Volunteer Spotlight: Gloria Araya

By Julia Evans

One Earth Film Festival wouldn't exist without the support and generosity of our passionate, dedicated volunteers. Their stories are the fest's stories For a deeper look at what it means to be a part of One Earth Film Festival, volunteer Gloria Araya shared her thoughts on actionable impact, compelling film and the meaning of sustainability.

Why did you decide to volunteer your time and talent for One Earth Film Festival?

I first heard about the idea of the film festival through my friend Ana Garcia Doyle. Except for Ana, I did not know any other member of the festival team, yet the idea felt so right. I wanted to be part of a group that cares about the things I care about: the preservation of nature and protection of the environment, the care of our communities and the welfare of others, it felt right to be part of an “idea” that wishes to empower others utilizing our creative and intellectual power.

My decision to volunteer was also influenced by my up bringing. I grew up in another country where I was surrounded by nature. In Chile we are blessed with a geography that provide its inhabitants with the most delicious marine products as well as fresh fruits and vegetables imaginable. I grow up eating by the seasons, I knew what a watermelon and grapes with seeds looked like and tasted like. I get very nostalgic at times thinking that my son will never know what a real grape, with seeds as nature intended it, tasted like; so sweet, almost too sweet at times, and indescribably flavorful.

After I left Chile, I lived in the Caribbean where fresh fruit was an every day occurrence, and there I too ate by the season. This is by far, not the experience I have had living in the United States. I am blessed with a life that has provided me with an abundance of experiences, I have been surrounded by tremendous wealth, and unbearable poverty becoming witness of the effect of human negligence to the environment. These scenarios have shaped my views of the world leading me to where I am today as a mom, as an advocate for many causes, and as a volunteer for OEFF.

How would you describe your experience volunteering for the fest?

Volunteering for the fest has been quite a rewarding experience for me. Personally, it has strengthen my sense of Self and deepening my love for nature in the process. This work has also brought more clarity and understanding to environmental issues giving me the freedom to act almost like an “environmental ambassador” by sharing the wealth of knowledge provided by creative and visionary individuals featured in every film. Their work is so remarkable and inspiring that you cannot help but want to do what ever you can to help the Earth and to help others. There is no question that my life has also been deeply enriched by the human connections created with all other volunteers working for OEFF. This is a caring, fun, and creatively committed group of individuals that makes you feel at home. They give you the opportunity to express yourself, and their spirit of collaboration is so supportive and reassuring that you feel like your ideas are the best in the world!

It has also been extremely fulfilling to see how the festival has grown and expanded its reach to other communities besides Oak Park and River Forest and into Berwyn, Austin and Chicago. I have been part of the festival since its inception and witnessing the impact the festival has had in the community fills me with hope that a new vision for a more sustainable way of living and in harmony with our surroundings is possible. People want to learn and to be involved in causes they care about. OEFF, acting as an educational entity, is also providing meaningful opportunities for engagement to those individuals who wish to make a positive impact in their communities and every year we have seen new faces becoming actively involved with the festival.

I am not someone who wears t-shirts promoting brands nor companies, this is something I have never done, until OEFF came along. I feel such a sense of responsibility and it is also quite an honor to wear the green t-shirt of the OEFF. This t-shirt has become a symbol of the love and respect I feel for the amazing group of people making the festival possible, as well as for the values this festival and Green Community Connections, producers of OEFF, stands for. I count the days to the month of March when the festival takes place, and I also look forward to seeing on the streets many more people wearing the green festival’s t-shirt, a sign of everybody’s commitment to take action on behalf of our families, our communities, and of our beautiful planet Earth. What can I say, I love One Earth Film Festival!

What film in fest history sticks out in your mind most? Why?

This question is a bit difficult to answer. There are many films that would fall into this category, yet I’ll mention one in particular which it filled my imagination with new ideas and wishing to learn more, in particular about. Biomimicry that involves the study of nature’s designs and mimicking them to solve human challenges. The film is HARMONY.  The film is narrated by The Prince of Wales who has worked side-by-side with a dynamic array of environmental activists, business leaders, artists, architects and government leaders to address the global environmental crisis and find ways toward a more sustainable, spiritual and harmonious relationship with the planet. From organic farms, to the rainforest of British Columbia, to rare footage of Prince Charles interviewing Al Gore about climate change in 1988, the film provides a new and inspiring perspective on how the world can meet the challenges of climate change globally, locally and personally.

What I loved about this film was how it integrated different communities from around the world and their stories, with the many challenges they face, including poverty, and human rights, and merging them into one main issue, climate change. The film illustrated how interconnected we all are with one another and with the natural world we are part of. The film identifies the sometimes overwhelming issues related to climate change, yet its primary focus is to showcase innovative solutions and more solutions. This film highlights the creative human potential that is at our disposal and how we can make better use of such brilliance and move forward to build a more just world. This film truly left me with a deep sense of hope.

What does sustainability mean to you?

For me sustainability is a way of life that doesn’t harm others, that is, our planet, humans and all living species alike. It means respect for the other, collaboration with the other, love and understanding for the other. I view sustainability as an art for living where human effort is put forth in creating new political, socio-economical models that support a better quality of life for others while preserving our natural resources; fundamentals to our own existence.