We sat down for five minutes with Paloma Vasquez, who serves as a Team Lead on USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean Environmental Support Services Contract (LAC ESSC). Here she tells us about her client-focused work, discovering meditation in movement, and the perks of living in Lima!
How would you describe your role?
I lead a team that provides communications support to USAID’s Amazon Regional Environment Program (AREP), which implements activities across Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, and Suriname to reduce threats to the Amazon and enhance bilateral work.
Our communications work is on demand and very client facing, so I often get to interact directly with our USAID clients and other USAID implementing partners. For example, if USAID/Peru wants to create a video about an AREP activity that raised awareness about environmental crime in the Amazon, they’ll come to us to manage that process. In some cases, we’ll create that content or video from scratch internally, or we might reach out to a local videographer to lead the effort. I love that I get to work closely with so many different people and contribute to storytelling across the Amazon region.
What drew you to the role?
Two things drew me to EI: purpose and organizational culture. When I was interviewing for this position, I got the sense that, if hired, I would be joining a team that prioritized values and had a shared commitment to purpose. Luckily, that turned out to be true! It is a great gift to wake up and know you’re doing something meaningful and other people are working toward the same goal. Even if you have different perspectives and come from different walks of life, you share that vision of progress.
Paloma on the Inca Trail close to Cusco, Peru.
What is your favorite part about working for EI?
The people. I am super lucky that I get to work with an incredible group of people who are part of AREP. We have faced some significant challenges, but I can’t think of a better mix of people to work alongside—we complement each other in great ways. I think this is true both at that nuclear level of my team and across EI.
I also deeply appreciate the flexibility I have to work remotely. I never could have imagined a team could work together so well through screens, across different cities on different continents. EI gave us the tools and resources to build a structure that would set us up for success, and we continue to make it work.
What is your proudest moment at EI?
A lot of my proudest moments relate to remaining focused on the person in the face of adversity. I’m really proud that I’ve been able to face challenges and stay determined and person-focused because that isn’t always easy. Also, a big part of being able to support others is feeling supported yourself—I’ve been able to keep empathic and level-headed in part because I’ve felt so supported by my team and EI.
And of course, I’m proud of implementing some high-profile events here in Lima, including when the Secretary of State came to launch an AREP activity! We also supported the Mission to host Environment Office implementing partner meetings and created communications channels that will outlive the buy-in. I’m proud because those accomplishments are really part of EI’s legacy, that’s not just my success but the success of the team.
Exploring the Seven Sisters Cliffs in East Sussex, England.
What are some of your favorite pastimes?
I love hiking, especially in the mountains! I can’t say no to a hiking expedition and have been fortunate enough to hike around so many beautiful trails in Peru and around the world. I find bliss in nature, so I make a point of hiking and climbing mountains at least twice a year. I also do this thing called K.O. which is a blend of shadowboxing and High Intensity Interval Training. It is very intense cardio and I love it so much because it is meditation in motion. You can’t think of anything else because your body is so exhausted.
What is your favorite thing to do in Lima?
Take in the views! Lima is the only South American capital city that has ocean views. All my life, I’ve loved seeing the ocean right there. Even though mountains are my favorite ecosystem, there is something so magical about the Pacific Ocean. I'm lucky to live in a building right in front of the ocean and it’s just beautiful. I never get tired of walking on the boardwalk or seeing the islands from my window.
Any final thoughts or words of wisdom?
Something I think about, considering the state of the world, is that we really need to learn how to argue and disagree better. Having constructive disagreements is something I hope to contribute at EI, with my friends, and any other group of people. There are so many ways we can communicate with each other, and we could collectively make the most of finding ways to share different perspectives and opinions productively.
Thanks for chatting with us, Paloma! Stay tuned for more staff spotlights coming soon.