Neeraja Havaligi’s Farewell Letter

Neeraja Havaligi’s Farewell Letter

Greetings, everyone. I hope this finds all of you safe and well.

Consider this as a personal note of gratitude to all of you for your continued support to our organization with your readership, partnership and participation in the work we do.

As I step away from GPSEN as its Executive Director, welcome Dr. Kim Smith as Interim Executive Director, and greet our exceptional new board members, I reflect on my time with this organization for its immense potential to contribute, and what this might mean to the future of our communities here.

A few years ago, I was a transplant to Portland, looking for a ‘home organization’ to continue my agrobiodiversity research. GPSEN welcomed me as a research fellow, and that was the start of an incredible learning journey. GPSEN’s mission, aligned with the global SDGs and contextualized with local work, spoke to me as I was already familiar with the SDGs and the effort to accentuate the global goals with local work, from the ground-up.  As a GPSEN Fellow, my research took me to community gardens in the PNW USA and India, documenting stories of hope, persistence, and resilience found in seeds and farmers. In due course, I served the incredible GPSEN community as a Board Member, and as the Executive Director.

Those of you familiar with GPSEN’s work may also sense the power of networking, which GPSEN creates to amplify our collective impact to address sustainability needs and challenges through our programs, events, and Regional Hub. You may have experienced it in our Virtual Bridge to COP25 where our participants shared their sense of climate concerns and hope and got a sense of what it might be like to represent our country at UNFCCC- COP in Madrid. You may also have experienced the immense possibilities to be part of sustainability action when you heard a call for action from the incredible speakers in our Sustainability Symposium Series (we have a business focus on July 13). At our Bridging for Sustainability events you may sense a connection between policy, science and practice in the presence of diverse community stakeholders to decolonize

GPSEN’s capacity to nurture our community, by building resilience for racial and environmental justice through partnerships, is immense. None of this would be possible without Jami HaaningBriar SchoonKelsey HillLyndal Frazier-Cairns and Amy Dvorak, our outgoing board members, and our senior advisors Frank Granshaw and LeRoy Patton, who remind me that people with ordinary intention to do good can enable exceptional achievements. GPSEN’s capacity to revitalize and cultivate shows in the commitment of our returning board members Owen RudloffPranoti Deshmukh, Kim Smith and Serena Dressel, and the surge of experience, knowledge and energy coming with our new board members: Cameo KonfrstGiang NguyenJade MenchacaJustin BarrieaultMichelle LarkinsMonica Fleisher and Tahira Abbas.

GPSEN’s capacity to create bridges between diverse organizations, communities and people from all walks of life will continue to grow and thrive with the promising team.  GPSEN’s work continues to show the nuanced connection between art and activism, businesses for sustainability, and the need to center its work around equity, diversity and inclusion with the All means All approach to address the sustainability challenges driven by the Inner Pandemic.

As I step away from my service to GPSEN, I feel confident in its team, its mission and its strategic plan to make intentional difference to our communities here. The networks GPSEN creates are akin to the systems at work in the stunning PNW region we call home. In its ongoing effort to adapt and regenerate, the land challenges us to do our part to build resilience in our communities and in the natural systems that support us.

My humble parting request to you is to continue your support for GPSEN, to grow with it, and be part of the change that you hope to see for, starting with our communities here.

Neeraja Havaligi

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