Picnics en el Arroyo

Nurturing nature and community in every language

The choir of God’s creation resounds with every language from every people. In our day, though, disparities in wealth, education, ethnicity and other factors hinder certain people’s access to God’s creation. In the United States, many Hispanic/Latino families lack access to recreational facilities like parks and trails. In fact, only 1 in 3 Latinos live within walking distance of a park, according to UT Health San Antonio, and ‘only 19% of Latino children have access to recreational green spaces close to their neighbourhoods, compared to 62% of their white peers’. Time in nature benefits physical and mental health, as well as spiritual wellbeing. When the connection between people and the rest of creation is broken, both human and non-human creatures suffer.  

Seeking to address this problem in Central Texas, A Rocha USA’s Conservation Project Director, Verónica Godoy, found multiple groups offering environmental education programmes for children, but few that served families together. Hispanic families are often tight knit, and everyone deserves safe and fun access to nature, from children, to parents, to teenagers, to toddlers. To reach underserved Hispanic families with language barriers, Picnics en el Arroyo was born. 

A Rocha USA’s monthly Picnics en el Arroyo bring Spanish-speaking families to state parks and private green spaces with access to creeks, springs or rivers. At each picnic, they explore the watershed and its biodiversity through recreational and educational activities. After nearly two years of picnics, families have explored Austin’s wild spaces through numerous hikes and learned to identify local birds, mammals and insects. They have pressed flowers to make crafts and made seed balls to plant native wildflowers. They have made art about the endangered Yellow-cheeked Warbler and played under Texas’ grand oak trees. They have looked up to behold grand geological features and crouched down to observe aquatic macroinvertebrates.  

‘Un dia al aire libre’ (a day outdoors) is full of laughter, curiosity, exercise and play. One participant of Picnics en el Arroyo expressed her enthusiasm: ‘I love to share time with my family and other families. Sometimes I don’t feel like going out, but Picnics at the Arroyo motivates me and helps me have special moments with my family.’ Others have celebrated discovering new species and exploring new places. Some families return picnic after picnic, allowing us to see them grow a deep love for God’s creation in their local environment.  

After the first few Picnics en el Arroyo in 2022, Verónica reflected, ‘We expect that Picnics en el Arroyo will continue to connect families with creeks and parks in Austin, enable them to spend more time outdoors, and empower them to make decisions that will contribute to the health of the local ecosystems and the community.’ Now, after hosting 16 picnics in 11 parks with 397 participants, we are seeing this vision come to life. 


The growing garden of A Rocha’s Friends

When A Rocha was founded in 1983, it was rare if not unheard of to come across others actively involved in conservation from Christian conviction. These days, there are individuals, groups and organizations across the globe who share our commitment to serve, study and protect species and habitats in God’s name. Some join the A Rocha Worldwide Family, and others become members of the Friends of A Rocha Network.

Here is a brief introduction to six of the newest members:

  • Brazil: FEPAS, a social work federation of over 400 churches in Brazil, offers support to dozens of projects across the country. FEPAS continues using the Environmental Education manual it co-published with A Rocha Brazil in 2015. Every project federated in FEPAS has a commitment to teach these materials every two to three years, to reach new cohorts of children and young people in their constituency.
  • Brazil: Project The Way is raising the quality of life of vulnerable children and youth in many ways, including setting up urban vegetable gardens with stingless bee hives in some of the most destitute neighbourhoods of São Paulo.
  • Cameroon: African Alliance for Developmental Action (AADA) has carried out conservation education, monitoring mangrove forests, bush meat and non-timber forest product trade. Currently it’s focusing on combating the illegal hardwood trade through environmental crime training sessions for magistrates, government workers and community leaders, the promotion of non-timber forest products and the collection of tree samples to improve product traceability and indirectly help with environmental crime prosecutions.
  • Rwanda: Global Initiative for Environment and Reconciliation (GER) believes that building peace cannot be achieved without also taking care of the environment. They have carried out a review of traditional knowledge associated with conservation and hosted an international event on connecting community seeds, culture and nature. Currently, GER is collaborating in programmes in agroecology, biodiversity conservation for community resilience, healing and peace, gender and climate, and safe foods and diverse diets.
  • Sri Lanka: Kaveri Kala Manram (KKM) is a community empowerment organization actively involved in protecting and promoting traditional arts and culture, and using these to foster creation care and social and environmental justice in the community, in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • Taiwan: City to City has held preaching camps focused on creation care, and recently translated into Mandarin and published A Place at the Table, with plans currently underway to translate Kingfisher’s Fire. They hope to bring creation care theology into the core of their ‘Gospel. City. Movement.’ strategy to influence mainstream Taiwanese church culture.

The forest that educates its children

A Rocha Kenya has distributed another round of secondary school bursaries, in this case for Mekatilili Wa Menza Secondary School in Kilifi County.  Funds are generated from the Arabuko Sokoke Schools and Ecotourism Scheme (Assets), in particular a rather magical guided boardwalk tour through the mangroves at the Mida Creek.

You can see the joy it has brought the beneficiaries on their faces! Selected for their academic prowess, commitment to education and good character, this scholarship programme has given them the opportunity to gain life-changing academic qualifications.

In addition to the scholarship, Assets engages the community and schools in conservation. The environmental club in this school has been so diligent with their tree planting and tree nursery. Mr Mwarabu, who teaches Agricultural Studies in the school, extends his heartfelt regards to the efforts that A Rocha Kenya puts into the tree nursery at Kuvuka, where they were able to grow 1,000 seedlings and 750 of the trees have survived.

During the dry seasons, the school buys water from the motorbike riders just to make sure that the trees are watered and were well taken care of, and now the great green ambiance is a sight to esteem.