04 August 2023

Fostering a Sense of Belonging

Written by: Jennifer Lagunas

I've had the opportunity to immerse myself in outreach efforts aimed at exposing people, particularly the Latino community, to the beauty of green spaces and the benefits of nature-based recreational activities. Through various Latino Conservation Week events, I've engaged with my community, learning more about the obstacles we face when it comes to embracing and enjoying the natural world. These events served as bridges between the local communities in San Diego and green spaces, fostering a sense of belonging and shared responsibility for the environment. By bringing people together, we encouraged open discussions about the barriers that prevent some communities, including Latinos, from fully experiencing the great outdoors.

From language barriers and lack of transportation to cultural perceptions of nature, I realized that building connections with nature requires a tailored approach. Understanding these obstacles has allowed me to go over outreach strategies and adjust them to better address the needs and concerns of the community. People have unique experiences, and backgrounds that influence how they relate to nature. We have to learn about how people will prefer to spend their time outdoors and cater to their learning style to create authentic and long-lasting connections.

During the LCW kick-off event at NTC Park in Liberty Station I had a conversation with a family that only spoke Spanish. They were interested in the seed planting activity we had but I could tell that they didn’t know how to approach the activity table or the staff that were helping. I decided to approach them and help them with the activity. I was interested in how they heard about the event and what they think about conservation. They saw a flyer on social media about the event, but they felt awkward about it because they aren’t outdoors or conservation people, but they wanted to learn more. I think a lot of the time people who haven’t been exposed to the outdoors or recreational activities think it takes a certain type of person to enjoy and protect nature. There are no guidelines on how to do it and who gets to do it. 

Sharing knowledge about the importance of protecting green spaces and wildlife sparked a growing interest in conservation efforts and sustainable practices among community members. One of the key takeaways from the events during Latino Conservation Week has been the significance of creating inclusive and culturally relevant nature-based activities. We can’t expect to get people out on a kayak when many haven’t even been to the beaches. We can’t expect people to help with restoration projects is they don’t understand that the public lands are for everyone. By organizing events that integrate elements of Latino culture and heritage, we were able to break down barriers and make green spaces feel more welcoming. I know that these approaches will expose people to nature and strengthen their cultural identity and connection to their surroundings.


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