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November 19, 2012 by fangerpr
By Maite Arce, executive director of HAF
Talk about a statement!
Regardless of which political party you align yourself with, the 2012 presidential election proved that Latinos are a force that can’t be ignored or superficially placated as record numbers of Latinos went to the polls on Nov. 6 and cast their vote.
While this will undoubtedly serve as a wake up call to our nation’s politicians, it should also underscore the need of corporations, government institutions and other organizations in America to embrace Latinos as part of its consumer and civic base.
Currently, there are more than 50 million Hispanics in the United States and the U.S. Census projects that number to double by 2050. By that point, almost one third of the entire population will consider themselves Hispanic. Additionally, the buying power of Hispanics now exceeds $1 trillion and Hispanic-owned businesses contribute more than $70 billion to the American economy each year.
Embracing Latinos is about more than just running television ads in Spanish. We’re a close-knit community with varying backgrounds and cultural differences rooted in the history and traditions of the places where we or our families originate. For many of us, the requirements or processes of this country take some getting used to and require education to understand.
For instance, many countries in Latin America do not have or do not require an annual filing of taxes. While the majority of Hispanics pay into the system, some have yet to fully grasp the U.S. tax system. HAF has worked in the communities and churches across the country through hundreds of workshops to change that. Our direct grassroots interaction with Hispanics is leading to behavioral change. You can’t get that just through mass media.
Our motto – Building Bridges. Changing Lives. – should serve as a guide for all those wanting to incorporate themselves within the Hispanic community. Bridges into the Latino community need to be built through direct interaction, education and information in their language.
A few weekends ago, I was in Chicago for the New Futuro College Prep Fair and more than 5,000 Hispanics attended the day’s event to learn about higher education and how to get into college (watch the Univision report).
Hispanics are hungry to learn more about setting their lives on the path for success.
The need to integrate Hispanics into outreach, business or service could not be any clearer. The effectiveness, however, depends on the approach and the trust built. Every day, HAF is working to do just that and help give a voice to this growing and powerful population.
Our country’s steadfast efforts to protect the environment this year finally paid off last Saturday when Congress granted $322.9 million to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) to protect lands and jobs in 2012. This is a $20 million increase from last year’s budget and reflects the widespread support for the fund.
In 2011, Hispanic Access Foundation (HAF) worked with Environmental Learning for Kids (ELK) and other organizations to push for more funding for LWCF. HAF learned that 95 percent of Latinos supported full funding for LWCF and that 9 in 10 Americans wanted Congress to stop siphoning funds for the program.
“Hispanics are passionate about their public parks and open spaces,” said Maite Arce, HAF’s executive director. “Parks are often the center of family activities, gatherings, and even their careers. As such, their protection ranks high on Hispanics’ priority list.”
Outdoor recreation, conservation and historic preservation contribute $1.06 trillion annually to the U.S. economy and support 9.4 million American jobs, which equates to one out of every 15 U.S. jobs, according to the LWCF Coalition.
LWCF is an important tool for protecting the nation’s parks, wildlife refuges and recreational areas. It uses a small portion of revenues from offshore oil and gas leases instead of taxpayers’ money to protect parks and open spaces across the country.
The fund is also important because it encourages Americans to get outdoors by protecting federal lands and waters, wildlife habitat, and close-to-home parks, said Frank Hugelmeyer, Outdoor Industry Association’s president & CEO.
In July 2011, HAF partnered with ELK to hold a free day of trout fishing and lessons in aquatic ecology and conservation at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge near Denver where more than 250 Denver Latinos took part.
In 2011, 95 percent of Latinos supported full funding for LWCF.
HAF collaborated with ELK again in August to hold a round table discussion with 50 Latino youth and their families at the Rocky Mountain National Park. There, the organization discussed ways youth and their families could further engage in enjoying and advocating for parks, wildlife habitat and the outdoors.
And in October, representatives from HAF personally delivered letters from Colorado Latinos to the White House asking President Barack Obama to oppose proposed cuts to LWCF in the fall.
After a year of hard work, HAF is seeing its efforts come to fruition. But, it will be up to the community to continue to fight for LWCF funding.
“Despite this strong show of support in the 2012 budget bill, the Land and Water Conservation Fund continues to be funded well below the $900 million that is deposited each year into the trust fund from offshore oil and gas royalties,” said William H. Meadows, president of The Wilderness Society.
“President Obama’s budget recommended full funding for LWCF at that $900 million level, and we urge Congress to work toward that goal in fiscal year 2013 and beyond.”
Read the LWCF Coalition’s press release to learn more.
Stay tuned for ways to get involved in HAF’s efforts for environmental change in 2012!
Maite Arce is the Chief Executive Officer of the Hispanic Access Foundation. Ms. Arce took time recently to speak about how her childhood experiences motivated her to pursue a career in the public sector, eventually leading her to establish HAF.
Maite Arce’s family immigrated to America from Mexico when she was seven years old. “They came to this country and worked really hard. They had a really hard time learning English, paying taxes, and getting an education, simply because we didn’t have guidance from a trusted source“.
From an early age, she realized that the problem was not a lack of resources available for Hispanics, but a lack of access to those resources and understanding of how these resources work. “That experience stayed with me” Arce says.
Ms. Arce did not let these setbacks prevent her from getting an education. She began working on community outreach. “Part of my nature and personality is wanting to help other people.”
As she started to advance in her career, Arce was presented with opportunities to create programs. Through that process, she founded a national bilingual helpline and then eventually the service provider database.
Arce says that the database “developed organically based on the needs we were hearing from the community. Having an ear in the community helped me build on that motivation that something needed to be done.”
Building the Hispanic Access Foundation
In 2009, Ms. Arce was working for another non-profit. “In developing a non-profit there are many sides. I was strong in the implementation side, but there’s also a financial, a government, and a fundraising side. I had to learn about the other pieces.”
Launching the HAF foundation was a natural process for Arce. “It was a blessing that God put before me. It was the situations that I was put into over the years. And it just all came together last year in early 2010, when I realized that it was time and that I had the experience. I just had to take the risk.”
Keys to HAF’s Success
“The primary element that makes HAF successful is its partnerships with faith and community networks” says Arce. Hispanics trust these national and local networks. Another key tool is the use of mass media campaigns- providing a message in the air and on the ground with outreach and education. The final component is technology. HAF manages information from an array of sources including the organization’s database, directory, social media, and community evaluation studies. It also provides bilingual materials to community leaders and others that work with Hispanics.
How to Get Involved
There are many ways you can help Maite and the rest of the HAF team make a difference in your community. “The best way for anyone to get involved is to go on the HAF website, take a look at the key issues and contact us through our social media network or by identifying local resources” Arce says.
Another important way to contribute is to donate to HAF. Financial support helps HAF make an impact in the lives of Latinos across the nation. Those interested can contact HAF and stay informed by signing up to receive the HAF newsletter.
If you work with Hispanics, add your listing to our searchable directory. You can help Hispanics in your area get connected with service providers and other resources.