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Meet Gustavo Valdez of GRID Alternatives’ International Program

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gustavo Valdez.

Gustavo, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I was born in Monterrey, México. I am 35 years old. I studied International Relations and I have a masters in Ethics. I used to teach Humanities at one of the biggest private universities in México.

One day, 7 years ago, my life partner and I moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where I started working in the nonprofit industry. There, I realized that the Spanish-Speaking community didn’t know about many federal and state programs such as the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, Energy Assistance, SNAP, Weatherization, etc. I started doing outreach through one of the 1300+ Community Action Partnership offices in the US. My efforts were focused mainly in raising awareness, enrolling and educating the Latino community about the Affordable Care Act, but when it comes to public programs for low-income families, I had to be ready with extra resources and information about clinics for those who did not qualify for the ACA, lawyers of all types, counseling in Spanish, job opportunities, food pantries, health fairs, etc. I even had a weekly radio show at the only Spanish-speaking radio station in town (La Tremenda 880 am).

8 months ago, we moved to San Diego. My partner is now working for the University of California and I wanted to continue investing my time and efforts to help improving people’s lives. And that is how I found GRID Alternatives’ International Program and became the Mexico Project Coordinator, 6 months ago.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
It has been a relatively smooth road for me, especially in California. I am an educated middle-class male, and that’s quite the privilege when it comes to being an immigrant in the US! Though, having an accent has put me on the spot many times. It makes people ask me about my country of origin, my immigration status and the reasons why I am here.

So, let’s switch gears a bit and go into the GRID Alternatives’ International Program story. Tell us more about the business.
I work for GRID Alternatives, anon-profit solar installer that brings together community partners, volunteers and job trainees to implement solar power for low-income families in San Diego and across the U.S.

GRID’s International Program addresses a critical energy access gap in communities in Nicaragua, Nepal, and now in Mexico by bringing solar power to schools, health clinics, homes, farms, orphanages, and small businesses.

As the Mexico Project Coordinator, my job is, in a nutshell, to bring the GRID model into México by working with communities and partner organizations to coordinate sustainable solar projects that bring clean energy, savings, ans opportunities to residents south of the border, specifically in the northern Baja California Region.

I am based in GRID’s San Diego office and travel across the border for meetings, community visits, and project installations. It is very exciting to me seeing and feeling the solidarity and support I get from donors, coworkers and from the many Spanish-speaking families that GRID serves in the San Diego region, many of whom have ties in Mexico. 

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