Building Community Power

By: Finangi Manganez

Finangi at Mesa Verde

Finangi at Mesa Verde

Personally, I really like my work since I love to interact with the community and have closer contact. I like to know their worries, listen to their stories and help in whatever way I can — as an organization we have very beneficial information and resources for the community. 

Protégete is a program that is focused on community organizing and advocacy for equitable access to a healthy environment, specifically for Colorado communities most affected by environmental pollution. I was a very asthmatic girl and spent many years with that condition. Here in this country the percentage of asthmatic Hispanic children is very high – and it’s no accident. That is why I identify so much with this problem.   

Eight Promotores stand with sign at the Rebel with a Cause Gala

Promotores at our annual gala, Rebel With a Cause

At Protégete, we have a training called Environmental Justice Promotores and we cover topics such as environmental justice, government, and rights vs. needs, such as recognizing your community. The class is held face to face with the goal of creating a committee that makes a plan for their community. They learn all the theories in classes and once they graduate they have all the necessary tools to be community leaders who advocate for their rights. This work is very important since we are educating and building stronger communities that know their councilors, representatives, senators at the local, state, and federal levels and thus take action and raise their voices to create change. 

The Westminster community, who I work with closely, is a great example of a community with strong leaders that is gradually joining the movement, building their capacity, and taking action. A couple of years ago they got involved and started a project to build a community garden. Now they have a great project with the city of Westminster. It’s a great way to build power for the community, enjoy the open space with family, eat healthy, and educate month after month with different research.  

Fina and Promotores at the opening of the Westminster Community garden

Angelica, Fina, Sara, and Alma on the day the community garden opened.

Seeing the Westminster community garden makes me proud of the work I do, since these Promotoras have been working on the project for four years without many resources. Now it is a dream come true. I enjoy seeing the Promotores as they climb and increasingly feel more comfortable and safe when it comes to testifying, writing a letter, making calls and even seeing how they are recognized for their hard work by different organizations.

Want to get involved with Protégete? Let us know!