Pastor Wangki, of Trinity Christian Church in Merced, works to support the Southeast Asian community as they face language barriers, information barriers, transportation barriers, and the threat of anti-Asian racism in their daily lives.
Faith in the Valley is partnering with Advance Peace and the Fresno Black Metro Chamber of Commerce to lead a cohort of 20 hard-to-reach youth in Fresno who are learning about and acting on the intersections of restorative justice, pollution and environmental justice. Recently, the team partnered with Tree Fresno to plant 300 trees within the city to help improve air quality and address climate impacts. They also worked with Cal Fire to remove dead foliage from 2020’s devastating Creek Fire as a way to restore the surrounding areas and improve fire safety.
Through these efforts, youth are gaining arborist and landscaping job skills and tech skills like mobile application development. The team has also gained confidence through public speaking: organizations and schools contracted them to provide instruction and share what they have learned through the cohort.
Once a month, the Youth Green Team gathers in the community to do an activity to apply what they have been learning. The team has identified the “heat island effect” occurring in parts of Fresno, which happens when heat is absorbed and emitted at higher levels by urban surfaces like asphalt, concrete, and rooftops. The group has focused on the negative health impacts of these hotter temperatures and the effect of poor air quality on their communities. One remedy is to increase natural surfaces and green spaces in urban environments, such as tree planting.
James Muhammad, 22, and a leader with the team shares, “I got involved because I wanted to plant more trees and make the world more beautiful. We need more trees to make the air quality better because here in the Valley the air gets stuck at the bottom and doesn’t go anywhere. Right now we have a lot of dust and polluted areas. The team taught me how to plant trees and the next thing you know, I’m planting trees in my neighborhood. I planted two palm trees at my Granny’s house.”
Additionally, the Youth Green Team has learned about public policy, met with decision makers, and has learned how both influence their lives on a daily basis. Fresno youth are becoming empowered to make decisions come election season. “Through the Youth Green Team I’ve grown as a leader, I’ve grown in my experience. I’ve gained soft skills. It was a different opportunity than what I had where I grew up in Fresno. I feel like I’m more productive. I’m trying to get more people to come to the program so we can plant more trees in the community,” said James.
Through this cohort, young people are developed and communities improved. It is a support system for youth that primes them for long-term employment and civic engagement.
To learn more, contact Marcel Woodruff at email@example.com.