A Rocha USA is a national community of Christians working in biodiversity conservation to protect and restore vulnerable habitats, species, and communities. Their conservation projects located in Central Texas are one of three locations in the U.S. A Rocha USA’s programs and conservation projects focus on applied scientific research, environmental and theological education, and environmental action. Their key areas of work in the USA include marine conservation, climate action, and habitat preservation.
As a part of the worldwide family of A Rocha organizations that span over 20 countries, the organization is committed to restoring people and places by providing resources and community for those interested in biodiversity conservation and caring for creation.
About Picnics en el Arroyo
Picnics en el Arroyo’s mission is to connect underserved Spanish-speaking Hispanic families with nature through outdoor recreation and environmental education in order to create meaningful connections that will foster a sense of inclusion and community, while also promoting pro-nature behaviors. The project also provides job opportunities for emerging professionals and training in outdoor recreation, environmental education, and event planning.
Project Description & History
The project began with A Rocha USA’s commitment to serve minorities and facilitate equitable access to nature. At their Central Texas location, the organization employs a bilingual Project Director who has connections to the Hispanic community and a personal desire to see underserved Hispanic families spend more time outdoors. The combination of these factors propelled grant-writing efforts, which came to fruition in March 2022 when Texas Parks & Wildlife awarded Picnics en el Arroyo a CO-OP grant.
Picnics en el Arroyo leads activities such as guided hikes, nature scavenger hunts, bird watching, and games, where participating families can enjoy, connect, explore, and learn about local watersheds and their rich biodiversity. In 2022, the project successfully coordinated five events and served 103 participants. In 2023, A Rocha USA plans to continue serving participating families and growing its audience by increasing the number of events, diversifying organizational offerings, and making strategic partnerships with other Latino-serving organizations.
Picnics en el Arroyo aims to inspire Spanish-speaking families to spend more time outdoors and empower them to make decisions that will contribute to the health of the local watersheds and their communities. A second goal of the project is to provide career development opportunities for emerging professionals. The organization has recently hired a Project Assistant and two interns who are receiving training in environmental education and building experience in outdoor environmental education and event coordination.
There is a strong consensus about the positive impact of natural spaces on health and the need to increase access to nature for minorities. Historically, Spanish-speaking families in Austin have been particularly vulnerable to economic inequalities and negative health outcomes, partially explained by segregation in poor neighborhoods and limited access to quality education and health services. A 2020 study conducted in the city of Austin by Go! Austin, Vamos! Austin (GAVA) has shown that Hispanics with low English language acculturation are less likely to use green areas, such as parks and trails, or engage in physical activity. Data collected by A Rocha USA from participating families in their project confirms GAVA’s findings. While the majority of participating families surveyed rate spending time in nature as very important, they also express having barriers, such as limited money and lack of information in their native language, that prevent them from spending more time outdoors.
A Rocha USA is committed to preserving and restoring vulnerable habitats, species, and ecological communities and ensuring equitable access to nature. They believe that fostering connections between people and nature is essential to the development of pro-environmental or pro-nature behaviors that can positively impact the local ecosystems.