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Cultivating Empathy to Make Central Oregon a Better Place to Live 

Making Central Oregon a better place to live; Bright ideas for a changing community

As told to Editor Nicole Vulcan via phone:

click to enlarge EDUARDO ROMERO
  • Eduardo Romero
I think that I live in this naive notion in my head of empathy and understanding of differences, and that doesn't mean you have to agree, or change someone's opinion, but actively listening, and what that concept in itself means, and what it looks like—just to have a greater threshold for when we talk about different communities, or someone who is just different from you in whatever facet. Because when we're talking about welcoming, the contrast to that would be unwelcoming, or non-inclusive. So, to me, where does that derive from? I think that comes from a place of trying to, or wanting to understand. Not trying to change your ideas, or your ideology, but it's just to have empathy.

I think it's a combination of exposure and self-discovery, or understanding the willingness to do that. Like for me, in my work, I try to do that within the outdoors; using the outdoors as an environment to set the stage to try to cultivate that. At the same time, when we talk about Central Oregon at large, I think it's that combination of the individual self. 

Be curious and/or set up an environment with that intention of bringing together people with differences, whether it's left or right, or how you identify in any facet, like race and gender. Also, set a safe place to—I don't know if that's even possible—but setting an environment for that, so you could just learn from each other, not trying to change everybody's opinion in either direction. I think there is a big disconnect, as well. We don't like to be told, and it's kind of what we're doing—setting up an environment where differences are able to be expressed and understood.

— Zavier Borja is a newly elected member of the Bend Park and Recreation District Board of Directors and the founder of Vamanos Outside, a group formed to connect, engage & inspire Latinx families & community into the outdoors.

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