Girls for the Change: Summer Volunteer Program at CEDO
By: Andrea Hurtado, Gala Solís, Maritza Roberts, Emilia Valdenebro
Volunteer work consists of doing a service to the community, it is largely part of the development of a professional person and a good human being committed to the environment that surrounds him or her and to his or her ideals. Volunteering is a constant source of talent that the Intercultural Center for Desert and Ocean Studies (CEDO) has been working on since its inception.
This is why the Girls for the Change program was created by the General Director of this institution, Dr. Nélida Barajas Acosta, during the week of June 14, 2021, when the CEDO team and the volunteers came together at the Campus at the beginning of summer. At the beginning the group was composed of only four young people: Emilia Valdenebro, Gala Solís, Andrea Hurtado, and Maritza Roberts, who were under the supervision of Paloma Valdivia.
Our work together began thanks to the tasks assigned to us and the projects that Gala and Emilia were carrying out as members of the scout movement and in collaboration with CEDO on one of the priority ecosystems in the area.
The combination of our jobs resulted in the project for the conservation and sustainable use of Estero Morúa, the library restoration project, which would have a longer duration, and a training to provide natural history talks to visitors.
Our main project consisted of several parts brought together by CEDO: the projects for Greater Good implemented by Gala (Bye plastics in the estuary) and Emilia (Speak out for nature), the website created by Maritza, and Andrea’s Storytelling project.
After this, other pieces of the puzzle were added. One of these was Martha Salazar’s communication strategy done as part of her thesis. Martha was invited to join the team by the Director of CEDO. Other pieces included the support and contributions of Angeles Sánchez, the support of Edgar Armenta and Monica, two other CEDO volunteers, and the collaboration of two women oyster farmers from the estuary.
The goal of the project was to “educate the general public of Puerto Peñasco about the importance of Estero Morúa, providing information on ecotourism activities, oyster farms and oyster farming as a low-impact activity, natural history including an archive with all the species that inhabit the region, as well as information on the native peoples and conservation tactics.”
For Maritza Roberts, “It’s to make people aware, whether they are residents or not, how this important environment contributes to the food chain and marine reproduction.
It’s important to disseminate the information on social media and local radio programs, carry out cleanup campaigns and encourage community support so that new generations appreciate our region’s importance and the environmental risk that exists if we do not take care of it, and we all contribute to achieve a great positive change both for the environment and for society”, said Emilia Valdenebro.
Everything we did provided us with an awesome experience. Each one of us arrived one after another. Emilia came during 2017 to help with environmental contests, summer camps, or supporting with school visits and beach cleanups.
“The time that I have spent at CEDO as part of my volunteer work has been very interesting, fun and informative. I learned that one must be more responsible and dedicated”.
Gala started when she moved to Puerto Peñasco in 2019 by helping with whatever was needed, including beach cleanups and in the education area with kayak tours.
“I realized the great diversity of flora and fauna that we can find in estuaries, deserts and beaches. I had a lot of fun collaborating with the CEDO staff and other volunteers who also came for the holidays. During our stay at CEDO all the volunteers shared a lot, we cooked, we ate, we watched movies together”.
Unlike them, Maritza and I, Andrea, arrived almost at the same time at the beginning of this summer, and we’ve both been surprised by our broken expectations and how awesome it has been to work in the field, go out to monitor and give talks to visitors. “When I arrived, I had expectations that all my volunteering would be digital work but when I began to be part of the CEDO team, the activities for new expeditions or adventures never stopped. It doesn’t matter whether they were storytelling adventures or actual trips, it’s always been something I looked forward to during my summer. My experience consisted in developing a digital educational campaign, a project for the sustainable use of Estero Morúa, said Maritza Roberts. “For my part, the idea of staying locked in the library classifying books was erased from my memory”, commented Andrea Hurtado.
However, as much as we enjoyed it, we also suffered with spending hours in the sun, starting monitoring at 5 am, or having to say goodbye to volunteering: “I hadn’t thought of taking it up again, because I was leaving to focus on my basketball training.
But I’m grateful I made the decision to return to my volunteer activities and to the people who are helping us. We didn’t even care about the poor treatment of some visitors although it did discourage us a bit”, said Emilia Valdenebro.
In the end, the most important thing and what we take from the experience is everything we learned at each stage of volunteering. The experience helped us to improve in a very personal way, to develop our verbal skills little by little, and to appreciate all the support that each one of the members of the CEDO team gave us so that we wouldn’t give up.