Sara’s Experience in the Green Collar Corps
By Sara Gurdian
During my high school journey, I became well aware of the fact that I played a critical role in my society. Like many may say, “be the change you want to see”. So here I am, a 19 year old Guatemalan woman, interested in social issues, nature, education and working to change the role that women are imposed to have in society. Soon after I graduated from Richmond High School, I finally got to show off some of the skills I acquired in Earth Team internships where we worked on creek restoration and Urban Forestry. We also conducted our own street cleanup and organized our volunteers. Through another program called Amigos de Las Americas I was able to travel to the rural areas of Cocle, Panama where I stayed with a host family for about a month! My experience abroad really shifted the way I see things now. My host family was extremely poor, but they made the best of it. We played cards almost every night, the only fun thing to do believe it or not. My partner, a native Panamanian and I had the privilege to come to this community to develop a community based project. This all led me to continue in the environmental field because I really care about our impact in the water, air, soil, and especially the impact we have on each other. I then joined The Watershed Project Green Collar Corps because it is my way of giving back and appreciating the opportunity that is being given to me.
Since I started working with TWP, I've been involved with a couple of different programs, including the North Richmond Ambassador and Greening the Last Mile of the Richmond Greenway. For example, I’ve been doing community outreach through the North Richmond Ambassador program. The general outlook of this program is to assign members of the community certain streets that are well transited by elementary students to ensure their safety on their walk home. This consists of maintaining the streets clean and syringe free. I even had the chance to recruit and train some of the members myself. This program is honestly very rewarding. When going out there and looking at how much cleaner the streets are and talking to the active community members, it really shows that what we are doing is not in vain, and is creating awareness in our community about the effects of waste in our streets, creeks, and bay. This program offers a way to educate community members on how to prevent dumping on their streets.
Another one of our ongoing projects is maintaining our rain gardens and bioswales located along the Richmond Greenway. We are there no matter what, rain or shine. However the best part in these projects, is seeing the before and after. The first step is weeding. Not a lot of people enjoy weeding. Many days we will weed for hours and still feel like we have made no progress! I've learned to be patient with the weeds and accepting of the fact that I will not get all the nasty Bermuda grass in one day of work. The next step is mulching, and making sure that we cover all the disturbed soil so the weeds won't grow back. It also makes the native plants look taken care of and pretty. That pretty much sums up how we maintain our adopted areas on the Greenway. I have also learned what it means to really work as a team and be most efficient.
For future activity involvement, I wish to be more active in the educational aspects of our organization. I think that educating people about what we are doing is vital, especially today because we live in a time where the environment is the least of people’s worries. It seems to me that understanding how nature works might seem a bit of a drag for many individuals. However, if we would like to see our surroundings change in any way, in areas of Richmond, San Pablo, North Richmond, El Cerrito and our neighboring cities, the opportunity is there, we just have to go for it!
TWP has definitely encouraged my career direction. I would like to pursue something along the lines of public health or urban planning. This job offers me a lot of opportunity not only for career guidance but it also allows me to grow as a person and develop all types of skills that I will use in the real world. One thing I find surprising while working here is the dedication and effort that is put into every single program and project to make sure that we can reach as many people possible. That is one reason why I enjoy working here. As TWP’s 20th anniversary is coming, I hope that our future projects will run smoothly and will benefit our communities in every way. Also I hope to see additions to the Green Collar Corps so we could manage all our adopted sites successfully.