For Alejandra Contreras, a 22-year-old law graduate of the Universidad del Valle de México (UVM), her innovative work on the Ekokitchen project in Veracruz was just one effort among many. The initiative provides a solution to a pollution problem the area has had for a long time, caused by the disposal of used cooking oil into the Papaloapan River. The oil clogs the drainage system and pollutes 1,000 liters of water each time a liter of waste oil is disposed. Through Alejandra’s project, the used oil is recycled into soap, which also provides a useful product for the community.
“We want people to identify the small actions young people can take to help.”
For Alejandra, this is just the kind of project that she likes to support through her nonprofit Somos Más Decididos, which she started in her final year of law school at UVM.
“Everyone can participate in a project like this,” she said. “Children, students and adults can volunteer and see that they can give back.” That is exactly the vision of Somos Más Decididos, a group that supports and develops many similar projects and has the goal of empowering and inspiring young people in Veracruz to participate in social initiatives.
“We want people to identify the small actions young people can take to help,” Alejandra said. Building on her passion for volunteer and social change work, she has now devoted herself full-time to the group. The organization, which started in 2010, has received substantial recognition for its work, including UVM’s Award for Social Development in 2014. Somos Más Decididos also received the “Greenovators” award from the Inter-American Development Bank and recently signed an agreement with the United Nations to implement the UN’s Millennium Campaign in Veracruz.
The mission statement of Somos Más Decididos reads, “Our vision is to become a key part of the social and sustainable development of Veracruz and to encourage the participation of various sectors of society.” With projects like Ekokitchen, Alejandra’s group is doing just that.
Alejandra is a 2014 fellow of the Universidad del Valle de México’s YouthActionNet program.