Sunday, November 16, 2014

Eco Alianza - working with young people for the future

Here in Loreto, often important social occasions are linked with fund-raising events to benefit local organizations and this past weekend it was the seventh anniversary of Eco Alianza celebrated with a buffet dinner and silent/live auctions at the beautiful La Mision Hotel overlooking the Malacon and Marina in the center of town.

Eco Alianza as an organization has a unique focus of providing education and experiences to the children of Loreto, introducing them to the natural environment and instilling them with conservational values to protect and preserve that environment for the future.  With Loreto at the center of a protected Marine Park that extends for 35 km on the Sea of Cortez, much of the Eco Alianza focus is on that Ocean and the surrounding waterways that replenish it.   As such, Eco-Alianza is also a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance and part of the network of Waterkeepers of Baja Californias, whose primary mission is defend and protect the local beaches, watersheds, and ocean for the benefit of our communities.

Photo courtesy of Eco Alianza
While it might be reasonable to assume that kids in a place like Loreto, historically a fishing village and on the coastline of a body of water that the famous Jacques Cousteau once proclaimed as "the aquarium of the World", would grow up intimately familiar with the natural world and particularly the sea life that surrounds them - but in fact the reality is very different.  I was surprised to learn that  the vast majority of young people in Loreto may have never been on a boat or visited the nearby off-shore Islands - let alone snorkeled in the gin-clear waters that surround us here.

Photo courtesy of Eco Alianza
In addition to an extensive education program where the children are taught about the environment with a focus on conservation and sustainability, and learn about the rich sea life that surrounds them - much of which is endangered elsewhere, Eco-Alianza also celebrates environmental events where the community is invited to enjoy contests, games, clean-ups and workshops in the schools. Top-rated environmental movies and documentaries are presented, creating wonderful occasions where entire families can be together and enjoy learning about our environment and about the natural values and importance of the Bay of Loreto National Park.  Through these activities the child oriented focus of the organization opens direct access to the extended families of the participants, which in turn multiplies the effect and influence that Eco Alianza has on the larger community.

To support these good works I was one of the over 150 people who arrived last Saturday evening at La Mision Hotel for one their largest fundraising events of the year.  The tables in the beautiful Mezzanine Dining Room were decked out with special linens and centerpieces and as people arrived they were checked off the reservation list, issued a numbered bidding paddle and could purchase drink and raffle tickets for the evenings activities.  Most of the cocktail time before the buffet dinner was used to preview  the large numbers of silent auction items displayed on the two balconies off the main dining areas.    

There were displays of locally made silver jewelry, home decor items, artwork, pottery and pewter and they were attracting lots of interested bidders.  Along the main bar of the lounge section of the dining room was another collection photos and descriptions of other high end items that would be offered later during the live auction portion of the evening.  Many of these were experience opportunities including things like a private glass bottom boat excursion, a getaway at a locally famous waterfront estate for a party of 10, a private plane tour of the area surrounding Loreto including the off-shore Islands, a half day charter on a 65' yacht, a dinner party for 10 at a Beachfront home - any one of which could make memories that last a lifetime!

As dusk fell and the full moon rose over the Sea of Cortez, bathing the Malacon with its silvery light, people found their places at the tables for 10 that filled the Mision dining room and then made their way to the buffet line where they helped themselves to salad, steamed veggies, chicken and fish as well as vegetable lasagna and Mexican style rice.  As the delicious food was being enjoyed some of the more avid bidders returned to their favorite items to check on the silent auction's progress before it was closed at the end of the meal.

After Tom, the Master of Ceremonies, explained the mission and goals of Eco Alianza and told about the important work that was being done in Loreto by the organization, a group of children that were involved in the year long program  were introduced and, through one of their facilitators, shared some of their highlights with the program.  It was made very clear that an important part of the success of the program was the focus on the youth who, with education and guidance, can extend the influence of what they learn to their family and friends, thereby multiplying the impact the environmentally sensitive message that Eco Alianza spreads.

When we were all better informed about the good works that were made possible by the organization and the many volunteers and advisors that contribute their time and efforts to make it happen, it was time for the highlight of the evening and the live auctioning of the many special opportunities that had been contributed by local businesses and individual supporters.  The bidding was lively and many items quickly surpassed the $1,000 dollar mark netting a significant windfall that will underwrite a strong and growing role for Eco Alianza well into the future of Loreto and its spectacular environment.

When the final items were sold and the crowd congratulated itself and the many organizers and contributors that had made this special evening possible, people gathered in the registration area and began the somewhat complicated process of sorting out who had the winning bids on auction items and then paying for them.  As we left the beautiful nighttime Malacon and made our way back to Loreto Bay, I think all of us in the group of Homeowners I had attended with, felt good about the evening and the good work that would be possible because of it - enjoying a special evening and helping to preserve and protect the beautiful surroundings that brought us here is a perfect combination when you are "Living Loreto"! 

P.S. If you are interested in finding out more about Eco Alianza or making a donation to them online please visit their website: