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This is not Goodbye: A Letter from our Executive Director

November 27, 2013

Dear Beloved EcoViva Community,

Executive Director Yael Falicov with leadership from the Mangrove Association in El Salvador: (L to R) Amilcar Cruz, Nohé Reyes, Yael Falicov, Arístides Valencia, and Estela Hernández

This December will mark the end of my 5th year as Executive Director of EcoViva.  In that time, I have learned a tremendous amount about effective community organizing from our local partners in Central America, and I have had the joy and privilege to personally get to know hundreds of our wonderful supporters all over the United States.

Early next year I will be stepping down as Executive Director. 2013 has been a great year for us: our local partners in El Salvador expanded their work from two to 14 municipalities, and we have seen many of their projects adopted as national policy – native corn seed production, mangrove forest restoration, school gardens, community management of protected areas and more.   Internally, we consolidated a terrific team, adopted an exciting five-year vision plan, and moved to a great new office.   Our Board has become stronger and more engaged than ever before.    I am happy that our organization is on such solid footing, and I feel it is a good time for me to change roles.

When I joined our team in January 2009, my son was two years old.  Striving for work-family balance, I negotiated with the Board to keep my official staff time to 80% and my travel requirements to a minimum.   The Board has been tremendously supportive of me as a working parent, and I am grateful.  But over the last five years I have found myself in a continual personal conflict between what the organization needs and my own needs as a mother.

Yael Falicov pauses while surveying a mangrove restoration project with wetland rangers in El Salvador

The reality is that to be effective, our Executive Director needs to travel at least once per month, as well as participate in evening and weekend events regularly.   We have supporters and allies in at least 29 states, and I’ve found that meeting with people in person has been key to strengthening those relationships. And we have a mostly untapped opportunity to grow our base here in the San Francisco Bay Area, a place full of potential allies.

In order to avoid missing out on my son’s childhood, and for our outreach to be effective, I feel it is time for me to make way for new leadership.   We will be launching the official search for a new Executive Director next week.   I am committed to ensuring this transition goes well, and as such I’ll be staying on our team through next March or whenever the new director gets settled, whichever comes sooner.   After that, I will be on call as a volunteer as needed.

This has been a hard decision for me. I truly love this work, and I’m proud of how far we’ve come in the last five years.  But my son’s childhood will only happen once, and I don’t want to miss out on it.

As a long-time resident of Oakland (California), I see so many of the same challenges I’ve seen in El Salvador reflected in my local community: tremendous inequality, environmental vulnerability, abundant creativity, incredible resilience.   I am not sure yet what I’ll be doing next, but I am looking forward to getting more deeply involved in local social movements here at home.   And I know that, no matter what, I’ll always be part of the wonderful community that is EcoViva.

With gratitude,
Yael Falicov


Yael holds recently hatched baby sea turtles. Photo: Mariel Nanasi

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Aviva Imhof permalink
    November 27, 2013 9:54 am

    Thanks for all you have done for EcoViva and for the communities you serve in El Salvador. You have always been an inspiration to me! I hope you realize how special you are, and I look forward to the journeys ahead.

  2. Benjamin McKendall permalink
    November 30, 2013 5:40 pm

    That is a lovely, strong letter, Yael. It is a good decision. Very nice to hear from/about you. I have good memories from our IDEX days. Warm regards, Benjamin

    PS Don’t do Facebook much, but do email daily –


  1. Welcoming a New Leader and Honoring Yael | EcoViva :: Community-led Initiatives for a Sustainable Future
  2. Help Us Welcome Our New Executive Director | EcoViva :: Community-led Initiatives for a Sustainable Future

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