My last day at the office with most of the Planning, Housing, Urbanism and Administrative staff
Samantha Saona, MDes, ULE 2020
Organization: ENLACE, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship
“Throughout this internship, and the different projects I have worked on, I have been able to learn about the different areas at ENLACE: Urbanism and Infrastructure; Environmental Affairs; Housing; Planning; and Citizen Participation and Economic Development. But, more important than getting to know what each area has been learning about how they are interrelated and how they need each other in order to achieve one of ENLACE’s main goals: to promote community self-management and empowerment by making residents the central focus of planning, renovation and development actions at the Caño Martín Peña Special Planning District.
One of the main takeaways from my time at ENLACE is the importance of building strong ties with the community. Getting the community involved is not always easy. On the contrary, most of the time it is quite hard. Two of ENLACE’s strategies to overcome this is having members from the community occupy administrative roles at their office and getting young adults involved in different projects through the Young Leaders in Action (LIJAC, in Spanish) program. It made me realize how having citizen participation at key moments of the planning and design process is important. However, having community members involved and participating in the day-to-day tasks and activities is paramount to serve as liaisons between the planning office and the citizens.
Being part of ENLACE for the past 10 weeks has been an amazing experience. It was truly inspiring to work alongside such a dedicated group of professionals who strive daily not only for professionalism and excellence; but most importantly for community development.
When I was leaving Puerto Rico, I came across this paraphrase “sometimes the smallest hop in the right direction ends up being the biggest jump of your life.” It was accompanied by an image of a coqui (an endemic Puerto Rican frog onomatopoeically named for the sound they make every night – I’ll miss that sound!). I am thankful for everything this fellowship has taught me regarding community service vis-à-vis the design disciplines. I am very grateful for this “jump” and looking forward to learning more about participatory processes to make them part of my professional practice in the future.”