Cal Walks Youth Train Eastern Coachella Valley Residents on VideoVoice
At the invitation of Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI), Greenfield Walking Group and California Walks Youth Leaders–Barbara Perez, Jason Alvarez Colmenero and Kimberly Alvarez Colmenero–made their way to the East Coachella Valley to host a VideoVoice training with the unincorporated communities of Thermal and Oasis on March 4, 2018. You can view the three completed VideoVoice projects online at www.youtube.com/CaliforniaWalks.
To support the ongoing development of the Eastern Coachella Valley Mobility Plan that will address the transportation and mobility needs of the unincorporated communities of Thermal, Oasis, Mecca, and North Shore, the Youth Leaders facilitated a VideoVoice training in Spanish at the Oasis Community Center where they taught residents how to create a VideoVoice project to identify transportation needs and desired solutions in their community. VideoVoice is a form of digital storytelling that empowers community members to document self-identified community needs and desired solutions through a personal video interview process. The goal of the workshop was to assist residents in completing VideoVoice projects that validate the projects identified in the Eastern Coachella Valley Mobility Plan in a qualitative manner, as well as to support potential applications to the state’s Active Transportation Program.
The youth recognized this would be a challenging project, but their nerves only encouraged them to prepare and practice for hours. High school junior Barbara Perez shared she was “challenged by public speaking, but I’m glad I did. I’m grateful I was given this opportunity to teach people.” The training involved the Youth Leaders delivering a 30-minute presentation that reviewed active transportation principles, advocacy strategies and a how-to guide on completing a VideoVoice project. After the presentation, the Youth Leaders worked diligently with two residents to complete VideoVoice projects that highlighted the lack of sidewalk infrastructure, lighting, and trash maintenance in the area directly surrounding the Oasis Community Center. After that, the youth attended KDI’s pop-up workshops and filmed another video with residents highlighting the need for infrastructure improvements to provide safe routes to schools for children in the area and to document residents’ support of the Mobility Plan in bringing adequate infrastructure to the community.
The Youth Leaders shared that not only was the workshop a great opportunity for them to train other community members, but it also was an eye-opening experience to confront the realities of other unincorporated and disadvantaged communities across the state. As Kimberly wrote, “Attending the Coachella trip was really interesting because I have never traveled farther than Los Angeles. It really impacted me because I didn’t expect it to be in those conditions. If I thought that my community had a problem and issues, Thermal and Oasis need more help. It is a nice place, very natural, but it needs more resources.” Kimberly felt appreciation for the invitation to attend another city to “teach others what we know,” and Barbara felt inspired to see others speak about their own communities and seek their own solutions.
More profoundly, this experience cultivated a deep sense of solidarity and hope between the youth and the Eastern Coachella Valley residents. The residents liked the enthusiasm of the youth and enjoyed sharing their community through videos–all while feeling better equipped to advocate for infrastructural and programmatic solutions in their community. The youth hope the VideoVoice training gave the residents tools to improve their communities. The youth have expressed a desire to return to Thermal and provide additional training necessary to allow the residents to become champions of the Eastern Coachella Valley Mobility Plan.
The VideoVoice training is part of a program of training and technical assistance to disadvantaged communities developed and delivered by the Active Transportation Resource Team, a four-organization collaboration including the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, the California Bicycle Coalition, California Walks and the Local Government Commission. The program is funded by The California Endowment.