Intern Jen Levine – a Clean Energy Summer organizer – putting up posters drawn by City summer camp participants.
Post by Jen Levine
Coming into my first morning at the New Haven/Leon Sister City Project I knew that my work would have something to do with climate change, but I wasn’t quite sure what that would entail nor what skills I would need. During our first meeting, I was assigned the Clean Energy Summer Campaign. The goal of the campaign would be to get as many people to switch to renewable energy as possible, but it was up to Luiza Livingston, a coworker, and I to come up with the rest. Our first step was creating a website with a straightforward description of how to make the switch. Neither of us had done so before, and there was certainly an adjustment period to using new software. However, cleanenergynhv.org was up and running within a week. Luiza and I then created a Facebook page to attract our first set of viewers to the website, and we were able to share it on the New Haven Climate Movement’s (NHCM) page and improve our reach in the community.
We soon began several projects to garner more interest before our launch with Mayor Toni Harp on July 5th. Luiza and Jamie Friedman, another co-worker, began painting two thirty-foot banners to hang above busy areas in New Haven. A video was created by Jennifer Stock and Geremy Schulick, along with several Yale students, to be presented at Friday Flicks through the Parks Department. Jumana Aryan, another coworker, and I were able to reach out to the Yale community through a contact at the Yale School of Public Health. Dr. Robert Dubrow helped us spread the word through mass emails and newsletters and connected us to other schools such as the Yale School of Medicine (YSM) and the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies (FES). We were especially successful through another friend of NHCM, Gabrielle Stack, who was able to reach out to her friends in the postdoctoral community at YSM and switched several to renewable energy. Our success within Yale’s community will continue as a student at FES will be creating a sub-campaign on campus this fall with the goal of converting at least 20 units to renewable energy.
My favorite part of the campaign was working in ten of the City Camps run by the New Haven Parks Department. Through our visits, Luiza and I learned how little climate change education there is in the Greater New Haven school systems. When asked to give a quick definition of climate change, many campers came up with “a change in the weather.” While this is accurate, we broke the definition of climate change down into two parts: good climate change: the natural progression of the four seasons and the small variations in day-to-day weather, and the climate change we were discussing: global warming, destruction of habitats and ecosystems, ocean acidification, and other issues. To get the campers to further understand what this all meant, we asked them to tell us their favorite animals and then explained how those animals were affected by climate change. We went on to ask them what they thought humans were doing to cause such destruction. Here the students excelled no matter the age. They all understood that throwing trash in the ocean, cutting down trees, driving cars, and other actions are harmful to the environment. It gave me hope that they were able to recognize some of the problems, and might come away from our activity trying to change their ways.
We could not simply leave them with all of the harmful things they were doing, so we brainstormed a list of actions they could take to help the environment. The ideas conjured up at the various camps ranged from turning off lights when you leave a room and recycling to getting solar panels and riding your bike instead of driving a car. Luiza and I also gave students another simple way to support the campaign: coloring in posters and bringing home flyers to inform their families about how to make the switch to renewable energy. The students were eager to help and enjoyed having their pictures taken with their posters. The pictures were then posted on our Facebook page and drew a lot of interest to the project.
Overall, my experience working with the campers as well as creating the campaign was rewarding and educational. I will certainly take all of the skills I gained into my future positions, and I look forward to seeing the continued success of my projects as well as what NHLSCP creates in the future.
Jen Levine is a rising sophomore at Davidson College and is from Easton, Connecticut.
Photo: From left to right Agusto Donaire, Jorbin Baquedano, Fany Osejo, Mario Rivas. These young people were able to attend the Afterschool Program every day for five years.
When the Afterschool Program was started almost 12 years ago in the community of Goyena, we knew that it would be a challenge for all involved. In the socio-economic context that the community is located, they lack basic necessities. For many parents who never attended school or managed to enter but did not finish even primary school, the main need is to provide families with daily food, and for this the support of their children was fundamental. With large families and few decent employment opportunities, the only option for fathers and mothers was to work in the cane and peanut plantations. The older children are often taken to help them in the fields and the girls stay at home taking care of the younger children.
However, with the commitment of all and trainings for parents, the Afterschool Program has been a great help for both children and parents. In the Program, they are helped to do their homework, have fun and learn from the teachers, participate in a lunch program. Through the Program, parents and children were convinced that education is the main tool for personal development and for the community as a whole.
The four young people in the photo – after attending the Afterschool Program every day for five years – finished high school in 2016. For many of us living in urban areas this would not be a special achievement, but just a further step in our process to achieve higher education. However for many of these young people, staying in school has meant many sacrifices. For them it has not been so simple, and many of their friends who are their own age, already work, have children and have failed to finish their primary education.
In the years they attended the Afterschool Program, their parents were also involved in order to raise awareness of the importance of education. This work had positive results since they all managed to finish secondary school and currently intend to enter the public university.
Photo: Yaranesi Perez, 22 years old, young community leader, Afterschool Program teacher.
Studying at a university is already very difficult for any young person, especially for those with limited resources. Just applying to the public university in the city of León (UNAN) makes you compete with students from all over the country. But for Yaranesi Pérez this has not been her only struggle. She is also a school Afterschool teacher; a community collaborator/leaders; and a young activist willing to help her neighbors and friends as much as she can. All the efforts made by this young leader are for the sake of her community because she wants to improve it.
Yaranesi aims to be an agent of change. One of her primary goals is to be a teacher at the formal school in her community. This year Yaranesi will graduate – after five years – with a degree in Natural Sciences at the National Autonomous University of Nicaragua. Yaranesi studies in “sabatina” mode, which means she wakes up very early Saturday to be able to do her chores at home, and then takes the bus that leaves his community at 4:00 am to be able to arrive punctually at classes to the city of León at 7:00 am.
She, like many other young women in the community of Goyena, was awarded scholarships by NHLSCP and is achieving her goals. This success makes for better economic and social conditions for their families, as well as sets an example for the rest of the young people in the community. Already many young people from the community who are in high school admire Yaranesi, and have expressed “If she can, so can we”. At the New Haven-León SCP we hope to continue to support the goals of many young people through the scholarship program, so that more young people like Yaranesi become examples of perseverance, discipline and leadership for their friends and family.
Photo: March against violence against women in Leon, Nicaragua – organized by Mujeral in Action, New Haven León Sister City Project, Casa de Colores, Ixchen-Leon, other organizations and individual feminists.
On November 26th of this year, we helped organize the International Day Against Violence Against Women event in León. Since 2012, NHLSCP has helped mark this important annual event. We get together with several feminist organizations and individuals to march through the streets of Leon, demand our rights, and expose abuses that Nicaraguan women experience. Women from the rural communities of Goyena and Troilo also participated with their own peaceful demands.
To mark the 55th year of the International Day Against Violence Against Women, we remembered and honored the Mirabal sisters; Patria, Minerva and Maria Teresa, who were murdered by the dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic in 1960. In the 21st century, even though women are legally recognized as citizens with human rights, we continue to be abused, raped, sold, beaten, exploited, denigrated and killed. We will not stop marching and fighting for justice until we are respected and patriarchy and all its institutional expressions are abolished. Feminist Women demand that the government, the laws, and the public guarantee a country that’s inclusive, fair, free and healthy for all. We actively sympathize with the survivors of gender violence, who are abused, raped, and killed. We denounce the impunity that is guaranteeing more violence in Leon, Nicaragua, in Latin America, and in the world, because we want “Not One Less Women” woman abused.