Oh, 2020 : DE4R in Puerto Rico
Did anyone expect 2020 to turn out this way? Since everything went differently than planned, I want you to see what we accomplished in Puerto Rico through your generosity in the last year. I dearly hope that you will be able to contribute, but I am also just happy to know that you care. Everything helps. In hopes that you read this update in spite of its length (sorry!), there is a donation link at the end, which has an address to which you could send a check, if you prefer.
The earthquakes began in earnest in January, and they have not stopped since. Fortunately, they stay in the 3-5 range so not many buildings are collapsing each time, but people are watching the cracks grow. Already many of the schools are destroyed in the Southwest of Puerto Rico, where they have been teaching and learning online since the big one back at the beginning of the year.
In late January, I partnered with the RISE Network to deliver 5 workshops around the island, about trauma healing and efficacy-building in school. Over 100 teachers, social workers, psychologists and community leaders co-created many activities to help students regain their sense that they can influence the world around them. Among all of us, we have the potential to reach thousands of children and youth directly.
I spent COVID Spring modifying the activities (and getting them translated) so that they could be done virtually AND in socially distanced settings, to energize, heal and engage. Over 50 Schools, Universities or Programs are now using them, 24 throughout Puerto Rico, and several schools with high Puerto Rican and Spanish-speaking populations in NYC and Florida. Other schools which are benefitting from Puerto Rican educator ingenuity span the globe, from Vancouver to India to Australia to Kenya to the UAE.
Late spring found me upgrading my facilitation capabilities to include virtual community problem solving, and making sure that equity-building and amplifying capacity in lo-tech Puerto Rico communities remained top priority. An ongoing collaboration with professors and students at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez, and also with the dynamic and brilliant young engineer Pamela Silva, led to Simposio Co-Creando. We brought together 11 community teams who wanted to explore solutions for challenges confronting them like renewable energy security, water and cleanliness, and COVID exposure. Let me know if you would like to see their awesome solutions!! We are now in the process of match-making with funding and implementation partners who will stick with them as they keep seeking and solving.
The new equity-minded design process Silva and I developed was accepted by ASEE (American Society of Engineering Education) for publication in 2021. It is the basis for a research collaboration with Impacto Juventud, Royal Roads University, and rural and indigenous communities in PR and Canada that will stretch into 2022. We want to know if owning, modifying and using a process like design thinking empowers communities to keep seeking and solving, specifically climate change challenges.
In the category of small scale-big impact, I am coaching a teacher/administrator and his team, in Guayanilla. We are creating approaches to education with well-being in mind, through a series of community-challenge-based projects, beginning with Design for Our Well-Being, first with our teacher participants in December, then with students in January. Some of those 12th graders will become mentors to younger students. Miguel's school is one of the ones lost to the earthquakes, and his students are struggling to stay afloat. We are deploying everything we know about healing and engaging through belonging, feeling a sense of purpose, and seeing that you can make a difference.
I am so grateful and pleased to announce that a local collaboration with Connecticut College's Dr. Danielle Egan has brought me three incredibly talented and motivated interns, who are supporting me in all of this work, for credit!
And last, but never least, I cannot do this work without your kindness and support. Over the years, you have inspired me and carried me through. If you can match your donation from last year, YAY!!! Remember to select FORWARD TOGETHER once you get to that. I am grateful to my partners at ResilientSEE and Area Research (501(c)(3)) for making your donation tax-deductible and allowing me to use all of it for supporting change in Puerto Rico. Here's the link, where you will also find the information about how to donate by check: https://www.designed4resilience.org/donate. Snoop around the site while you're there! Let me know what you think. Whether you are a Responder, a Champion or joining the Founder's Circle, you are essential to me and to my capacity to keep co-empowering youth, teachers and communities in Puerto Rico.
With best wishes for your health and for a healing 2021, and with many safe hugs,