Reflecting back on 2017 and Season 8

Wow, another year  has flown by at Playa Viva. After having spent all of 2017 working with the wonderfully dedicated Playa Viva staff and numerous volunteers who came to us from around the world, I can say I have seen a lot happen in just one year.

I started working with Playa Viva a little over a year ago (September 2016) as their first “Social and Environmental Impact Officer”. My main responsibility is to understand and track Playa Viva’s impact in the community and on the environment, ensuring the hotel is on the right track to achieving its social and environmental goals.

stakeholder map
Activities and stakeholder map (massive gratitude to volunteer Romain Langeard for helping with this!)

One of the biggest endeavors I took on for my first year was to carry out an investigation evaluating Playa Viva’s social impact, i.e. their impact in the community. The purpose of that study is to explore the perceptions and attitudes of the people affected by or involved with Playa Viva to determine what kind of impact – positive, negative, or neutral – the hotel has had on its host communities. The thoughts and opinions of the residents of Juluchuca and Rancho Nuevo and hotel staff will be used to increase understanding of regenerative development, the impact of a sustainable hotel on a community, as well as make Playa Viva’s future efforts more beneficial and effective for its host communities.

The results of this study are still not yet ready, but they will be soon, so sit tight!

Another one of my main duties is  the volunteer program. The volunteer program at Playa Viva is used as leverage to help the hotel and its staff achieve its longer term social and environmental goals. I oversee, recruit, and manage all Playa Viva volunteers.  One of my goals coming in was to expand and reorient the volunteer program to better suit the needs of the hotel and the community. The first step in this process was to extend the minimum time commitment of service. Now volunteers are required to spend at least three months working with our team and with the community. Staying longer has had a great impact on the continuity of projects.

Through this new volunteer strategy, volunteers are building better relationships with the staff and community and are directly contributing to the success of the following programs:

Interns Nathan Ellermeier and Ezra Pasackow in front of their hanging garden
Nutritional cooking workshops at the local soup kitchen, provided by La Casita EcoVegana
  • Our sea turtle conservation program with La Tortuga Viva: this is a partnership dating back to 2010, when the original La Tortuga Feliz split off and a new turtle organization was born, La Tortuga Viva. Our first official Turtle Sanctuary Coordinator was Lissett Medrano (blog linked) who tremendously helped this program move forward. We now have Debora Newlands working with the camp to continue supporting its many priorities. 
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Lissett and the whole turtle camp crew after a day’s work.
Débora presenting about turtles to the kindergarten
  • Seafood sourcing sustainability assessment In Spring of 2017, volunteer Romain Langeard spearheaded the seafood sourcing evaluation. I worked with him to better understand where our seafood was coming from and what realistic changes we can make to ensure we are supporting local fishermen and the health of our local fisheries.
Romain and I talking with local fishermen and examining their catch to ensure it meets size restrictions
  • Farm-to-Table: We have continually been recruiting volunteers to assist in our farm-to-table program. They have been working with farm and kitchen staff to improve their capacity to strengthen the link between farm and table.

Above: Farm-to-table volunteer Christabel attending a workshop with chef Inés, a day out sampling vegan food at La Raíz de la Tierra in Ixtapa, our new farm-to-table chalkboards and a fresh garden salad. 

Above: Volunteers Kyra and Julia preparing gifts from the garden to our kitchen/local market. Julia has been experimenting with jamaica (hibiscus) salts and incorporating certain garden ingredients to our kitchen. Kyra has been using Playa Viva’ s abundant moringa to make moringa powder. Volunteers Alex and Liza also helped in the kitchen, bringing recipes and new ideas for how to improve our operations.  

  • Social Impact Evaluation: the study will be released soon and detail Playa Viva’s involvement with the community and how we can move forward. 
Getting fed in Rancho Nuevo during household surveys

Along the way, shorter term volunteers have also contributed to other projects, such as the first Discovery Trail Guide, an interactive and educational booklet that guides guests from the hotel zone through the property to our farm, teaching them about our environmental initiatives and learning about various flora and fauna.

Volunteers Josh and Liza working with David and Odin on the trail guide

Outside of these volunteer-related efforts are the many projects that guests have also supported. Guests have engaged the community in a number of ways, including donating numerous school supplies, provided free chiropractic services at the health clinic, and donated yoga mats for the community kids yoga class. One of our yoga retreats donated a new water pump for the town of Juluchuca (which at the time was without water for nearly two months), and another guest provided a generous donation toward the construction of the first high school in Juluchuca.

So many projects still need attention and so much of the community still need our and your support.

If you are interested in supporting our work in health, education, and conservation, please make a donation through our fiscal sponsor, The Ocean Foundation.

We are excited for the year ahead! Please stay tuned, we have lots coming up this year!


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