A2 New ‘Comunidades’ awarded Group Health Foundation grant.jpg

Gabriela Garcia, volunteer, at a September 2018 Comunidades meeting. The group was just awarded a grant from Group Health Foundation.

Group Health Foundation awarded a “game-changing” three-year operating grant to Comunidades, a new collaborative project that provides space for more Latinos and people of color to get involved in social justice and environmental issues in the Columbia River Gorge, according to a Columbia Riverkeeper press release.

 Comunidades formed in late 2018 and includes Columbia Gorge-based educators, activists, parents, and students. Comunidades provides an inclusive, Latino-led space. Group Health Foundation awarded Comunidades $225,000 over three years.

“Growing up in Hood River, I saw how vast the information gap was between Latinos and environmental issues,” said Lisa Muñoz, a volunteer with Comunidades. “Comunidades is a stepping stone in narrowing that gap. By actively engaging with the Latino community about problems that they face on a daily basis, we can inform and facilitate the kind of environmental stewardship Latino community members have always been capable of.”

Group Health Foundation funding will provide critical seed funding to hire Comunidades’ first paid-staff member to support the all-volunteer group in advancing its goals, including membership recruitment, leadership training, and public outreach on priority environmental and social justice issues in the Gorge, said the press release. The foundation’s mission is to shape and accelerate efforts to improve health equity and advance community aspirations for a vibrant, healthy future in Washington. 

“There are many Latinos who want to protect clean water, clean air, and all of our natural resources, but have not engaged in traditional environmental groups — Comunidades aims to change that,” said Ubaldo Hernández, senior organizer with Columbia Riverkeeper.

The Group Health Foundation recently announced $15 million in Community Learning Grants to 75 organizations and projects throughout Washington that are leading community-defined efforts to advance equity. Grantees were selected following review of almost 700 applications.

“The Gorge needs Comunidades and we need it,” said Dez Ramirez, community engagement manager with Columbia Land Trust. “The beauty of the Gorge is for everyone, and so is the good work that is being done reclaiming the natural environment we all have a responsibility to take care of. Latinos are here in the Gorge, and they’ve been here. It’s time for a community based group that is for us and by us.”

For more information about Comunidades, contact Hernández at ubaldo@columbiariverkeeper.org or 541-490-7722.

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