As we head into 2019, Santa Fe nonprofit Earth Care is on the hunt for $10,000 in donations. The organization is all about educating and empowering young Santa Feans through a curriculum of youth-first cross-cultural relations and support to help in creating a more sustainable future for us all—noble both for humankind and for local young folk growing up in a town that does't always keep their best interests in mind. SFR spoke with co-director Bianca Sopoci Belknap to get the lowdown on Earth Care, and everyone else can find out more at earthcarenm.org.
In plain terms, what's Earth Care's specific goal?
Our goal is to create an ecologically sustainable and socially and economically just world. You know, just a small goal. We work in Northern New Mexico to support Native, Latinx, Chicano, Hispano, and low-income youth and families to work together cross-culturally to strengthen our communities and start organizing around the issues they care about—which are the issues of our times; climate change, immigration, income inequality, poverty, civil rights, housing, health care, etc. We think of ourselves as a feeder into the movement since we activate and support folks who most often haven't had the opportunity or privilege to receive formal leadership development from other orgs and whose voices are almost entirely left out of decision-making processes.
We always hear about how Santa Fe is terrible for young people. Do you see evidence that organizations like Earth Care tend to give them a sense of purpose?
Young people are not just young, nor are they just students. They are artists, workers, intellectuals, visionaries, orators, strategists, family members and community members. Our young leaders have complex identities based on rich cultural heritages as well as their racial, class, sexual, gender and religious identities. This is what our organization acknowledges and celebrates. Our work is to help the young and emerging leaders we are cultivating discover their voices and their gifts and deploy those enormous assets to make our communities and the world a better place. One of the things our leaders hate the most is when they are asked about "youth issues," as though their experience, concerns for the world and needs are limited to their age bracket. Young people and the families they are a part of, including their chosen families, are actually the foundation of our community—because they carry the thread that runs from present, into our future. We have generations and generations of young people who've come up through our programs and remain part of the Earth Care family (which is how we refer to ourselves, never as an organization). It is beautiful that so many of our trainers, board members and role models were once youth participants themselves. And we don't stop at education. We believe in organizing and changing how decision-making gets done.
What's an easily noticeable step Earth Care might take if donation goals are met?
Our youth and parent leaders will be organizing their families and neighbors like crazy around three issues we hope to make serious progress on in 2019: education reform, climate justice—let this be the year for renewables!—and equitable community development. We're working with Chainbreaker [Collective] on creating a model that we hope we can use for our Southside communities since that's where we're based. Most immediately, support will go to help us fund our membership meeting for [Martin Luther King] Day this January.