And … we’re back! I hope you all had a pleasant first day back on the job. To jazz up your Tuesday morning, we’re welcoming Damien Matthews Power, Communications & Outreach Specialist of Potomac Riverkeeper to “7 Questions.” Read on to learn more about him and everything Potomac Riverkeeper is doing to keep our rivers clean and our natural resources safe.
1. What was your most interesting recent project, initiative, partnership, or event?
Over the summer, we partnered with three Shenandoah Valley outfitters (Downriver Canoe Company, Front Royal Canoe Company, & Shenandoah River Outfitters) to jump start the Shenandoah Riverkeeper Conservation Fund. The fund supports on the ground action in the Shenandoah Valley: improving farms, cleaning up trash, and keeping the Shenandoah River healthy and beautiful.
2. What else are you up to?
We’re getting ready to launch our Pure Potomac Program very soon. Pure Potomac starts from a very simple idea: protecting our local water source is a good way of protecting ourselves … and that’s exactly what we’ve been doing for the last decade! We’ll be rolling out our program over the next couple of months. Through social networks and real-world organizing, we will help everyday people keep pollution out of their local river, stream, or run. It’s the only way to guarantee a safe and clean water supply!
3. Is there a moment, person, or event that inspired you to do this particular work?
Just reading about the history of the Waterkeeper beginnings sealed the deal for me. I’d always been interested in doing what I could to protect my drinking water, but here were fishermen who banded together and saved the Hudson River! I was hooked.
4. Who is your hero in the nonprofit/philanthropy world?
Bobby Kennedy Jr. I just heard him speak a couple of weeks ago and was amazed at how he was able to use the legal system to allow ordinary people to improve their surroundings. I really respect how he put the money from early environmental law suits back into the movement, ultimately building a network of hundreds of Waterkeepers.
5. What is the single greatest (and non-financial) challenge to the work that you do every day?
My job is to tell people why Potomac Riverkeeper is important, why they should care, and how they can help out. Sometimes, the issues we’re working on are complex and involve a lot of legal processes and research. The greatest challenge is taking that work and translating it into something everyone can relate to. It can be tough, and it usually needs to get fact-checked a bunch, but when you find a message that people really get — and you watch that light bulb go off when you’re talking to someone about clean drinking water — it’s a great feeling.
6. What advice do you have for other people who want to work in your field?
If you’re working to clean up pollution and keep it out of the water, my advice would be to never lose sight of those ideals. The job can get very technical, so look up every once in a while and remember why you came in the first place. Also, never doubt that most people believe in what you’re doing, but be sure to remind them every once in a while.
7. What’s next?
We’re ramping up for a fun-filled 2011, where we aim to introduce ourselves to many people who don’t already know us. Thankfully, our inclusion in the Catalogue will help!