Final Reflection On My Summer Experience

What did you accomplish with your host organization? What was the impact of your work?

This summer, I worked with the Environmental and Social Safeguards Team at World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington DC. This was a unique experience given than at the time I conducted my internship, WWF had just decided to implement Environmental and Social Safeguards Policies in most of its projects to ensure any negative impacts of projects are eliminated or mitigated. As part of my internship, I supported the Safeguards team in day-to-day work and helped edit the Spanish version of the “Safeguards Integrated Policies and Procedures” document for Latin American offices. I developed training materials for workshops and webinars on the safeguards policies. Thanks to the work conducted, the safeguards policies can be implemented in WWF’s Latin American projects like “Mesoamerican Ridge to Reef Management”.

Describe the benefits of this experience for you professionally and personally.

Despite the fact that my academic background is in Law, my hands-on experience has mostly been field work. For example, I have worked with fishing communities and as a naturalist tour guide in Costa Rica. This experience helped me gain experience working in an office of a large international environmental organization. Furthermore, living in Washington DC was an invaluable experience where I made connections and learned about different organizations and the work they do in the marine conservation field. 

US Botanic Garden

 Did your experience provide any unexpected discovery, self-reflection, or epiphany?

This experience helped me get out of my comfort zone, challenge myself and gain hands-on experience. I discovered that an office job can be fun when I work in a topic I feel passionate about. Even though I am not a city person, I enjoyed my time in Washington DC and learned to appreciate specific aspects of my life back in Monterey, California and on the US west coast. 

The Importance of Safeguards in Conservation Projects

US Capitol, Washington DC

As the summer goes on, I have been working and learning with the Environmental and Social Safeguards Team here at WWF. My team has been inclusive and supportive. I got to participate in different workshops and webinars in which the safeguards team trained WWF offices located in Latin America on safeguards policies. 

I think implementing environmental and social safeguards is an innovative approach and WWF is setting an example of how environmental organizations and NGOs need to constantly evolve and adapt to new circumstances and see communities as an integral part of conservation projects. WWF-US recently stated its commitment to safeguards, making it perfect timing for me to learn about this new and upcoming topic.

In addition to enjoying my internship I have had the chance to explore Washington DC. I am able to to visit a museum after work, go to an educational film, explore the city and meet new people. For example, I had the opportunity to meet US Congressmen and tour government buildings. Most museums and attractions are free and it is easy to bike or take public transportation from one place to the other. 

My Summer at WWF Headquarters in Washington DC

Richard Castillo Rodriguez
WWF-US Summer 2019

Tina (my Costa Rican dog) and the Lincoln Memorial

I was excited to learn I would be spending my summer in Washington DC as a Center for Blue Economy Fellow at World Wildlife Fund (WWF). I had been to the city once before as an exchange student from Costa Rica. From my first visit to Washington DC, I remember the city full of history, art, culture and free museums (perfect for a student!), so I was excited to spend a few months here. I arrived a week early to familiarize myself with my new place, the neighborhood and to explore some of the attractions in Washington DC. 

Upon my arrival to WWF Headquarters, I explored the 8-story building and met my team. During my time at WWF, I’ll work for the Environmental and Social Safeguards Team, which is a small group of professionals who is in charge of implementing WWF’s Environmental and Social Safeguards Policies (ESS) for Global Environmental Facility (GEF) and Green Climate Fund (GCF) projects. ESS policies help to preview, avoid or mitigate any possible negative impact the projects may have on the environment or the local communities. 

Because I am a native Spanish speaker and am fluent in English, my job will involve supporting projects in Latin America, for example in the Mesoamerican reef region and in Peru’s National Protected Areas. I will be synthesizing and producing information and materials on safeguards policies for WWF offices in the region. Finally, I’ll help design training materials for the team’s webinars on ESS Policies for WWF Latin American offices. This topic aligns perfectly with my professional interests since my future career goal is to work in international marine policy.

Because I am a native Spanish speaker and am fluent in English, part of my job will be assisting in translating materials for WWF Latin American offices. Finally, I’ll help design training materials for the team’s webinars on ESS Policies in Spanish. Having worked with fishing communities before, this topic is perfect for my future career and professional interests. 

Pura Vida!