PROVIDENCE—On the evening of Wednesday, November 15th, 2023, the Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council, community leaders and residents all gathered at Farm Fresh RI to celebrate the Nuevas Voces graduates of the 2023 program. Speakers at the event included Master of Ceremony and Rhode Island State Representative, David Morales; Rhode Island Lt. Governor, Sabina Matos; Mayor Smiley’s Office’s Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Silas Pinto; Oscar Vargas, City of Providence Councilman; WRWC Staff; and 2023 Nuevas Voces graduates. Graduation also included testimonials from Mirna Estrada, Ricardo Hernandez, Jessyka Benitez, Elvira Padrón, and Nina Perez.
When reflecting on her experience in the Nuevas Voces program, Mirna said, “el programa para mi ha sido muy importante porque me ha educado mucho, al enseñarme como cuidar todo mi alrededor, porque con esta me ha aprendido la importancia de cuidar los arboles, de mantener mas areas verdes, de poder decir a las personas que no echan tan pavemento en sus patios alrededor de sus casas, que dejen espacios donde sembrar fruta, donde sembrar flores para que haigan más espacios verdes. Me ha enseñado la importancia de mantener limpio nuestro vecendario porque eso ayuda que no se etapen las alcantarillas y me ha enseñado tantas cosas que pasaría toda la nocha hablando de lo que pude aprender, de tambien como uno puede—cuando hace cambio de aciete de sus carros, tener precaución donde lo hace y que hacer con ese aciete—buscar lugares adecuados para hacer el cambio de aciete de nuestros carros y buscar el area adecuada donde ir a dejar esa aciete. Esa, y muchas cosas más he aprendido para poder ayudar a nuestro medio ambiente.”
English Translation: “The program for me has been very important because it has educated me a lot by teaching me how to care for everything around me, because with this I have learned the importance of caring for trees, maintaining more green spaces, being able to tell people not to place so much pavement in their yards and around their houses—that they should leave space to plant fruit and flowers to make more green spaces. It has taught me the importance of maintaining the cleanliness of our neighborhood because this helps to not block the stormwater system, and it has taught me so many things that I could spend the whole night talking about what I was able to learn—also about how, when changing the oil of one’s cars, you must take caution about where it’s done and what’s done with the oil—look for suitable areas to change the oil in our cars and look for a suitable place to dispose of the oil. This, and many more things I have learned to be able to help our environment.”
Over the course of 8-months, led by co-facilitators—and former Nuevas Voces participants—Jenny Mercado and María José Gutierrez, this group of 24 residents received leadership & enhancement trainings that increased their capacity to be effective leaders and advocates in their community. Classes included trainings on how to effectively communicate the science behind climate change, assist their community in the event of a natural disaster, and navigate the local government system to ensure their voices are being heard. Extensive workshops and thorough trainings in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging and Environmental Justice informed them of ways to bring equitability and improved access into their everyday ventures and community-driven efforts. Through community gatherings and trainings delivered in Spanish, with added support among leading voices in their communities, participants can apply any added knowledge to whatever comes next, including the possibility of joining organizational boards or other leadership positions impacting their communities.
Further ahead, cohort members will later have an opportunity to become a Campéon del Combate Climático (Climate Champion). Campeones are a group of leaders who have graduated from Nuevas Voces and are now part of an in-depth two-year advanced program that provides educational and hands-on learning trainings to further help members become environmental stewards in their own communities.
A program and a network that builds leadership and advocacy for environmental justice in Olneyville, Nuevas Voces centers resident aspirations and concerns around working to ensure those most impacted by climate change have the greatest say in community development, resource allocation and emergency preparedness at all levels. The neighborhood faces disproportionate environmental challenges like stormwater, flooding, excessive heat, and exposure to toxic pollutants, and is at higher risk of increased environmental issues due to climate change. The WRWC began collaborating with members of the community, centering residents’ concerns and highlighting their voices in their community’s development, resource allocation, and emergency preparedness strategies.
For more information about Nuevas Voces and the WRWC’s Community Programs, visit https://wrwc.org//what-we-do/community-programs.
The Woonasquatucket River Watershed Council (www.wrwc.org) is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization that works to create positive environmental, social and economic change by revitalizing the Woonasquatucket River, its Greenway and its communities. WRWC offers year-round opportunities for the community to engage with the river and the watershed through paddle trips, bike tours, environmental education, festivals, and restoration projects.