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Puerto Rico Global Citizenship Trip Week 1 – Student Reflection on World Water Day

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"My experience at APRODEC helped me gain a better understanding of the water consumption we take for granted. We minimized the amount of water we used daily since it had to be transported by Manuel himself. Since all of the energy used in the building was from solar panels, we also tried our best to conserve the electricity at night by only turning the lights on when we had to." Zainab Pate '23

On this trip, I appreciated getting to hear about local leaders who each had their own stories. My group had the opportunity to learn from Manuel Martinez, founder of APRODEC (The Alliance for Economic Development of Ceiba). The organization aims to reclaim the parts of Ceiba, a small municipality in northeast Puerto Rico, that were taken by the U.S. military for almost sixty years. He hopes to increase the quality of life of Ceiba and promote ecological and cultural tourism for increased economic development through community-based initiatives and programs. For two days, our group helped clean out the garden behind one of the buildings and paint the main laundry room. When we weren’t working, we participated in a cooking class and made Mofongo, a traditional mashed plantain dish that can be eaten with beans, rice, and chicken. We learned about the significance of producing one’s own food and why 80% of the food in Puerto Rico is imported. 

My experience at APRODEC helped me gain a better understanding of the water consumption we take for granted. We minimized the amount of water we used daily since it had to be transported by Manuel himself. Since all of the energy used in the building was from solar panels, we also tried our best to conserve the electricity at night by only turning the lights on when we had to.

An overarching theme of the trip was the importance of community and community-based leadership. Manuel explained that he couldn’t have gotten APRODEC to the place it is now as an established organization without the support of volunteers from Ceiba dedicating their time and effort to help. 

Later in the trip, we met with a woman named Modesta, another local leader who has impacted many people’s lives. She explained how anytime people in the community are struggling, whatever the issue may be, they all come together in the Church and find ways to help. She left us with a message to always be kind to the people around us and this is something we all will continue to carry from this experience. 

The meaningful insight and advice I gained from both Manuel and Modesta is something I will carry forth with me in my academic and personal endeavors. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to connect with two inspirational community leaders who are models to me on what it means to practice ethical and socially informed leadership.

Zainab Pate ‘23


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