Seattle Foundation Blog

N2N Spotlight Duwamish Valley Youth Corps

Young volunteers are greening the polluted Duwamish river corridor


June 25, 2018

By Elaine Chu, Philanthropic Advisor

The South Park/Georgetown neighborhood sits along the Duwamish River industrial corridor, an area filled with pollution and toxins. Life expectancy there can be 13 years lower than the wealthiest neighborhoods in the region and hospitalizations for asthma in Seattle are highest for children from that area.

Young people like Doa Abdi, 15, are working to change that by volunteering with Duwamish Valley Youth Corps (DVYC), which recently received a Neighbor to Neighbor grant from Seattle Foundation. The Corps is a leadership development program of the Duwamish River Cleanup Coalition that educates and engages primarily low-income youth of color around issues of health, environmental justice and racial equity. It also helps prepare them to enter an increasingly competitive job market.

Doa has been involved with DVYC for the last two years, working to engage her community in environmental issues. She worked on the community’s new “green wall,” a large metal fence entwined with plants to help filter pollutants and particulate matter from the air. Situated next to CDL Recycle, the green wall is more than 120 feet long, and is the result of a community-driven partnership.

“The green wall is my favorite project because there were so many partners involved. I enjoyed planting the trees because it is good for the environment,” she said.

In the DVYC program, youth in the Duwamish Valley help guide the curriculum, activities and service projects that they complete. Their activities include cleaning up trails and public sites, planting trees and plants, teaching others about decreasing pollution and more. They share their skills and knowledge with the broader community and elected officials through advocacy and participating/leading public events.

When a friend invited her to a DVYC meeting two years ago, Doa didn’t know much or think much about the environment. Now, she’s deeply involved, serving as a volunteer mentor who helps enlist other community youth in the program.

Concerned with the asthma rate in the neighborhood, Doa is helping with an October DVYC event to increase awareness of the problem and involve more community members in solutions.

“You have to try things out to see if you like it. It can be a good experience and a good way to meet great people,” she said.

Seattle Foundation believes in engaging youth like Doa to become advocates and leaders for change in our communities. Her passion and commitment for environmental justice inspires us, as does the work of DVYC to spark change that benefits the community and makes it a healthier place for all.

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Climate justiceEnvironmentHealth and WellnessNeighbor to Neighborsocial equalitySustainable developmentChildren and youth

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