An update on our Robert Wood Johnson Foundation partnership

Engaging Community to Take Climate Action

We know that trees fight climate change. And here at Friends of Trees our experience partnering with thousands of community members tells us that the volunteer experience also helps fight climate change – because folks who volunteer to plant and care for trees often go on to become involved with other environmental issues, including taking climate action.

We’re excited to share that through our partnership with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, APANO (Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon), Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning, OHSU-PSU Joint School of Public Health, and Willamette Partnership, we should soon have quantitative and additional qualitative data to support this. This project recognizes that “where one lives or works, one’s age, if one has pre-existing health conditions or chronic illnesses, and race or income all impacts how and how much climate change harms health.” Friends of Trees’ efforts over the past 20+ years of planting in east Portland and other low-canopy, underserved neighborhoods also recognizes this, and this partnership takes these efforts to the next level, especially around community involvement.

“Engaging with historically marginalized communities about where neighborhood change needs to happen and how it might happen are the first steps to ensuring an equitable urban forestry program.”

Dr. Vivek Shandas, PSU, School of Urban Studies

A major project milestone is the formation of a community advisory board, facilitated by APANO, and comprised of people who live in, work in, or regularly engage with east Portland’s Jade District. Participants include a Friends of Trees tree recipient, a PSU student, a middle school student, a Rosemary Anderson High School/POIC graduate, a biology educator, and Multnomah County representation. Upcoming CAB activities include a live tree walk in the Jade District, exploring topics such as infrastructure challenges to adding trees (e.g., with so many parking lots, where and how do we plant trees?) and how to address these challenges.

“What’s really exciting about this project is the community advisory board, which isn’t something we usually have the resources to develop.” Michelle Yasutake, Friends of Trees Green Space Program Manager

Michelle’s project role involves a major project milestone, the formation of a community advisory board, facilitated by APANO, and comprised of people who live in, work in, or regularly engage with east Portland’s Jade District. Dr. Shandas is also a strong supporter of direct community involvement, “By integrating community voices with our technical know-how, this project is identifying ‘nature-based solutions’ in areas that have been neglected and disinvested by regional decision makers.”

Friends of Trees wants to do even more to engage people in the community in project planning and prioritizing, and we know that the best way to achieve diverse and authentic representation is to be able to provide stipends in consideration of the time it takes people to participate. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recognizes the value of this and its grant includes funding for these stipends. Michelle further emphasizes the importance of community involvement, 

“This project, and the community advisory board, are so important to Friends of Trees’ goals around equity, diversity and inclusion and our efforts to genuinely work with the people who actually live and work in the community, and to do so in a way that ensures community members feel like they are truly a part of the process.”

Next steps in the project include data collection through surveying the community; we’re asking questions about neighborhood involvement, civic engagement such as voting, the impact of COVID on household income, and more. We’ll also take on a tangible project such as adding green infrastructure (trees, bioswales, shrubs) to a site identified as a priority by the community; and we’ll be using a research tool called Photovoice.

Photovoice is a hands-on, photography-based research method designed to help community members identify and discuss important community issues and take social action. Photovoice involves using cameras/smartphones to visually document, describe, and discuss important community concerns.

For this Photovoice project, adult and youth community residents will use photography and digital mapping to collaboratively identify and map out important climate, greenspace, and community health concerns—centering the perspectives of residents of East Portland and the Jade District. This will include identifying specific places and spaces that represent important locations of daily climate and greenspace experiences. The goal is to create new local climate and community health data that prioritizes community lived experience and knowledge, such that the data can be used to respond to specific community concerns.

The purpose of this partnership is to “Examine the physical and social dimensions of a tree planting program as a strategy to improve public health and mitigate climate change.” East Portland  is one of seven communities across the country where RWJF is studying health, health equity and climate change solutions through its Culture of Health Action Framework, marking RWJF’s first foray into climate health solutions. As this project progresses we’ll share more milestones and updates, so stay tuned!

Photo at top: Friends of Trees East Portland tree planting event, November 2019.

Training a diverse workforce for urban forestry

Underserved and BIPOC communities access training & paid internships

As we prepare for the fourth year of offering the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program there is one thing we know for certain: The community wants this programming. We hear from program participants and partners that this programming is filling a gap through connecting communities underrepresented in the urban forestry and restoration field—primarily communities of color—to training and job opportunities they otherwise would not have.

Over the years program partners have included Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative, and the Blueprint Foundation. These organizations help select 10-15 program participants each year, who begin with classroom curriculum and field work, and proceed to paid internships. Read more about the Adult Urban Forestry Workforce Training Program here.

Of course, like everything, COVID forced some changes. What began as a challenge—providing classwork via Zoom—actually turned into a benefit: automatic translation. Which was especially important this year since two program participants, Rogelia and Leticia, speak Spanish. We caught up with Rogelia and Leticia recently, who are both interning with Honl Tree Care, to talk about their experience with this program. Rogelia shares,

Rogelia (she/her/ella), program participant

“I found out about the program with Friends of Trees from Verde. I was really interested in learning more and meeting more people, so I decided to do it. After the classes, I began to work with Honl Tree Care and it has been such a great experience, I loved getting to work alongside other people and learn how to use new machines. I was able to use the machine that took branches and turned them into mulch. The machines were very new to me—I never knew how the wood chips were made!

“The best part has been learning about new places, new neighborhoods, new parks that I didn’t even know existed, that has been fun. I don’t know exactly what I’ll do next, that is the grand question! I do know that I want to work outside, I love working outside in nature.”

Leticia (she/her/ella), program participant – in action!

Leticia also appreciated spending time with other people and echoes Rogelia’s praise for their intern hosts, Chad and Isabel at Honl Tree Care. She joined the program because, “I like trees and I wanted to know more about tree care and how trees are planted.”

The Adult Urban Forestry Training Program is possible thanks to funding from the East Multnomah Soil & Water Conservation District. We are pursuing additional funding to ensure this program continues, and grows! Meanwhile, we look forward to introducing you to the next round of interns this fall (If you or someone you know may be interested, please let us know!)—just in time for tree planting season.

 

Photo, top: Future arborist at work! View from an intern from the training program

Entrenamiento de una fuerza laboral diversa para la silvicultura urbana

Comunidades marginadas y BIPOC obtienen entrenamiento y aprendizaje pagado.

Mientras nos preparamos para el cuarto año de ofrecer el Programa de Capacitación de la Fuerza Laboral Forestal Urbana para Adultos, hay una cosa que sabemos con certeza: la comunidad quiere este programa. Escuchamos a los participantes y colaboradores del programa que este programa está llenando un vacío al conectar a las comunidades con poca representación en el campo de la silvicultura urbana y la restauración-principalmente comunidades de color-con oportunidades de entrenamiento y oportunidades de trabajo que de otro modo no tendrían.

En los último años, los colaboradores del programa han incluido a Verde, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Rosemary Anderson High School-POIC, Black Parent Initiative y Blueprint Foundation. Estas organizaciones ayudan a seleccionar de 10 a 15 participantes del programa cada año, que comienzan con el plan de estudios en la clase y trabajo de campo, y continúan con prácticas pagadas. Lea más sobre el Programa de Entrenamiento de la Fuerza Laboral Forestal Urbana para Adultos aquí.

Por supuesto, como todo, COVID forzó algunos cambios. Lo que comenzó como una dificultad-proporcionar trabajo en clase a través de Zoom- se convirtió en un beneficio: la traducción automática. Lo cual fue especialmente importante este año ya que dos participantes del programa, Rogelia y Leticia, hablan español. Recientemente, nos reunimos con Rogelia y Leticia, quienes están haciendo un entrenamiento con Honl Tree Care, para hablar sobre su experiencia con este programa. Rogelia comparte,

Rogelia (she/her/ella), participante del programa

“Me enteré del programa con Friends of Trees por Verde. Estaba realmente interesada en aprender más y conocer más gente, así que decidí hacerlo. Después de las clases, comencé a trabajar con Honl Tree Care y ha sido una gran experiencia, me encantó trabajar junto a otras personas y aprender a usar nuevas máquinas. Pude usar la máquina que tomaba ramas y las convertía en mantillo. Las máquinas eran muy nuevas para mí, ¡nunca sabía cómo se fabricaban las astillas de madera!

“La mejor parte ha sido aprender sobre nuevos lugares, nuevos vecindarios, nuevos parques que ni siquiera sabía que existían, eso ha sido divertido. No sé exactamente qué haré a continuación, ¡esa es la gran pregunta! Sé que quiero trabajar al aire libre, me encanta trabajar al aire libre en la naturaleza”.

Leticia también agradeció pasar tiempo con otras personas y hace eco los elogios de Rogelia hacia sus anfitriones internos, Chad e Isabel en Honl Tree Care. Se entró en el programa porque “me gustan los árboles y quería saber más sobre el cuidado de los árboles y cómo se plantan”.

Leticia (she/her/ella), participante del programa

El Programa de Capacitación en Silvicultura Urbana para Adultos es posible gracias a la financiación del Distrito de Conservación de Agua y Suelo de East Multnomah. ¡Estamos buscando fondos adicionales para asegurar que este programa continúe y crezca! Mientras tanto, esperamos poder presentarle al próximo grupo de participantes este otoño (si usted o alguien que conoces está interesado, ¡avísanos!), Justo a tiempo para la temporada de plantación de árboles.

 

Foto, Arriba: ¡Futuro arbolista en el trabajo! Vista de un estudiante del programa de entrenamiento

Get to know Adrián + Project Zero

Through Project Zero young people are creating cleaner, greener communities

Project Zero intern Adrián Moreno just completed his internship with Friends of Trees and to celebrate the milestone he recently guest-starred on our Instagram account to share a little bit about his experience:

“I wanted to help mitigate the environmental crisis that we are all living right now, so I applied to the PGE Project Zero intern position and got the job! Through this internship I got to be involved in the process of creating, maintaining, and restoring green spaces.

“I also got to build and maintain community with people who want to help the environment. I was able to learn new skills and experience new environments. Before this day, I was afraid of public speaking.”

Taaj Armstrong, PGE Dean of Cohort, talks a bit about Project Zero, “Environmental stewardship is one of PGE Project Zero’s core components; with equity as a large driver, we knew that a strategic partnership with Friends of Trees would be integral in reducing the negative health impacts of climate change on low-income communities, Indigenous populations and communities of color. We were also thrilled that Friends of Trees is a partner in PGE Project Zero Works, helping to design the green jobs internship program, and hosting a PGE Project Zero intern, which has been wildly successful.”

We loved working with Adrián and are excited to share that he’s still on the Tree Team through another of our educational programs, “I really appreciate the opportunity that FOT has given me and I’ll continue working with them through the Adult Urban Forestry Training Program and complete my career in environmental economics!”

Photo: Adrián in action during his Project Zero internship.

Connecting Black urban youth to the environment

Meet The Blueprint Foundation

“I like the feeling of getting my hands dirty because I feel like I did something. It’s a good feeling.”

Lashay, Friends of Trees intern through the Blueprint Foundation

Friends of Trees is fortunate to have relationships with quite a few local nonprofit organizations that benefit under-served communities, such as communities of color, at-risk youth, and neighborhoods with very little tree canopy. These partnerships help make trees accessible to community members who may not otherwise have access to all that trees do for us.

The Blueprint Foundation works to expose Black urban youth to learning opportunities they usually do not get to access. Friends of Trees is proud to be a partner to the Blueprint Foundation’s Grounding Waters program, where students learn about careers in environmental science while taking an active role in environmental stewardship.

“One of the first and most consistent activities we’ve had our kids do is the Friends of Trees neighborhood plantings, which allows them to connect with their neighbors, as well as do something directly beneficial to their own community, that they see, that has permanence.” – Jason Stroman, Program Director, The Blueprint Foundation; Friends of Trees Board of Directors

The Friends of Trees – Blueprint Foundation partnership introduces Black youth to jobs in the urban forestry field. Students receive stipends to gain job and leadership skills through training and participating with Friends of Trees as Summer Tree Inspectors and tree planting Crew Leaders.

The Blueprint-Friends of Trees partnership helps connect young people to the environment, while also supporting a historically underrepresented community’s access to nature and its benefits by decreasing barriers to participation. “The ultimate goal,” Jason points out, “is to eliminate the opportunity gap that we see for Black youth.”

Learn more about the Blueprint Foundation’s work to “to uplift, educate, and support the development of black-identified youth and other communities of color.”