Caitlin Purvis has just finished up her internship in Colima, México. Below is an article summing up her work on behalf of Sustainable Cities and El Instituto de Planeación para el Municipio de Colima.
Elgin grad facilitates change in Mexico
In Mexican communities covered in graffiti and lacking basic infrastructure such as sidewalks and public spaces, Caitlin Purvis facilitated cleanups and a reforestation that hundreds of locals joined.
“They took action and they proved that they can work together to begin making sustainable changes in their communities,” the Elgin Park Secondary grad said.
Purvis organized the events as a needs-assesment officer in Colima, where she has been working for the last six months.
Peace Arch News reported in June how the 26-year-old was completing an internship – which ended last month – at the Planning Institute for the City of Colima, in her pursuit of a career in international development.
The opportunity was offered by Vancouver-based organization Sustainable Cities, which received a Canadian International Development Agency grant to support internship programs in five countries for three years.
In Colima, Purvis’ goal was to see residents improve their marginalized communities. She gathered information on how public spaces were used, evaluating their designs and conditions; facilitated workshops for residents to create a vision for their communities’ future; and hosted public-space cleanups.
At the latter, Purvis said, 10 local youths who are in a gang took part with “great enthusiasm.”
“It was a beautiful thing to see so many people of different ages and backgrounds coming together to create positive changes in their community,” she said via email from Mexico.
In her communications with locals, Purvis said she learned that their most pressing concerns were security, the condition of roads and sidewalks and the need to have more infrastructure, such as secondary schools, nearby.
“All communities lack activities for youth to partake in and residents are concerned by local gangs, do not feel close to their neighbours and often lack faith in their ability to induce positive change,” she said. “Residents are eager to have public schools and libraries, more frequent public transportation, places for children to play, security in the evenings, fixed streets and garbage cans… in their neighbourhoods.”
In a period of two months, Purvis saw residents go from having few – if any – visions for the future of their communities to having elaborate plans.
“In hard copy we have various maps of public spaces drawn by residents of all ages, as well as written copies of what they would like,” she said, noting locals’ interest in making changes snowballed. “The more often we witness positive changes, no matter if they are big or small, the more likely we are to follow suit. Sometimes all that is necessary is just a little push or someone coming in from the outside to fill us with some inspiration.”
Now that her internship is complete, two new interns will take over the project for another six months.
Purvis said she was offered to continue her work for an additional three months in other marginalized neighbourhoods, but hasn’t secured funding to make it possible. Her plans now are to fly to Ottawa for a sustainable cities conference beginning Sept. 12, where she will sit on a panel for youth and share her experience with various delegates.
Afterwards, she wants to look for employment in the field.
Purvis said she learned a great deal from her time in Mexico, including about people’s ability to change just as ideas do, and that strength grows in numbers.
“It is never too late to begin correcting our past errors such as our poor treatment of the environment. We need simply to begin taking the first step in generating a vision and then proceed by taking action.
“No matter how small and insignificant we may think we are or may feel at times, every individual has an impact on this world.”
For the article in full, click here.