Finding the words: How one city is leveraging resources to engage its Hispanic community to improve the watershed
About the Author: Jocabed Veloz has lived in Nampa, ID since 2003. She was born in Mexico and moved to the USA when she was 6 years old. She has a Master of Public Health and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES). She is currently working as a business intelligence analyst with St. Luke’s Hospital.
I want more people to be more involved in environmental issues.
Simple things like taking your vehicle to a carwash, scooping up pet waste, and preventing excess water from running down the street can have large impacts on the quality of our water systems. And so it is important for us to all realize how these little things add up.
When I work with the Hispanic community in Nampa, Idaho and we talk about improving water quality, I can see that they understand and that they are willing to make the changes necessary to enact positive change in their community.
The Hispanic community in Nampa is hardworking. Many still have a strong connection to the Earth. They may not know all the issues related to water quality or how our systems are set up to manage water, but at the very core, this community understands the importance of clean water in everyday life. And even though we all know this, we often need to be reminded that we are part of the solution and need to actively work to protect our water quality.
With support from an Urban Waters Small Grant, an Environmental Justice Small Grant, and other EPA funding, the City of Nampa launched a watershed improvement program to improve the city’s water quality.
The focus of the project is on Indian Creek, where storm water is a major source of pollution. As the neighborhoods surrounding the creek are heavily Hispanic, the city recognized that a successful campaign had to engage the Hispanic community. My personal experiences and academic research has given me a unique understanding of the Hispanic population in Nampa and the issues at hand. Thus, I was asked to advise the City of Nampa on how to engage the Hispanic community.
The city wanted to engage the community to help them understand and change the everyday behaviors that were contributing to water pollution. I recommended that our outreach messages be in English and Spanish and that we use simple, everyday language.
From this recommendation, we produced a directory of Nampa Hispanic leaders to assist us with our outreach projects. This information helped the city establish contacts with Hispanic organizations to successfully target outreach efforts. These leaders were invited to become a part of the Nampa Stormwater Advisory Group and those conversations helped guide the crafting of outreach materials and the opportunities to engage the Hispanic community.
To educate residents about behavior changes that can improve water quality, we created bilingual engagement strategies, which included bilingual interpretive signage at City Acres Park and a bilingual website that won an Idaho Press Club award. We also created a bilingual story book for children. You can read it too at this link, it’s called What Ollie Sees- A Story about Stormwater.
I think people really care about the environment and they welcome opportunities to engage in positive change. People are happy to see something tangible from their work; it makes them feel like “we matter.”
I love this work because it’s exciting to do something that you feel makes a difference. And I personally like working on projects like this because they get at the root causes, rather than just the symptoms, of public health issues. And in the end, I can see that my efforts and the efforts of others have indeed resulted in many more people being much more involved in their community’s environmental issues.
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