Summer Centered: Paloma Paez-Coombe ’19 Stands With WE ACT for Environmental Justice
The history major with a concentration in peace, justice, and human rights is spending her summer with WE ACT for Environmental Justice in New York City.
History major Paloma Paez-Coombe ’19 is getting hands-on experience in nonprofit and activist spheres as an intern with environmental justice organization WE ACT (West Harlem Environmental ACTion) in New York City.
"I was interested because WE ACT has a long legacy dating from almost the beginning of the environmental justice movement of really important work and impressive results in policy change,” she said.
With funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship, Paez-Coombe is supporting WE ACT in their work with residents of New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. WE ACT and NYCHA residents are formulating a list of recommendations on how to improve the living conditions and sustainability of the developments that they will present to the city and hope will be implemented.
"These recommendations are meant to serve as a model of how NYCHA should maintain all developments in the future,” said Paez-Coombe. “Right now, residents are living with rampant mold, no hot water, no heat in the winter or A/C in the summer, and generally inhumane conditions.”
Paez-Coombe, who also is pursuing a concentration in peace, justice, and human rights (PJHR), has found this project to be particularly reflective of her academic path at Haverford.
"This is obviously a big PJHR issue, and I feel really lucky to be able to work with such a well-established and well-respected organization to effect real change in this community,” she said. “It also relates to my history major in that the actions the organization is taking right now are based in a long history of organizing work in the Environmental Justice movement in NYC and around the country. The strategies and methods we use have been informed by that history.”
In addition to her work with NYCHA, Paez-Coombe assists WE ACT on numerous other projects, from outreach to poster presentations to preparing trainings for WE ACT members on the fundamentals of community organizing.
For Paez-Coombe, one of these projects that she is particularly passionate about is writing a glossary of English terms related to environmental justice and their translations into Spanish.
"We are trying to standardize the language we use since a large part of the community that WE ACT serves is Spanish-speaking,” she said.
After this summer, Paez-Coombe will return to campus to continue her studies, but she eventually hopes to pursue a career in the nonprofit world, aided by the experience and skills learned this summer related to working in a community organization to effect policy change.
"I can see myself working in an organization similar to WE ACT,” she said, “and I certainly think WE ACT is giving me a good foundation for this kind of work.”