Earth Care is a youth empowerment and community development organization. At Earth Care we educate, empower and supportthe positive development of young people in a way that engages their natural innovation and creativity to create healthy, just and sustainable communities. Our framework places youth at the center of everything we do. The organization and our collaborations support young people with integrated programs that address their empowerment while working together with them to realize a shared vision for a sustainable future.
Our approach to our mission combines cross cultural relationship building & social justice, systems thinking, and sustainable development to engage youth in four areas of community development: Food & Health, Education, Civic Engagement, and Economic Opportunity.
We believe that young people have the inherent capacity to solve problems and that through the empowerment and engagement of youth, sustainability is within the reach of all communities. We facilitate their empowerment through youth advocacy, leadership development, civic engagement, service-learning, youth-led community organizing, social entrepreneurship, and intern/job placements. These strategies build young people’s capacity on three levels: interpersonal capacity tomeet young people’s need for belonging, safety, self-awareness, and self-worth, as well as helping them build a wide range of skills; socio-political capacity which emphasizes connections between common community problems and broader political and social issues; and community capacity which focuses on ways youth can contribute to addressing relevant community needs in addition to broader social problems. We collaborate with those committed to youth voice, innovation, and a systems approach to development. We build the work to simultaneously propel youth and sustainable community forward.
Cross Cultural Relationship Building & Social Justice
We believe that the leadership of our community should reflect the diverse cultures, ages, and perspectives of those who live here. We acknowledge that the history of colonization in New Mexico and systems of privilege continue to impact our collective ability to achieve equity, build relationships and work together across cultures to solve some of our community’s most pressing problems. We facilitate cultural healing and relationship building by recruiting for racial equity and diversity within our organization and our programs.
We train participants in anti-oppression, (de)colonization, and cultural competency, in order to cultivate cross-cultural alliances and a local movement for social justice.
We teach and practice a way of thinking about problem solving where we see ourselves as influencers of systems rather than fixers of problems. In order to improve systems over the long-term we work to mitigate the ripples of impact of any actions we take by involving multiple perspectives in designing solutions. We build coalitions and collaborations throughout the systems we seek to influence in order to best support the positive development of youth and the sustainable development of communities. Strategies we use include integrated community needs assessments (economic, environmental, cultural, and social), asset mapping, and building coalitions and collaborations that allow us to engage with and involve many different parts of the system in designing solutions and supporting young people’s development.
The future of our communities and the success of young people depend upon our ability to transform communities in ways that are in harmony with the earth and its ecosystems. Sustainability Education sees long-term community health as inextricably linked with the regeneration and health of our ecosystems, social equity, cultural democracy, and economic viability. It builds the skills, knowledge and experience in our global citizens necessary to develop sustainable communities.
These four approaches inform and shape our worldview and our practice of youth and community development. We work with youth to develop the community in four areas that can leverage the most change towards sustainability while at the same time offering the greatest opportunity for youth to propel their own lives forward: food & health, education, civic engagement, and economic opportunity.
AREAS OF CONCENTRATED IMPACT
Young people need engaging, relevant education to succeed in life and become active citizens that work to improve their community. In Santa Fe 47% of youth do not graduate high school. Schools play a pivotal role in moving us towards a sustainable society. Earth Care works to improve the educational system’s ability to better meet student’s needs through both in-school and out-of-school settings. We focus on strategies that increase student engagement and motivation for learning. These strategies are grounded in our framework of ‘education for sustainability’ (EfS) with a service learning approach and include providing training and support for teachers and administrators to integrate EfS in K-12 schools and curriculum, developing avenues for students to engage in and lead sustainable community development efforts, and advocating for student choice and authentic, empowering, relevant education to meet the needs and interests of varied learners and that develops the creativity and innovation in young people needed to address today’s complex problems.
FOOD & HEALTH
Young people need support for good nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and a healthy environment & community to realize their full potential. We support projects and create coalitions to address personal and environmental health in integrated ways. Our focus on food allows us to address healthy lifestyles and nutrition, issues of access and equity, as well as land & water health. With youth and a coalition of partners, we are building a sustainable food system by developing local infrastructure to meet our food needs (i.e. home & community gardens, farming, school gardens & lunch programs, water harvesting, localized distribution, etc), address childhood health issues through food & nutrition education, improve food security through market and hunger relief strategies that increase access to affordable, healthy foods for youth and low-income and families.
Empowerment is an essential ingredient to civic participation and people’s ability to solve their own problems. According to a United Way of Santa Fe Developmental Assets survey in 2003, youth scored low in the asset of empowerment: only 18% of youth in Santa Fe believe that adults in the community value youth, and only 20% of youth feel they are given useful roles. Earth Care works to change this through partnering with the City, school board, and civil society organizations to formalize avenues for youth participation and bring youth voices to public discourse and decision-making tables such as local governing bodies (Commissions, Advisory Boards, and Task Forces), the media, and community affairs. We train youth in effective citizenry and provide mentorship as they positively engage with their community. We increase civic engagement by training and supporting youth in mobilizing and organizing community members to take action on sustainability issues and policy, placing young people at the center of their community.
Economic stability is a key factor to life success. In an era when the economic landscape is rapidly changing and challenged by social and environmental problems, we want to ensure that young people have the skills needed to adapt to and succeed in new economies and emerging job markets. Our programs support young people in develop both social change and entrepreneurial skills, or, as “social entrepreneurs,” ensuring their place in markets as innovators and that their participation in economic development is driven by care and consideration for place, people and the planet. We educate youth to develop entrepreneurial ideas that strengthen self-reliant, place-based economies, build local assets and capacities of the marginalized and disadvantaged, and work within specific, finite ecological limits. To these ends we facilitate internships, job training and placements in the sustainability field and at innovative social and environmental enterprises.