PiLA en Washington D.C.

Lizabelt Avila and Claudia Lievano
September 17, 2018

When we applied to Princeton in Latin America, we envisioned ourselves in remote pueblos (towns), learning from la comunidad (community), and giving back to a region we deeply love and feel connected to in profound ways. To our surprise, we chose placements far closer to the U.S capital than we imagined, and we are actively supporting Latin America from the Worldwide Office of The Nature Conservancy (TNC). Living in D.C is a thrilling experience, as several of the policy decisions made during the course of our fellowship year will shape the United States and the world in irreversible ways. In our backyard, history is unraveling. As PiLA fellows, we are contributing in small ways by creating a more sustainable world for the generations to come.

Based in Arlington, Virginia, we work with the Latin American Regional (LAR) team of TNC, an international non-profit focused on conserving the resources upon which all life depends. TNC works in 72 countries with local governments, communities, and partner organizations. In the face of water scarcity, TNC works to set up water funds that can improve the sustainable usage of water through conservation and strategic partnerships. To counter food insecurity, the non-profit promotes healthy agricultural systems, a strategy that supports mutual relationships between natural ecosystems and agricultural yield. To combat climate change, TNC implements natural climate solutions, which could provide more than 1/3 of the needed mitigation for global climate targets if we mobilize within the next decade.

As the International Institutions Fellow, I (Lizabelt) work with Jim Rieger –Director of Latin American Government Relations, on public funding. I received the warmest welcome from him and from Ana Garcia –LAR Content Writer and Editor, as well as from my colleagues at the World Office, and those throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. Since Jim and I work on regional initiatives, our work entails almost daily conference calls with our fellow TNC colleagues on the ground to collaborate on projects. We are currently working toward the preparation of a grant that would strengthen the voices of the Amazon’s indigenous communities in development projects. We will also gain experience on sustainable ranching in Colombia very soon by meeting with ranchers throughout the Meta region! I am ecstatic to meet more colleagues and learn from people leading sustainability in the country.

On my free time, I am excited and honored to begin working with adult immigrants as an ESL aid with the Northern Virginia Literacy Council. I hope that as a former ESOL student myself, I can support the journey of others with patience, empathy, and creativity. On the weekends, I am happily learning new Latin dances, perfecting my Cuban cuisine, and exploring the DMV area!

As the Digital Marketing Fellow, I (Claudia) support the Digital Marketing Lead of Latin America in improving and updating the content on the website. Recently, I have assisted on the content migration to the new TNC website that will be launching very soon. I have also translated blogs from English to Spanish, and written blurbs on exciting projects for the quarterly newsletter and upcoming annual report. I work with the Latin American Marketing Managers based in Mexico, Colombia, and Brazil to learn about the most recent accomplishments of the region and create new content for the website. I will be participating in a marketing retreat in Mexico City next week, to learn more about the work of TNC’s Latin American Marketing and Philanthropy teams.

When I am not at my fellowship, I am doing my social media internship for an online store called Se Habla Español, where profits go to investing and empowering Latino communities in the U.S. I love attending cultural festivals and events, going to meditation centers, and being actively involved with the environmental/ Latin American development scene in D.C.

We are immensely grateful to PiLA for being able to work with an organization that fights the dangers of climate change and resource scarcity. Whether we are at the office, attending conferences and workshops on Latin American issues, or visiting our partners on the ground, we hope to gain a more nuanced understanding of the region throughout the upcoming year and become more informed public servants.