“It is important for the community to get out, and do something that contributes to the improvement and preservation of its habitat, because they must become aware of the reality of its environment,” said Pastor Armando Vera. “It is very important to involve the community, since this can awaken an interest in nature.”
For many low-income communities around the nation, getting outdoors is a struggle in itself. A recent report published by Hispanic Access Foundation and the Center for American Progress, “The Nature Gap: Confronting Racial and Economic Disparities in the Destruction and Protection of Nature in America”, found Latinos and other communities of color are less likely to have access to natural areas, resulting in poorer health, higher stress levels, more asthma issues, etc.
Margarita Flores, local community member and Hispanic Leadership Network member, knows firsthand the limitations people in her community of Compton, CA, face to get to the outdoors – lack of transportation, proper attire and information about accessible places. Many of the Latino families she’s worked with are scared to explore areas outside of their comfort zone. Flores sought to change that by hosting two events during Latino Conservation Week, where she prepared the attending families by giving them all of the resources needed to enjoy the hikes to Henninger Flats and the San Gabriel Mountains.
“During this trip, I enjoyed looking at their faces and hearing some of their stories,” said Flores. “Many of them were overfilled with joy. The joy of being able to challenge and overcome the fear of being outdoors. It was important for them to confront their fears and know that these activities really are safe. After the events, they had a new understanding of the outdoors, and how it is a place to share and celebrate – stories, knowledge, and culture.”
Similar to Flores, Pastora Damaris Lopez in Pasadena, CA, faces the limitation of a lack of resources when it comes to connecting her community to the outdoors. Latino Conservation Week gave her the opportunity to partner with the Resource Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains who provided her with the resources to be able to host two events for Latino Conservation Week – a Crayfish removal and Family Beach Day. For many in her community, not only was it the first time they visited Topanga Beach, but it was the first time they had even heard of it.
“After the event several of the families signed up to be volunteers with Resource Conservation District of Santa Monica Mountains,” said Pastora Lopez. “They enjoyed the event so much and were inspired to continue to be caretakers of God’s creation.”
Many of our Hispanic Leadership Network members host trainings and/or events similar to Latino Conservation Week throughout the year because of the importance in teaching their community to get involved in conserving the environment. In Texas, Pastor Vera often holds activities focused on learning more about our surroundings and how to take some protective actions.
“The main teaching lies in letting my community know that God is the creator of everything that exists in this world, and that he has given human beings the great responsibility to take care of his creation, to protect and conserve it, so that our planet is preserved,” said Pastor Vera. “We must be good stewards of our madre naturaleza.”