Humans of SCI

As interns, we have the opportunity to meet people at our workplace, on field visits, in community groups or on our daily commute. Each person has something to teach us. Here are their stories.

Tanya Copa & Gonzalo Laime Sarsuri

By: James Arteaga, Viacha, Bolivia

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Only two of the original group in the Planning Department have remained in the Autonomous Municipal Government of Viacha, Bolivia. Tanya and Gonzalo were there at the beginning when our interns began their six months, and at the end when James, Ingrid, Lisa, and Nico said their farewells.

They have both been kind and warm individuals who have not only created a welcoming work environment in the Planning Department, but they have also been there when their support was needed, especially during the Public Consultation Event planned by James and Ingrid. Gonzalo even brought his wife and daughters to the event.

Our interns had the wonderful chance to have a weekend barbeque with them, dance in Viacha’s Carnival together, celebrate the birthday of Viacha, among many other activities and events.

In addition to working in the Planning Department, Gonzalo also is learning Aymara on the weekends, while Tanya is completing a certificate in Accounting, with a plan to complete her Master’s in Social Work.

Their support and enthusiasm, as well as their continuous desire to learn has been inspirational. The time in Viacha would not have been the same without these two colleagues and friends.

Angélica Hilaria

By: Chantal Gougain, San José del Cabo

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This is Angélica, she is an amazing artist in Los Cabos who hand makes her own clothing line. She studied at la Universidad Mundial Diseño e Industria del Vestido and her designs have become quite popular in the community. She makes clothing and jewelry and sells her designs every Saturday at the organic market where we met her. Many of her designs are made with natural materials such as cactus wood. Her inspiration comes from her family as they have become innovators in the hammock making business. She is always coming up with new designs and techniques for her creations. We had the pleasure of meeting her early on in our internship and were able to get to know Angélica and her designs throughout our time there.

Mointaga

By Brenna Walsh- Dakar, Senegal March 8th 2017

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Intern Brenna, in Senegal quickly realized that one of her favorite ways to spend an hour (or two, modifications and chatting can take time!) in Dakar was in Mointaga’s tailor shop. Mointaga has been working as a tailor for over thirty years and will proudly tell you that in addition to locals, he has also made clothing for clientele from all over the world, people from Canada, the US, Australia, France, Peru etc. living in or visiting Dakar. The space in his shop, an old shipping container is well used and he often has your bag of clothes squealed away in a cupboard above your head or below your feet when you arrive. In addition to a comfy seat to sit in while waiting for modifications after a fitting, there is also a changing room, mirror and five sowing machines (yes 5!). He has had up to five apprentices at a time, both men and women, many of whom have moved on to start their own business.

Mointaga is from Guinea and has seven children. The six oldest of his children he has been able to bring to Dakar to go to school. He still visits his family in Guinea often, but has to travel by bus, which can take up to 30 hours. Though he hasn’t gotten to travel himself much outside of West Africa, he is always up for a lively conversation about issues going on in the world, from Donald Trump to importance of walkable cities both for safety and the environment.

He is very proud of his work, always has really constructive suggestions if you have a vision of a piece in mind and it is always ‘pas de soucis’ (no problem/no worries) to make that tiny final adjustments to clothing so it is the perfect fit. Many of Brenna’s favorite souvineers and favorite memories from Dakar will come from time in his shop!

Edwin Encinas

By Lisa Mak – Viacha, Bolivia – 7 February 2017

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This is Edwin. He oversees the Waste Management Program here in Viacha. With a background in agriculture and agronomy, Edwin is passionate about the environment, waste management, and climate change. He has worked all around Bolivia, utilizing his skills and gaining new knowledge in the field. Last year, he was also the recipient of a scholarship to Japan to learn more about waste management. Since joining the environmental department in the GAMV 4 years ago, he has established the compost plant (which he lovingly calls his child), implemented a waste collection service, and continues to work on campaigns to improve waste separation in order to increase recycling and divert waste from landfills. He is currently in the process of creating a punto verde, or green point, a pilot project where residents can bring their wastes for sorting in exchange for nutrient-rich fertilizer from the compost plant. In a city, or even country, where waste management is a major issue, Edwin in working hard to change the culture around waste and combat climate change.

Su nombre es Edwin. Él maneja el programa de gestión integral de residuos sólidos aquí en Viacha. Con una formación en agricultura y agronomía, Edwin es apasionado por el medio ambiente, la gestion de los residuos sólidos y el cambio climático. Ha trabajado en todo Bolivia, usando sus habilidades y obteniendo nuevos conocimientos en este campo. El año pasado, él recibió una beca Japonesa para aprender más acerca de la gestion integral de residuos allí. Desde su llegada en la dirección del medio ambiente en Viacha hace 4 años, Edwin ha establecido la planta de compostaje y ha implementado un servicio de recolección de desechos, y continua  trabajando en campañas para promover la diferenciación de los residuos, aumentar el reciclaje y desviar residuos de los rellenos sanitarios. Actualmente, está en el proceso de crear e inaugurar el punto verde, un lugar donde la gente puede llegar para separar sus residuos a cambio de abono muy rico en nutrientes. En una ciudad, o aun pais, donde la gestion de los residuos sólidos es un gran problema, Edwin está trabajando muy duro para cambiar la mente y la cultura sobre los residuos.

Tatiana Esteves Carlucci

By Jessy Rajan- Guadalajara, Mexico- 19 January 2017

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Tatiana in her natural element: working away too busy to pose for a picture.

She’s just like one of us, right? Well, sort of. Tatiana Esteves Carlucci may have started out as just a Sustainable Cities International Intern, but she’s taken this internship and turned it into her dream job.

For the first time in the cosmopolitan’s history, metropolitan Guadalajara will create urban gardens in each of it’s municipalities. An urban garden has many benefits to offer, it simultaneously provides a community space while also combatting food security: a growing issue facing populations transitioning from agrarian societies to urban. This is all made possible by the persistent and diligent efforts of one intern who created a network of stakeholders to mobilize this project on her own.

Tatiana hadn’t originally been working in this field, she has an impressive background varying from finance to biotechnology (that led her to be a finalist for NASA), but this project brought her closer to her true passion. As a young girl growing up in Argentina, Tatiana found a connection with the plants and environment around her that instilled environmentalist values that guide her lifestyle and career.

To the interns succeeding her (including myself), Tatiana is a role model, a guiding mentor and an endlessly supportive force in the office. It shouldn’t be a surprise that IMEPLAN has decided to keep her on as an employee.


Julia Ceseña Marron

By Caroline Morrow – San José del Cabo, Mexico – 12 January 2017

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One of my favourite things about the IMPLAN Los Cabos office is the energy and passion of the young staff. Most of the employees are aged between 24-31 and everyone here is excited about the work that they do. Like many on the IMPLAN staff, Julia studied architecture and then developed an interest in urban planning. Julia has been working at IMPLAN since she graduated university 2 years ago. She has diploma in transportation planning and specializes in these projects for the office. Julia loves working on large scale projects and this is what attracts her to the public sector.

Miski Eventos Group

By: James Arteaga – La Paz, Bolivia – January 11, 2017

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Chairo, Bolivia: (Left to right) Yael, Lilian, Rosario, Carlos, Francisco, Eduardo

While doing research on culture and tourism in Bolivia, our interns came upon a training event hosted by Miski Eventos in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism, and the Tourism Program at the Universidad Mayor de San Andres (UMSA). This training event was to teach people interested in becoming trekking guides about the necessary skill sets they would need, including survival training. It was during this trip that our intern, James Arteaga, met the group forming Miski Eventos. He became intrigued in learning more about this group of young people who were interested in the topic of tourism in Bolivia. Although James did not have the opportunity to talk to each member of the organization, he did have a chance to meet Carlos, Rosario, Francisco, and Eduardo.

Carlos has an interesting professional career. He is simultaneously a student at UMSA, finishing his degree in tourism, while also working full time in the Bolivian Military Air Force (Fun Fact: In Bolivia, one year of military service is mandatory for all men 18 years of age, while women must serve one year in preliminary service). Because of his work in the military, he was well equipped to teach the participants about survival training, including what to bring in a trekking excursion, how to pack your bag, and most importantly, what to do in certain emergencies when you are alone or far away from any medical support.

Rosario, who was the first person our interns met from Miski Eventos, is a student at UMSA finishing her degree in tourism as well. She was also concurrently working with an arts and culture organization called ALBOR Bolivia where she worked in theatre production.

Francisco, one of our trekking guides, is an experienced trekker, as well as rock, mountain, and ice climber. He had been working in this kind of tourism for quite a few years before our interns met him on this trip. Francisco was original from a municipality neighbouring Viacha, and had lived in Viacha for a few years before moving to La Paz. His enthusiasm and enjoyment in doing these more extreme forms of tourism was quite evident in the way he talked about it.

Eduardo, a professor in tourism at UMSA, was also one of the experienced trekking guides who supported the participants throughout the three days. While speaking to Eduardo, James got to know about a connection Eduardo had with Canada. According to Eduardo, when he was a child in elementary school, he was awarded a scholarship to study at a boarding school in the Canadian Prairies, yet his father did not believe it was true, and so Eduardo was denied the opportunity to go to Canada. However, when he was older, he moved to Germany to live and work for over a decade before returning to Bolivia.

Eduardo’s interest in tourism, specifically being a guide, revolves around the opportunity one has to see different places of their country. He likes being able to talk about the different places he’s visited, and says these experiences have made him fall deeper in love with his country of Bolivia. For Eduardo, tourism is one of the professions of the future that could be used as a catalyst for the conservation of cultural and natural heritage, and most importantly, to protect the ecosystems still found throughout the world that are being threatened each day by humanity.

Hearing this perspective from Eduardo on how tourism can help alleviate the cultural and environmental challenges faced by many places today, it is inspiring to see these young people pursue careers in this field with this shared value that tourism can be a positive tool for sustainable development.

More information on Miski Eventos: https://www.facebook.com/MISKY-Eventos-191042171337771/?fref=ts


Neo Moroka 

by Danielle DeVries – Durban, South Africa – January 11, 2017

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My first day working in Durban, I had the pleasure of meeting my friend, Neo Moroka. He was nothing but kind and welcoming, and I was excited to start working in the same office. Over our time working together, I got to know this kind, funny, and passionate man. He supported me and one of our other coworkers through a very difficult situation and knew exactly how to make us laugh. At the second office I worked at, I had the pleasure of working with his wife, Pam, another beautiful and caring person in my life here in Durban. They are both wonderful people who are always there for a deep conversation or a good laugh despite anything going on in their own lives.

In the last month, Neo released his EP and started playing at shows. I couldn’t be more proud of my friend for putting in so much hard work to follow his dreams. It is also amazing to sing along to the music of someone so talented who is also a friend. Please follow his social media and check out his music!

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/NeoMorokaZA/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GroundworkZA

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/groundworkentertainment/

Sound Cloud: https://m.soundcloud.com/user-605974208

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My signed copy of Neo’s CD!


Ruben Dario Del Rio Rosales

by Jessy Rajan  -Guadalajara, Mexico  – December 5th, 2016

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While on a site visit with another intern, Jessy (Development Research Assistant), came to know Ruben purely by chance. She was quickly inspired by his commitment to his position with the municipality of Juanacatlan; she was immediately intrigued by his story and was quite keen to share it.

Ruben, who was born and raised in Guadalajara (city proper), first visited Juanacatlan in 1963 and believed it to be a utopian paradise; he fell in love with the beauty and green space. Growing up in an urban centre, green spaces were generally a luxury for him. As an adult, Ruben returned to Juanacatlan, in 1984, to settle with his, then, young family. Upon his return, he discovered that industrial pollution had transformed the once thriving tourism destination into a dumping ground.

As he told his story, he became quiet and said, “paradise had been stolen from.” With a young family of his own, he thought of the livelihoods of all those that would then be forced to raise their children in such a place; polluted and toxic. The main water source had been contaminated by both industrial and sewage waste. This water, while being polluted with poisons and contaminants, was also still in use to water crops; further contributing to human health concerns.

Despite the changes he was met with on his return, Ruben followed through with his decision to relocate to the municipality, but this time with a different agenda; a mission. Since moving to Juanacatlan nearly thirty years ago, Ruben has been committed to finding the paradise he knew once existed. This decision left him with resentment from some of his family; both of his sons eagerly left Juanacatlan for post secondary education and have since only returned for brief visits.

For nearly thirty years, Ruben worked as an engineer becoming familiar with treatment technology and building connections. Formally, he was granted the title Director of Environment, Economic Promotion and Tourism in September of 2015, but he feels that he had spent 14 years preparing for it. During part of his time as an engineer, some of his new connections included the factories; they had begun accepting materials to recycle from the community. His title includes economic promotion and tourism because part of his justification to the municipality for creating this role was to restore green spaces that were once a touristic attraction that would stimulate the economy.

In the 14 months that he has held this position, Ruben’s contribution has already become apparent, but it has come at a personal cost. Even though he is not allotted a budget for his position, he has implemented four water treatment stations this past year that were financed with his own savings. He has introduced new regulations that prevent highly polluting factories from operating unless they upgrade their facility, which in many cases has led to unemployment. Unfortunately, Ruben has faced much of the anger from those who have lost their jobs which has included vandalizing a shop owned by his (now) estranged wife. Due to the many attacks on her shop, Ruben made the decision to separate from her for her safety. This role has become a strong part of his life and his dedication to it has cost him financially and personally.

In addition, in his time, he also implemented a waste diversion plan through his arrangement with the local factories. Executing this waste diversion initiative required strong education efforts to encourage residents to separate materials instead of previous practices of burning all household residual waste.

We learned of Ruben’s role as he took us on a tour of the municipality and it ended at a green space (pictured above). This is a private property that Ruben owns with a colleague that is being transformed into a privately owned public park. He tells us that this is his project in his spare time, something I find hard to believe he has. The urban furniture in the parks has been constructed by materials that have been repurposed; an example is included in the picture.

It is hard to believe that these are not all the tasks that Ruben has completed in his early career as the Director of Environment, Economic Promotion and Tourism, but there are simply too many to describe in one blog post. His dedication is inspiring and direct impacts of his work are being reflected in the community. With his ambition and commitment, it seems that Ruben will soon be able to see the paradise he once knew.


 

Narciso Canaviri

by Ingrid Garcia  – Viacha, Bolivia  – December 4th, 2016
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Narciso is a Mallku from the Canaviri Irpa Chico community in Viacha, Bolivia. Canaviri is also his last name, which is important in the region, and it means “Vivir Bien”, or living well. A Mallku is the spirit of the mountains, it represents the peak, geographically and hierarchically. They are political authorities.
Narciso is currently in charge of the education board of the community, and it seems like the perfect place for him to be, since he understands the importance of education in building a better future and, more important, the role of children in healthy communities. I have seen him a couple times at the Municipality. One time he had a letter and was hoping to get flower seedlings to plant in his community.

When we officially met, we had an appointment to go see a potential archaeological site. He gave us a tour around the school and the existing green house, he said the community is interested in community based tourism. They were building a new green house, it has been planned to get to 5. They also want to build a nursery, the idea of planting trees in the highlands is exiting to them.
The visit to the archaeological site was very successful. We found ceramic and took samples for further investigation, he was very happy about his findings. He learnt how to differentiate the ceramic and was blown away when he found graphics in some of the pieces.  Even though archaeological sites are a long shot, an assessment is the first step for potential protection of the areas and broadens the possibilities for tourism.

This community seems well engaged with the Vivir Bien principle, they understand that the climate change is imminent, therefore, they need to find sustainable ways to face it. They have been planting trees and teaching children the importance of protecting them. However, this is a lucky community, the hills in their land are fertile, there are 63 Communities in Viacha, but not all the land is optimum for forestation.


Christina 

Nicholas Curry  – Viacha, Bolivia  – November 28th, 2016humans-of-sci-christina

While she may be photo shy, whenever we arrive in Viacha for breakfast she always welcomes us with a big hello and smile.  Our everyday commute to work is not the easiest.  The ride stretches over an hour and half, with two separate minibuses that are often hot, sweaty and jam packed.  Needless to say, we look forward to getting off the bus and even more so to sitting down in Christina’s cafe. 

Making a few different sandwiches on some of the freshest bread around, she also serves tea, coffee and sultana.  It has become a tradition of ours to stop in at her shop before making our way to work.  Everyday when we arrive she has her little cafe already set up and is making coffee for her neighbours and laughing.  Greeting me with “Joven! que tal?” her contagious smile infects us all as we settle into our morning home.  We are there so often she has memorized our orders, but always double checks with us anyways.  I can’t help but have my day brightened once I sit down. 

While Christina has her shop and works fairly close to home, in my mind, she represents the hard work and dedication of the many women working from their booths and stands here in Bolivia’s Altiplano.  Often traveling from rural areas into the city of La Paz, many have extremely long commutes and work many long hours, often with a child on their back.  Owning their own businesses selling almost any and everything, to cooking delicious meals that fuel the city, many of these women are some of the hardest working people I have ever met.  It is not uncommon to find them resting their eyes behind their stands, and it becomes understandable after noticing the same person working when you leave for work as when you return.  While some fit the description of a Cholita, others do not, but regardless of clothing or ethnicity in the city of La Paz and the rural areas surrounding, hard work and high spirits is deep-rooted into the mindset of the people.

Even though it took a little convincing I am happy that Christina let me share her smile with the world and let people know what face is brightening up my mornings.

More about Cholitas and their impact on Bolivia’s growing economy: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26172313


Joel Najera Mendez

by Stephanie McGlashan – San Jose del Cabo, Mexico – November 24th, 2016

img_0405This is Joel Najera (far left), a passionate advocate for food security in Baja California Sur. Joel works for the International Community Foundation (ICF), an American organization that partners with local NGO’s to connect donors with causes they care about. He is currently developing a community gardening and food education pilot program aiming to help the communities with tenuous land ownership of Los Cabos. The goal is to introduce small garden spaces where community members can gather to learn about nutrition, gardening, and cooking skills. The featured photo is from one of the garden sites in Cabo San Lucas. This was an opportunity to bring together ICF and my host organization, the Instituto Municipal de Planeación (IMPLAN) to learn about the initiative and to establish a partnership going into the future. I am currently working on creating a operational gardening manual for organizations in partnership with Joel and ICF, bridging the work between ICF and IMPLAN.  Joel has also been working to establish a food security alliance for Baja California Sur, bringing together key actors who have the potential to work together to combat hunger and foster healthier communities. One of his main goals is to found a Food Bank for the municipality of Los Cabos. Food insecurity is a pressing issue in Los Cabos and thus a food bank is in dire need.

I have had the great pleasure of working with and getting to know Joel and his passion and dedication to the region are truly inspiring. His work has such positive influences on the community as a whole and will only continue to grow and support the health and wellbeing of the region.


Ousseynou Seck
by Brenna Walsh – Dakar, Senegal – November 21st 2016
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Ousseynou Seck is a horticulturalist by training who runs a plant nursery in the Patte d’Oie neighbourhood of Dakar. He is one of the founders of the project, which was started by the City of Dakar through its ville vert or green city initiative along with partners at IAGU and the previous round of Canadian interns at Sustainable Cities. This nursery is a safe site where its members received training and then work in the nursery, tending their own micro crops and selling the vegetables and spices which they grow. Though a lot of work was done to build community interest (Mr. Seck told us he knocked on every door in the neighbourhood to spread the word about the project) there is now so much interest that they have to turn people who want to work at the nursery away. The nursery is a safe work environment for fifty unemployed or underemployed community members, most of which are women.

Mr. Seck is both welcoming and very knowledgeable about the operation of the nursery and was very happy to share information about the project. He gave us a tour of the nursery and introduced us to two of the women who now grow and sell their own crops at the site encouraging us to ask them questions and learn their story. We were able to discuss the project further over an attaya, a traditional Senegalese tea. Though the city no longer funds the project, Mr. Seck has built the nursery in a way that sustains itself, and does not seem to have any doubt that it will be able to do so in the years to come. Though he is the head of the nursery, there is a very communal feel. Tea is served and shared with whoever is in the nursery three times a day. I am excited to follow up on Mr. Seck’s invitation to come back and visit the nursery when it is at its busiest, late in the afternoon when the garden is full of busy gardeners, and community members who have come to buy produce or spend time in walking among the rows of plants and getting to know their neighbours.


Fabienne
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I met Fabienne during my first week of salsa classes here in San José del Cabo and immediately made it my mission to become her friend. Aside from being an incredible dancer, Fabienne has a contagious level of confidence and abundant life wisdom. I feel like every time I talk to her I learn about another one of her many lives, both outside of Mexico and since she moved here. Fabienne is an extranjera, but based on the amount of comfort and knowledge she has, you would think that she’s lived in Los Cabos for her entire life.

Now, three months after that first meeting, I have gotten to know Fabienne over many nights out dancing, and along with another intern I recently started taking the salsa classes that she teaches! In the picture above you can see our new Maestra de Salsa in costume for Halloween during one of those classes. The night after, she created head-to-toe costumes for us completely from scratch for a Halloween salsa social that we attended. Fabienne has already taught me a lot and I’m excited to see what else I’ll learn from her before I leave. The only thing I have left to say is, “Mission Accomplished”!


Wendy Viridiana Gutierrez Torres

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As the administrative assistant, Wendy plays a vital role in making sure things at IMPLAN Los Cabos run smoothly. She is the first point of contact when visitors walk into the office and will leap up from her lunch to go answer the phone when it rings. Wendy’s warmth and kindness makes everyone feel welcome. She is a mother to two niños and recently the adoptive parent to an adorable puppy. I am looking forward to getting to know Wendy more over the next few months!

 


Ariel Gonzales Montoya 

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Life in Los Cabos is great! I love Mexican food, the endless coastline and the warm weather. However, I have struggled making meaningful connections with locals. Los Cabos’ demographics consist mostly of seniors, young families, construction workers and children. It has been quite the challenge to meet people my age with similar interests. Ariel is a member of the IMPLAN team, like myself and the other two interns, he just graduated from university and is living his first professional experience. He is a true example of a hardworking and dedicated architect. I dedicate this post to him because, without him even knowing, he is a reminder for the other interns and myself that we aren’t the only ones diving into this competitive and, sometimes, scary world. My generation will do great things, we just need opportunities.


Jose Louis
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Mexico is embedded with cultural charms, history, myths and a whole world of unknown things to discover. Sometimes it can be overwhelming to see a country so historically rich in its socio-cultural development that it might seem impossible to grasp all of it in just six months of internship. Like seeing a mighty tree full of new hidden fruits of all colors, textures, smells and tastes and having only 10 minutes to grab as many as you can.

That was until I met Jose Luis, one of our colleagues from IMEPLAN (metropolitan planning institute) who occupies the position of ‘comptroller’, position responsible of controlling from the accounts to the public administration of the institute.  You can see him on the picture having some Argentine mate that I shared with him and that I tend to drink religiously at work.

I think of him as a walking encyclopedia of Mexican history and culture. He holds knowledge about anything you might dare to ask him, He has told me from historical monuments we find around the cities while driving around to the forums we hold weekly, to the history of cacao plantations and its many uses. He has taught me from different wars against natives and colonizers to the legends of ancient pyramids in Mexico and their native emperors, also the geography and actual context of politics, legislative processes, and about regional dances with machetes (that he also performed at a historical theatre). Moreover, he has told me about the less-known spots for gluten-free stores in the city, when he learned about my many food allergies and intolerances, along with all the cultural spots ad local markets that take place during weekends. He is the one that introduced me to roasted Nopal, the emblematic cactus that appears on the Mexican flag and legend of the foundation of the city of Mexico. Delicious history.

He is the wise farmer that can reach out to the tree of many new fruits and serve you the one you are seeking in a matter of seconds. He is the wise uncle of IMEPLAN, and certainly a human gem of SCI


Greg Edwards
San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico
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This is Greg Edwards, a passionate and inspiring individual I met in my first week here in San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico. Greg works in the field of youth education and empowerment at Gente Joven por un Cambio (Young People for a Change) as the Executive Director. Gente Joven por un Cambio is a unique youth development program in Mexico inspiring the next generation to solve problems, create visionary change, and realize their full potential. They empower youth ages 8-18, teaching them to design, lead, and implement social change projects in their schools and communities.

This picture is from an event Greg invited me to, the 10th Anniversary celebration and gathering of the Green Scholarship program. Curious as to what he is holding? It is a mango seed from his garden. Yes, a mango seed. He brought laughter and tears of joy to the crowd using the mango seed as an analogy to compare the success and development of a student to that of a mango:

“…imagine yourself as a mango seed with a huge tree of potential locked inside of you. You are ready to grow and develop your talents and powers. Your roots are in the soil of your family, neighborhood and community where you found the soil you needed to anchor yourself for growth. The heat and light you need to grow has been found in the love and support that surrounds you in your schools, your teachers… that devote their time and resources providing the means and the framework for this young tree within you to grow tall and strong. But remember this mango seed? Even with good soil and heat and light its true potential was locked inside until it came in contact with that magic ingredient – water! We have already agreed how crucial this is to life. So, I ask you to think for a moment – what is this magic ingredient in your life. What is this crucial miracle element that can unlock your mind, heart and soul and make all of your talents and powers bloom – knowledge! Education!


Victor Alejandro
Los Cabos, Mexico

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I met Victor Alejandro yesterday at the Makus Skate Shop 4th year anniversary skate competition. He’s a jack of all trades: skater, surfer, rescue diver, guitarist, and a linguist. We had a lot in common, but I couldn’t compete with his style (just look at that hat!). He had a lot to say about the skateboard culture here in Los Cabos, particularly how strong it is considering that the government doesn’t give it much attention. It was heartening to hear that he thought my Codepa Skatepark project could potentially plant the seed needed to match the demand for skating in Cabo San Lucas. The future of skating in Cabo is a bright one.

————————————————————————–Ivan “Roosty”
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This is Ivan “Roosty” a Mexican from the northern city of Tecate who has recently moved to Baja California Sur where he is living at an off-grid sustainable community that encourages personal development on many levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual.

“I believe that every problem in the world relates back to the human self and the human mind. What we see in our physical world is a reflection of human’s inner world. Through losing touch with ourselves we have become disharmonious with each other and with our planet. In order to develop truly sustainable cities and co-exist with the planet in a healthy and safe way we must first start by improving ourselves and our relations between each other. I want to teach people on how to use their minds and show them what they are capable of doing in order for this to reflect on our planet.”

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I have been taking painting classes with Marlon twice a week for over two months. He is an artist and very interested in the local history of Los Cabos, where he grew up.

He believes that art is an important and deep method of communication, a chance to understand someone quite vividly, or to express yourself, simply by looking at their work. Local history is important to him especially in the case of Los Cabos because many stories have been lost, and a lot of the history is unknown. The history here is a little strange, probably because Los Cabos is isolated at the end of a peninsula. He feels that local history is an opportunity to understand more about and connect with this place. Between art and history, both are ultimately opportunities for connection.

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Juancho

This is José Juan, most often referred to as “Juancho”. Juancho is the Geomatics Coordinator in the IMPLAN Los Cabos office. Every morning you’ll see Juancho riding his bike into work. Here are his thoughts on this type of transportation and lifestyle;

“I have been living without a car for five years. Once I moved to Los Cabos the first thing I did was drop off my stuff at my new apartment. The second thing I did was buy a bike. There is the opportunity here to use bikes because things can be accessed easily and without much distance between all your necessities. Sometimes the weather is very extreme so biking becomes hazardous and not as accessible. Also, there is always the requirement of sharing roads with cars. However, there are many new spaces in Los Cabos and there are a lot of developments happening that can allow for a change in transportation – this including a bike lane and a more pedestrian friendly environment. We don’t have the problem of a big population and heavy transit systems like in larger cities so Los Cabos is a model area for prioritizing pedestrians and cyclists. We don’t have the infrastructure for biking right now. Streets should be shared. We have the space. We have the opportunity.”

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Josue_Garcia_Cota

Pictured here is Josue Garcia Cota and his “daughter,” Lulu the wiener dog. Josue is an active community member who works for the Los Cabos Humane Society – a non-profit civil association providing animal protection services. Namely the operation of an adoption center, spay/neuter services, and education for schools and businesses regarding proper care and respect for animals.
Josue’s other passion is skateboarding. He has designed and built small skate parks in the past and has been advocating for the creation of a well-designed skate park in Cabo San Lucas for decades. “I don’t care about receiving credit for the park; all I want to do is help young skaters pursue their passion and grow by creating a safe place for them to do so.” I have recently joined his skate park campaign as a side project and the support is gaining momentum. We plan to construct a small skate park by the end of April.

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camara

Attaya: Chinese Gunpowder tea, sugar, charcoal stove and 3 small glass cups.

“Tea brings us together. We discuss and we drink. If you have a problem, tea is the time for us to debrief and give advice. We share stories. We learn. It is the way we build relationships with those around us. Here in Senegal, everyone gets along. On est ensemble. There is no difference between the boss of a business company, a teacher or a construction worker. It doesn’t matter if you have black skin, red skin or yellow skin. We are all people of the earth. We are all equal. Everything we have, we share with others. On partage tout. If you enter someone’s house, they will give you something to eat. If you walk by a charcoal stove, they will offer you tea. We are the country of authentic hospitality. Le pays de la Teranga. Money will come and go but the friendships you have and the way you make other people feel will stay forever. I believe that the greatest thing you can do for another person is to show them respect. Everyone deserves the greatest respect. Together we play. We dance. We sing. We laugh. We drink. Naan!”

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steve

Meet Agatony, the driver for the Tanzanian Financial Services for Underserved Settlements (TAFSUS).  Agatony, or “Tony” at 29 years old, is a husband and a father.  His income thru TAFSUS contributes to him supporting his family, specifically his young daughter. Tony just sold his Samsung Smartphone, so that his family could afford their daughter’s kindergarden tuition fees.

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doctor

This is the “Doctor”. At least, that is how everyone refers to him, and we did the same. And it is fitting considering he is a remarkably intelligent man who instructs both physics and chemistry at the university level here in La Paz. But Doctor has another passion that goes beyond his workplace. He is infatuated with astronomy, particularly the ancient Incan practice of it. Here he is explaining to us how and why this wall was constructed by the Incans who used this piece of high ground to monitor constellations and send signals by torch to surrounding communities. Pan de Azucar was a very important landmark for the Incans and Doctor has been studying their civilization’s history in the Altiplano for 25 years. Now that these ruins of Pan de Azucar have been badly eroded and partly torn down to create space for grazing and cropland, Doctor is campaigning to protect this site and have it restored so that it can become a tourist attraction, and maybe even a UNESCO site. I believe Doctor will do great things for this place, because I have never witnessed a man more passionate about ruins in my life, and I have visited many! He has inspired me tremendously.


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Just another day at the office of Tanzanian Financial Services for  Under-served Settlements! This fine gentleman to my right is Dr Evans Rweikiza, Executive Director of TAFSUS,  Businessman and founder of a college dedicated to Marketing and Management in Kigamboni. In Dar es Salaam, it is not what you know, but who you know and Dr Evans knows everyone! Our organization works in close conjunction with local municipalities within Dar es Salaam and the communities on the South Beach to extend credit to those in need and offer relocation services. This is a tedious process, lots of red tape within the gigantic bureaucracy and ever changing laws. Fortunately, we have Dr Evans who is well versed in these issues, to lead us and keep Tanzanian Financial Services for Under-served Settlements moving forward!


Jed Haney – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

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Jed Haney – Program Manager at Tackle Africa. Jed’s tenure  begun in South Africa where he worked in a rehabilitation facility for ex gang members. Through the use of football and education, Jed was able to influence this hardened community in a  way that resulted in a change to a more positive lifestyle. Jed’s work has brought him to The Gambia and Zambia and now Tanzania. Jed and I arrived in Dar es Salaam on the same day and face very similar challenges in our roles here. We both work in Mansese, the city’s major slum. We have both found that this a very difficult community to penetrate. We have proposed to a host a testing tournament – a soccer(football) tournament with 8 teams, where all players will be tested for HIV in the community. We hope through the medium of soccer that this will be a positive event and perhaps will build some trust between the community and outsiders in the future. Wish us luck!