Silvia Belo Oliveira has been volunteering for the Buzzards Bay Coalition since 2020, and we are thrilled to celebrate her in this month’s Volunteer Spotlight. “Silvia is an effervescent ray of light. She assists with welcoming participants and lending a hand to make sure events run smoothly and that a good time is had by all. We need more Sylvia in our lives!” Laura Lamar, Bay Adventures Manager. Born in Matosinhos, a city in the Porto Metro area in northern Portugal, Silvia lived in the NYC area and London before settling in New Bedford. She teaches English as a Second Language for the Fairhaven Public Schools district, and set up StoryWalks® throughout the schools’ outdoor spaces to encourage her school community to get outside and enjoy all that nature has to offer.
With the help of her students and other teachers, Silvia is in the process of establishing native wildflower pollinator gardens at her school in an effort to mitigate the decline of these precious creatures. Over the years, she has found that her children and students respond very well to hands-on experiences in nature. She is a strong believer that today’s children who learn to love and appreciate nature will become the land stewards of tomorrow.
Here she tells us about how seeking out the healing powers of nature brought her to appreciate work of the Buzzards Bay Coalition, and inspired her to give back to the Bay.
How did you first become aware of the Buzzards Bay Coalition?
I became aware of the Coalition when I moved to the SouthCoast area. Having always lived in very large cities, I was amazed by the amount of nature trails and reserves in Buzzards Bay available to the public.
What (or who) was the catalyst for your serving as a volunteer?
When the whole world was forced to stop and was confined to their homes, I found that immersing myself in nature was not only an excellent way to fight a sedentary lifestyle but it was also very therapeutic. Once the world slowly opened back up, I decided to share my experience in nature with others. Most importantly, I wanted the nature trail at the school where I work to be accessible to students and staff so they too could benefit from being in nature. However the trail had been neglected and needed a lot of maintenance. I reached out to Sarah Jennings, the then Education Coordinator for Buzzards Bay Coalition, and we forged a partnership and a friendship. In November of 2020, she invited me to lead a forest-bathing event at the Acushnet Sawmill, and I’d have to say that Sarah and that event were the catalysts for my volunteering for the Coalition. Being able to share that experience with the public was extremely gratifying and therapeutic for me, and hopefully for the participants as well.
What is your favorite part of volunteering for the Coalition?
Volunteering for the Coalition allows me to meet so many like-minded people as well as explore nature trails that I otherwise may not know about or get to see.
What’s your favorite spot on or around the Bay and why?
It is hard to choose a favorite spot, but I’d have to say the Acushnet Sawmill and the Flora Pierce Reserve are two of my favorite. I love that they are hidden gems among the urban fabric of the city. We can surround all of our senses in nature, without leaving the city. Another favorite place is the Onset Bay Center. My two children, our friends and I have benefitted from the amazing programs at the center — Community Fun Days, Summer Camp, Sunset Paddling, Yoga and many more. Most of these events are free to the public. Becoming a member of the BBC and volunteering are my ways of giving back.