Buenas! My name is Aaron Voit. For the next five months it is my extreme privilege to work as EcoViva’s International Fellow in the Lower Lempa in El Salvador.
I first came to the Lower Lempa as a participant on an EcoViva Community Empowerment Tour (CET) in April of 2012. It was a life changing experience that opened my eyes to the incredible power of community organizing. In my studies of sustainable development as a student at the University of California, Santa Barbara and experiences with various NGOs while studying abroad in Chile and traveling South and Central America, I had never encountered a movement of grassroots change with such breadth and depth of programs, democratic participation, and impact. I was inspired to pursue a career working to support community-led social and economic development, and hoped that one day I would again get the opportunity to work with EcoViva and the Mangrove Association.
After graduating from UCSB in the spring of 2012, I continued learning about sustainable community development as an intern for the human rights and poverty reduction organization American Jewish World Service, and then as a fellow at Urban Adamah, an urban farm in Berkeley, California centered around sustainable agriculture, food justice, and community organizing.
I have finally made it back to the Lower Lempa and couldn’t be more excited about our work. If my first month here is a sign of things to come, it will be a jam packed six months. Just a few days after my arrival, along with the amazing staff of EcoViva and the Mangrove Association, I helped facilitate an eight day Community Empowerment Tour with SeetheWild, a conservation and eco-tourism organization, and Evergreen College in Olympia, Washington. Among many fun and meaningful activities, we visited a community-based clean water project, made compost, took a tour of a cashew cooperative, worked a day on an organic farm, met with a women’s empowerment group, and participated in conservation research at a locally managed Hawksbill sea turtle hatchery and conservation program.
Of late, I have been assisting in field research evaluating the implementation and socioeconomic impacts of PLAS, the Local Plan of Sustainable Use empowering communities with local stewardship of the natural resources they depend on for their livelihoods.
It is a dream to be working with EcoViva and our local partner, The Mangrove Association, for environmental sustainability, economic security, social justice, and peace here in El Salvador. I am so grateful to be part of the EcoViva team can’t wait to share some of my experiences with you during my time in El Salvador.