up among such diverse landscapes, really helped me appreciate and love my new home. Also, nature gave me the space to make long lasting friends. Even when we found it difficult to communicate with one another, we were able to play, explore and hike up the mountains (not all the way up because we were not allowed to go too far). As I got older, I started noticing big holes in the mountains, some days, our house would be covered in dust, and the river was not as clear as it used to be. This was because of mining practices, some illegal, were destroying the land and contaminating our resources. After witnessing this, I felt angry. Nature gave me strength and a voice when I first moved to Ecuador and it was being destroyed. Therefore, it was my time to stand up and speak for Mother Nature. My community and I decided to peacefully protest and sign petitions so that mining would not be allowed. Several years have passed and till this day, mining practices are still ongoing in my community. Even with all the frustration, we did have a big win. After couple years of protesting and town hall meetings, we were able to close down a chicken factory that was also dumping residues into the river. All these experiences have ignited the fire within me and shape me into the person I am today. Even when there are not all victories, I want to continue being an advocate for the environment and communities around the world.
Living through these experiences made me very aware of environmental issues at a young age and inspired me to learn more about how I could help preserve our natural resources which is why a pursued a degree in Environmental Science and Policy. While I was in college, I worked on a project with the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to determine best siting practices for community solar projects in the city of Baltimore, Maryland. Learning about community solar made me want to look into renewable energy careers. But then, during the summer of 2019 I interned with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park in California where I was part of the interpretation team and developed interpretive programs about how air pollution and drought are affecting the trees and most importantly inspire action to help protect the park’s resources. At that point I thought, maybe I can become a park ranger and work for the National Park Service. After graduating, it was obvious I wasn’t clear with what I wanted to do professionally. Until my internship with the Center for Climate, Health and Equity at the American Public Health Association. That’s where I learned how to look at my experiences through the public health lens and better understand how climate change is a public health issue. Now I work as a Program Associate helping develop projects and promoting the Climate Center’s communication and program activities. For example, I recently worked on project called “Student Champions for Climate Justice Awards” where we selected 5 student groups to create a virtual event to help raise awareness on the connections between climate change and health equity. Also, I develop content to promote the ECO Bookworms book club on APHA’s social media. Every month we promote books for young readers (4-8 years) that help parents, caregivers and teachers start conversations on climate change and the environment.
I think it’s important to preserve the environment around my community because many of us depend on the natural resources. But if we keep emitting pollutants and contributing to climate change, those resources will be scarce. People can already witness the impacts of climate change in my community. The river that was once abundant is now shrinking.