The EcoGrrl Interview: Wende



One thing I’ll say is I absolutely adore my role as a coach.  Why?  I get to meet some really amazing people! One of them is the incredible Wende DuFlon.  She is not only Director of Strategic Communications for USAID in Guatemala, promoting behavior change communications as an essential component of international development programs, she also has published a gorgeous book, Guatemala – A Cocktail of Birthmarks and Tattoos.

What or who inspires you most? Children’s curiosity and wisdom inspire me as do open-minded, creative and loving people who work for a fair and just world where all life matters.  I am inspired by beauty which I’ve found even in the most inhospitable places or saddest moments.  Music and dancing inspire me and I thrive on authenticity.

Rachel Carson, Anna Swir, Pablo Neruda, Georgia O’Keefe, Harold Feinstein, Ann Cameron, Kahil Gibran, David Abram and the Dalai Lama are some of my top-of-mind inspirations.

What do you turn to when you need strength? Music and dance give me strength as does Nature, poetry and my intuition.  Also reading – I love books.

How can women best support and/or empower other women? Women support and empower other women by tapping and growing the inner resources that we all have but that we have been trained not to use; beginning with intuition and self-confidence.  We can tap those inner resources by listening to the messages that our bodies and our emotions send us every day.

What do you love to grow? What would you like to try growing someday? I love growing children’s pursuit of their curiosity and learning, particularly through reading books and exploring nature.

One day I would like to grow a garden of orchids and herbs on a sod roof.  I also want to grow my writing to the point of crafting a novel about a young Guatemalan living in the U.S. with his immigrant uncle, and what happens when he follows a school bus to the homeland where he has never been but which called him back.

What are your creative outlets?  Is there anything you’ve always wanted to try but haven’t? My creative outlets are being in nature, poetry, photography and recently I’ve taken up the Sumi-E that I left off years ago.  I’d love to try parachuting and swimming with dolphins!

In what environment(s) do you feel most in your element? Swimming long distances in safe waters, body surfing, kayaking and riding horses.  Walking North America’s rocky and sandy shores and in its ancient forests.  Looking into the cloudscapes from an airplane window.

Who are your top three nonprofits you support and/or volunteer with and why?

  1. Boys Hope Girls Hope (Esperanza Juvenil in Guatemala) gives at-risk, abused children and youth the skills, confidence and holistic support they need to get through school and then college.

  2. MayaWorks/Rosa Moya Center, where young Kaqchikel Maya women receive remedial help with their schoolwork and access to computers and Internet.  I gave the seed money for this Center in memory of my friend Rosa Moya and MayaWorks keeps it alive, making it possible for hundreds of rural Mayan young women to get an education.

  3. Planned Parenthood made it possible for me to have the number of children I wanted, when I was ready for them and I have worked decades to bring this same opportunity to couples in countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean.

What recent “green” change have you made in your own life?  What’s next? In the last few years I’ve adopted several practices to “green” my life, including watering indoor plants with re-used water from vegetable washing or boiling eggs; taking glass, metal, cardboard and plastic to our new USAID Guatemala recycling program; and, giving unused salad materials to a Mayan neighbor who raises rabbits for consumption.

What’s next is cutting out our 20-hour a week commute!

Where in the world do you consider a sanctuary?  Why?  

Specific places: Swimming pools where I can swim for hours are sanctuaries.  Another is the room in our home that we call “the sanctuary,” built of stone and wood with views to our garden and three Labrador and husky dogs and in which we have special items that each family member has collected.  It is a sanctuary because it is where we collect to celebrate holidays or accomplishments and to have tea and cookies on rainy days; and where we come individually when we need to center or find solace.

On the map:  Cape Cod, Mt Tabor (Oregon), Emerald Lake (British Columbia) and Grand Teton National Park.  They are sanctuaries because they are exquisite and inspirational and I feel exuberant when I am there.

What advice would you give to your younger self? Follow your dream, despite influences that may pressure you to do or be or go elsewhere.  Be guided by your child’s natural confidence and intuition. 

How can we as a society be more radical in supporting a healthy planet?

  1. Come together in community; strive for common good rather than individual gain.

  2. Get ALL children and youth into nature regularly and foster this in social media and school curricula:  “One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”  William Shakespeare

  3. Foster tenderness for it is the proven basis for learning.

  4. Preserve indigenous culture and language and biodiversity.

What sparked your interest in environmental issues? As an adolescent I found solace and deep connection with nature; I talked to the moon as my best friend and I realized that the human race is not and will never be “supreme” or “top of the food chain” but rather, we are a flash in the pan of the planet’s history and we are interdependent with all creatures and natural processes.

I deeply respect indigenous cultures and languages because every breathing moment, thought and action is based on gratitude for this interdependence of life in all its forms.

What’s the first “eco” thing you ever did? Adopted the “Shower with a friend” and “Flush only if you must” during the energy crisis of the early 80s.

How do you live simply? By being grateful for life, re-using everything possible, appreciating beauty in every context and mindfully buffering society’s pressure to make money to buy what advertisers tells us we need and want.

Could you leave us with a favorite quote of yours? “I feel safe because poems take me to a place out of normal time and thought, dipping me below the surface to where we all meet.” ~ from Poemcrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge


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