By Kelly Zwicker
We are three days away from our November 28th event, Cocktails for Conservation. The non-profit benefitted at the event will be Hoja Nueva, which is based out of the remote Piedras region of Madre De Dios, Peru. Samantha Zwicker, the executive director of Hoja Nueva, will be speaking at the event as well.
Samantha is a PhD student and current global health scholar here most days, and other days she is trekking through the Peruvian Amazon camera trapping jaguars, treating dogs, or working in the sustainable development of remote, impoverished communities. Her work with Hoja Nueva is very diverse and covers a wide range of health and environmental topics. When Samantha is home you can find her off exploring with her dog Copper in the Pacific Northwest, or spending time with her family.
"My love for animals and nature is what guides me," says Samantha, "and continuing to provide a voice for the people and animals that go unheard." Samantha aim to be a sort of global leader, inspiring others to make a difference and help much needed communities around the world. This drive to help created the idea of Hoja Nueva, a U.S 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.
Samantha began working in the lower Peruvian Amazon almost five years ago, drawn to the frontier forests within the controversial region of Madre De Dios, known globally for illegal mining and logging operations. The interoceanic highway was the last straw - a vast expanse of concrete stretching from the ports of Peru to the ports of Brazil brought an influx of people to corners of the Amazon that have never been reached before. Like other areas of the world opened up by roads, the interoceanic highway led to the creation of thousands of more roads for logging, agriculture, and settlement. For migrants in search of free land and a better future for their children, the unprotected forests of Las Piedras, albeit viewed as untamed jungle, were a blessing. The deforestation and habitat destruction incurred over the past six years however, has been detrimental for the future survival of wildlife and rainforest.
"We started Hoja Nueva as a grassroots organization," Samantha says, "to raise standards of living in impoverished communities while maintaining healthy rainforest habitat." Samantha and the Hoja Nueva team aim to effects change at a local scale, for the lives of people in both migrant and native communities. What is so commonly misunderstood is that these people are vital to rainforest conservation, therefore they must be constantly prioritized in research and conservation projects.
Sustainability projects have become very important to Hoja Nueva's recent initiatives, or in other words, guiding Peruvian communities to thrive and develop in a sustainable way. Some of these projects include native communities gaining legal rights to their lands, and creating microfinance programs and alternative income opportunities.
Developing waste management and water quality projects, linking sustainable cocoa producers with buyers in the U.S., and bringing students and experts from around the world to educate support in the ways that they can, are very clear goals for Hoja Nueva. To reach their conservation and research goals, Hoja Nueva raised $60,000 in 2015 and 2016 to build a research station and eco-lodge, as well as buy 150-acre plot of land within one of the largest destructive agricultural communities in the Piedras region.
Although Hoja Nueva has made great leaps since its founding, Samantha recognizes that are always limitations and obstacles when working in a nonprofit. "We find ourselves consistently faced with issues - big and small - that we want to confront and work on but we do not have the funds," she claims, "One of the most difficult parts about running a nonprofit that is needs-based is not always being able to help."
Hoja Nueva goes through periods of getting significant donations and funds to aid projects, and then there are also equal periods of time when Hoja Nueva struggles to make ends meet. It takes a lot of well though out distribution of funds and saving to keep the projects going, as Samantha has already experienced in her dedication to Hoja Nueva so far. "It is not always easy, but in the end it is always worth it," she says.
It is only with the help of donors that Hoja Nueva is able to continue their ongoing efforts and implement new ones. Some of their largest, most impactful projects will begin in January of 2018- but you will have to wait for either Cocktails for Conservation or our Third Annual Luncheon to hear about them!
Local events, such as Cocktails for Conservation, spread awareness in a very effective way, through networking and creative stimulus of additions such as eco-fashion.
This brings in Hoja Nueva's partnership with Fashion For Conservation (FFC), one Samantha is very proud to continue. Hosting events with FFC spreads awareness of Hoja Nueva's efforts to a consumer crowd, which is crucial and hard to reach solely with Hoja Nueva's media efforts. "The fashion industry is the third most destructive on Earth, " Samantha claims, "especially as it relates to dies, cotton, and an uncanny amount of waste."
The truth of the matter is, millions of people tune or attend events such as London or New York Fashion Week. Addressing this audience with issues that have erupted in the tropics and the world in general can make a monumental impact for Hoja Nueva's cause. Not to mention that partnerships like these are a statement for future conservation efforts. Samantha is very excited to speak about Hoja Nueva on November 28th at Cocktails for Conservation, held at Axis in Pioneer Square.
By living part of the year in both Peru and Seattle, Samantha stresses the importance of connecting with people and building networking for conservation projects. The topics of climate change, loss of biodiversity and wildlife species may have a new chance to gain awareness in the world of fashion, with the help of volunteers and those willing to put in a helping hand with education and promotion.
I hope to see you all on November 28th!
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Kelly is a lifestyle blogger based out of Seattle, Washington. She has her own website kstateofmind.com. She currently blogs her personal style, travel adventures, and health tips. Being a former collegiate tennis player and public health major, Kelly loves to get involved with a variety of collaborations, not excluding her lead blogger role with Fashion for Conservation. She utilizes her passions for photography and writing for her freelance work and creative drive.