When Eduardo Duenas moved to Philadelphia seven years ago, it was a bit of a shock. “I’m from the jungle and the differences hit me hard,” says Eduardo, who was born in Honduras and earned his B.A. in Ecotourism and M.A. in Environmental Management/Sustainable Development in Costa Rica. “At first, I thought there was nothing here. Now I feel the opposite.”
Eduardo joined the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s team as the Volunteer Manager last year after more than five years managing school programs for the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. He is passionate about the natural world and sharing its wonders with as many people as he can, and his role as Volunteer Manager gives him many opportunities to do so.
“I want to share and teach … and volunteering is a way to do that and it’s a great way to support your park and your larger community,” Eduardo says. “Our volunteers come from different backgrounds, but nature connects us all.”
There are many ways to volunteer with Fairmount Park Conservancy, including weekly volunteer workdays April through October and city-wide cleanups for Love Your Park in the spring and fall. Eduardo also coordinates events for corporations, youth groups, and other organizations that want to give back. The locations and the work assignments vary based on which parks or organizations are in need at the time.
“Many people think that volunteers just pick up trash, but with my projects, we’re planting, installing tree guards, maintaining, mulching, removing invasive species,” he says. “It could easily seem overwhelming, but I break it down into different pieces and offer a range of tasks for all levels.”
More than 3,000 people volunteer with the Conservancy each year. In 2022, Eduardo estimates he had personal interactions with about 800 of them. His goal is to meet more than 1,000 people this year.
“I think it’s more gratifying for the volunteers when they learn they’re part of a bigger plan. They have a purpose,” he says. “Restoring the edge of the river with new plantings will filter water and reduce erosion. Planting and protecting trees will create new habitats and increase the canopy. Cleaning and maintaining popular areas will give visitors a safer, more enjoyable experience. I want our volunteers to know that they are appreciated and that their time is valued.”
Eduardo is always on the lookout for more projects that connect parks with their local communities. He’s particularly proud of the transformation volunteers achieved in Wynnefield last year, which involved cleaning and uncovering the park’s entrance. Eduardo is a big fan of before and after photos that reinforce people’s sense of pride in a job well done.
“You might be tired and covered in dirt, and then you see you’ve recovered a trail or protected a tree from invasive vines or filled a whole trash bag with litter. You did that,” he says. “A lot of this work has to be done by hand. It requires discipline: Little by little, hour by hour, we get big things done.”
Click here for ways to volunteer with Fairmount Park Conservancy.