Reflections on ICF's Giving in La Paz
By Alejandra Mier Y Teran, Board Member, International Community Foundation
Board members Yuri Calderon, Irma Gigli and
Sam Dychter in the Raiz del Fondo garden, La Paz.
This past April, I had the opportunity to participate in an International Community Foundation Board Member trip to La Paz, and what an experience it was! Since I joined the ICF Board of Governors, I have known that many of our grantees are in Baja California Sur and that preserving the unique ecosystem in the Sea of Cortez is a key priority for many of our donors. After making this trip, it is now even clearer to me that this effort helps not only to protect this beautiful and unique peninsula, but also to support the many eco-tourism and sustainable development opportunities –which lead to economic opportunities- for the residents of Baja California Sur.
Our trip started with a walk along "El Malecón" in La Paz, the beautiful pedestrian waterfront avenue which gives visitors the full flavor of this Mexican city, followed by site visits to two nonprofits that we support Raiz del Fondo and Ecology Project International, otherwise known as EPI (http://www.ecologyproject.org/). We learned first-hand how Raiz del Fondo is helping La Paz residents develop their own vegetable gardens and how EPI is teaching youth about conservation efforts and marine science in Baja California Sur.
We then learned, through a briefing by La Paz elected officials, how La Paz is participating in the Inter-American Development Bank's Sustainable Cities Initiative, one of only six participating cities in Latin America.
The next day, we went to Espíritu Santo Island. Oh…. Espíritu Santo. I can't tell you how proud I was as I explained to my 6- and 9-year olds that our foundation had helped preserve this beautiful island through a series of grants to Niparajá to ensure that this island would remain undeveloped and preserved so that we may forever enjoy its unique natural setting. We swam with the sea lions; followed a pack of humpbacks; snorkeled along the island and gazed at some beautiful sting rays that seemed to be greeting our boat by jumping up and down like jumping beans.
Alejandra Mier y Teran (Right) on zodiac boat
with and Linda Kinninger (left).
Our last site visit was with Grupo Tortuguero de las Californias, where we learned how hundreds of turtles are massacred every fishing season and are almost extinct, and how this group is converting these "villainous" fisherman –whose fishing techniques end up killing the turtles- into heroes because they are taught how to protect these animals and use "turtle-safe" fishing techniques--including the use of turtle extrusion devices—so that they not only catch the same amount of fish, but protect these endangered turtles and, therefore, bring more tourists to their communities.
Although our trip had to come to an end and I am now back in beautiful San Diego, I am quietly distracted. I continue to think of when I will be able to return to La Paz to swim with the whale sharks –it was not in season in April- … and when am I going to visit Cabo Pulmo, which I learned is only 60 miles from La Paz and has one of most important coral reefs in North America?…. and when am I going to see and touch the whales at San Ignacio Lagoon, among other adventures in Baja California?
This trip inspired me to work more closely with our donors so that together we can preserve all of these astonishing sites and experiences, not only for us, but for generations to come. The fact is, all these beautiful areas are in danger, and while I am very proud to say that ICF is helping to preserve all of them, there is so much work that is still needed.
If you would like to see and help preserve these amazing sights first-hand, call our email our CEO, Richard Kiy at (619) 336-2250 email@example.com.