I have been very fortunate this summer to have split my time between two urban refuges. There has been so much to learn from each site and it has been a great lesson to see how there is not just one method when it comes to program coordination or community outreach and engagement, there are different methods each with its own challenges and positives.
This summer Hispanic Access Foundation interns, at their respective host sites, were given the chance to help lead or establish (at some sites) Latino Conservation Week events. I was lucky that both the sites I worked with had already done the great work of establishing Latinx Conservation Week events. They had already started doing the work of reaching out to the Latinx community to invite them into the picture and create space so my work was a little easier. Both the sites that I work with took different approaches when it came to planning and hosting a Latino Conservation Week event. At one site we took a more laid-back approach in which different partners were asked to come up with their own activities and provide materials while we served as the location and facilitated the coordination of the event. At the other site, it was lot more hands-on, we were in charge of creating and implementing activities as well as leading the coordination.
The way that community outreach and engagement for the events were done was also handled differently at my sites. At one site we worked closely with a local Latinx church we had an established relationship with and worked with them to accommodate their needs. We reserved spaces exclusively for them and involved them in the planning. While at the other site we worked with different organizations doing conservation work with Latinx populations in order to get the word out about our event and to invite the community. We had successful events at both sites. I have learned a lot from watching the great people I worked with this summer leading this work at both my sites. My major takeaways from aiding in the coordination of these events and watching it come to fruition are that 1) creating relationships in the community has to be a sustained effort 2) if you do not have established relationships in the community then you must work closely and meaningfully with the people already doing that work and 3) you must recognize and meet the community where they are.
It was a really hot and muggy summer day but families still came out, learned a lot, and had lots of fun! To me, this says that people really want to participate in the outdoors they just need more places dedicated to opening spaces and meeting people where they are. Though both the coordination and implementation of the events at both sites were successful there is still a lot to learn and do. I think a good first step would be to have familiar faces, you cannot do all the work of translating material and hosting an event and not have familiar faces, it's almost ingenuine. Hire Spanish speakers in long-term positions if the work is meant to be intentional. And lastly, start the work! The simplest gestures go a long way, translating materials is a good start.
Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service
Location: Patuxent NWR