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Bridging Gaps

By Mikinzie Moydellnatural stone arch

At the CCC Fellows Training that took place in May, prior to my departure as a summer intern for the Center for Collaborative Conservation and Chama Peak Land Alliance (CPLA or Alliance), there was one prominent theme that came up again and again. The theme was relationships. And not just relationships, but the gaps we bridge, the borders we cross, and the journeys we take together in collaborative work. As an intern for CPLA this summer, my task was to start a water quality monitoring program that could be used for the entire Alliance region (a 1.3 million acre region that stretches from the southern San Juan Mountains in Colorado and northern New Mexico). But, my experience quickly became so much more than just writing a proposal. Because I did not have prior experience with water quality monitoring, it was challenging to know where to start. As I began writing the proposal and talking to the people involved however, all of the information I needed to complete it came to fruition. I spoke with experts and members of the Alliance, and I learned so much more about the conservation values of the Alliance members themselves. Despite my inexperience, I found all the information I needed through the people I spoke to. Without their help, input, and support, I would have been at a loss for how to complete my task. Even now, I am overwhelmed by their kindness and willingness to share their experience with me. But the Alliance members and water quality experts were not the only people who overwhelmed me with their kindness. During my journey of writing the proposal and meeting the Alliance members, I also had the chance to meet with several local people in Chama, New Mexico, and even had the opportunity to help out in a community event, called Shoes for Kids, by transforming into Smokey Bear for a morning. The event, held in remembrance of a young adult who was an aspiring artist and killed as an innocent bystander in Albuquerque, provided kids in the small community a pair of free shoes. As Smokey Bear I was able to interact some of the children and met the young man’s incredible parents. I was amazed by not only their kindness in providing children with free shoes, but also by their moving message of never giving up hope and treating every person with love and respect, because we are all connected. Maya Angelou once said, “…people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The people I met during my internship all embodied compassion and genuineness that is unparalleled in any other experience I have had. I will always remember how these incredible people made me feel so truly welcomed, and how their love of the land was so pure and real. This experience reminded me that regardless of what we do, all that truly matters is the relationships we build during our lives, and this summer I had the chance to see first hand how working together, shared visions, and relationships can bridge gaps and change a landscape forever.