Thanks so much to everyone who nominated a
community hero for the 2013 award cycle. We are grateful to have heard
about so many inspiring individuals putting their talent and passion to
work to promote pesticide alternatives. Click here to learn about exceptional nominees.
(Photo provided by Tracey Brieger)
For years, pesticide clouds drifted into Teresa DeAnda's home and the homes of her family and neighbors in California's heavily agricultural Central Valley.
None of them thought they could protect themselves; incidents and exposures, both in-home and outside, persisted despite their pleas to the farmers and local government officials.
When a metam sodium drift led to people being publicly hosed off in a school parking lot, with emergency responders forcing many of them to strip down, Teresa had had enough.
As the first ever winner of our Community Hero Award, Teresa channels her compassion for her community members and frustration at their plight into a fight for change. When they thought no one could help them, she started finding ways to empower them to help themselves. She continues this work today. At the same time, she advocates for large-scale, legislative commitments that hold companies and government agencies accountable for respecting her community and their right to a healthy environment.
Click here to watch a video about Teresa.
“I first met Teresa at a meeting about air pollution health effects in 2001. She was so warm and shy. She confided to me she didn't know what she could possibly say that would be important when people like myself were speaking at the same place. She was embarrassed that she didn't have any slides to tell her story with. I had a slide showing a plane over-spraying a field onto some old shacks so I put it on the screen behind her. She told her story in the same simple, straight forward and honest way she is now so well known for and the whole room was in tears.
Afterwards I told her, ‘Don't ever feel you need pictures or anything else to tell that story and in fact, you were and are the most important person in the room.’ That was as true then as it is now. She inspired me to continue working to anything I can to help her make sure nothing like this can ever happen again. She is my hero and one of the most amazing people I have ever known.”
Kevin D. Hamilton, BS, RRT, RCP
Deputy Chief of Programs, Clinica Sierra Vista
“When I first meet Teresa I was inspired by her story - what an incredible woman. Her strength to take the lead and organize other residents who were affected by the Earlimart pesticide spray was inspiring. Her dedication has accomplished great victories. When I look at Teresa I’m reminded that dedication in fighting for environmental justice creates a better future, and of how we all have power within us to create policy change. Teresa comes to mind as a strength, a warrior, a woman who manages to have a smile on her face even in the ups and downs of life.”
Community Organizer, Greenaction For Health & Environmental Justice
“I admire her determination and never-ending energy to keep fighting for what is right and standing up for others who don't have a voice. Although she eventually got a job as an advocate due to her tenacity and passion, she really works from her heart. Those of us who have heard her tell the story of the inhumane and demeaning experience after the drift incident in 1999 dozens of times, still get emotional when we hear it. She is a true warrior and completely committed family woman who has always inspired me to keep doing the environmental justice work that I do even when it gets difficult.
As a mother, she has also inspired me because she has always been very intentional about maintaining a balance in her life so that her kids and grandkids could be at the forefront of her life. Teresa is a powerhouse, who isn't afraid to question the powers that be and fight for real changes in her community. It's been amazing to see how she has changed over the years - she started out very timid and insecure, and has become fully empowered and confident in the value she brings to policy discussions as a mother and grandmother who lives in the midst of industrial agriculture. Teresa will be the first to remind you that she doesn't have any fancy degrees or academic background, but she can hold her own with any crowd.”
Director, Fresno Metro Ministry