This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Corrina Grace, Executive Director of Project Seres to talk about her project, her connection with Project Somos and her long term goals in Guatemala.
AY: Corrina, tell me about yourself – where are you from and what did you do before Project Seres?
CG: I am a mechanical engineer from Australia.
In 2007 I was working in Sydney for a prominent investment bank when I decided to take some time off to volunteer. This decision led me to Guatemala, where I spent almost a year working to help bring sustainable, low-cost infrastructure to the rural poor. It was a life – changing experience.
When I returned home, I started working in the field of sustainability and climate change – assisting businesses with the transition towards a low-carbon economy.
The more I learned about this work, the more I was struck by the irony that not only will the world’s most vulnerable citizens be the first and hardest hit by climate change, but the majority of these individuals are not even aware that climate change exists.
Unable to come to terms with this situation, I moved back to Central America in January of 2009, with a vague notion to do what I could to address the situation, and from there the concept of Seres was born.
AY: Tell me about Project Seres.
CG: Seres works to help communities build resilience to climate change through ways that are environmentally sound and financially sustainable. The ideas and techniques we use are simple – but what makes us unique is the methods that we use to engage and connect with people. Our programs empower people to become change makers in their communities – supporting them to design and develop their own pathways towards sustainable living.
We are currently working on a project to build a centre from where we can deliver our programs – which will allow us to increase our impact 15-fold. The centre (called the ‘Seres Centre’) will provide free education to the local community on sustainable, grassroots community development and climate change adaptation: helping communities change their stories from ones of vulnerability to one of thrivability.
AY: What is the connection with Project Somos?
CG: I met Heather Knox and Greg Kemp of Project Somos back in 2009 and we decided to bring our two projects together and collaborate to build a stronger vision.
We will be building the Seres Centre on the same land as the Project Somos Children’s Village. The proximity to the Children’s Village and the collaboration between the projects means that these children will be raised in an environment that encourages awareness of our current environmental challenges, and will be able to participate in programs to help them develop as change-makers and leaders to help bring about a sustainable future. Our children are the future, and this deep collaboration is an important part of our vision.
AY: Why Guatemala?
CG: Hmmm, I don’t think I had a choice really. It was just a series of random events that led me here – in one of those strangely precise ways that make you think it must be destiny.
AY: What are your plans for the next six months?
CG: We are currently running a number of different programs. In September, we will be taking five people from Guatemala and El Salvador to Australia for a Climate Change Resilience Leadership training program. As well as working on developing a Latin American Sustainability in Action program, they will have the opportunity to build contacts and get exposed to a range of people who all have the common goal of becoming sustainability leaders in their own communities.
In November, we will be running the Central American Youth Lead Climate Congress – a three day program that brings youth together to share their hopes and concerns, and dream together about ways to create a sustainable future. This year, we will hold the congress in three locations: Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica. These congresses will link up with a similar congress around the world – allowing youth from different cultures and economic backgrounds to share their stories and plans.
In addition, we are also working on our first “Mi Río (My River) Program”. The pilot will be run with children from the village of Chivarabal (the village where the Children’s Village and Seres Centre are located). The idea is to connect young children with their eco-systems, teaching them about what a healthy river should look like and how to care for it.
AY: Is there anything else you would like to share with me and our blog readers?
CG: Please visit our website (www.projectseres.org) or become a fan on Facebook and help us spread the word about our project!
We are also currently fundraising for the youth lead congress in November and our goal is to raise $5000 to provide scholarships for 100 young people to attend – if you’re interested in helping out, you can donate online via our website.
AY: Thank you for your time Corrina!