Jalexis Márquez Soto is a 14-year-old who lives on the Island of Culebra, a municipality located off the east coast of Puerto Rico archipelago. She is one of the ten participants of Mujeres de Islas ecoKít™ project that is sponsored by Comic Relief in 2020-2021. The ecoKít™ project is preparing 10 youth to build 4 wooden playhouses equipped with sustainable systems, that will serve as laboratories in which young children can experience gardening, water harvesting, irrigation systems and renewable energy, among other sustainable practices. They are built by youth build for young children to enjoy and learn.

Jalexis, along with her 9 young people, in addition to learning about construction, renewable energy, and water harvesting and conservation; are also receiving workshops on communication strategies, how to speak in public and give presentations, teamwork and other soft skills that are contributing to their personal development. The project expects to strengthen community leadership among Culebra’s youth, to form solidarity connections with their community and other self-sufficient and resilient communities. In addition, participating youth will be acquiring knowledge and awareness about community self-reliance and resilience.

Jalexis Márquez Soto has shown interest in all the topics mentioned above. Initially, she was a bit shy, always observing.

As her electricity and renewable energy mentor, Antonio Rullán, noted in the Reflection Diary, “she might be the one that got the most out of the workshops. She delved many times into the issues. She was very diligent, humble, and respectful and very smart”. Juan del Hierro, mentor for the woodwork workshop commented about Jalexis: “This is a girl who wants to learn; at first she needs some time to accept proposals but ends up fully accepting them.”

Work with wood never crossed her mind, said Jalexis. “And here I am, I made a little bench. The project has impacted me in an impressive way”, added.

Margara Reyes, Lead Mentor and Mentor for Positive Development for Youth, highlighted that Jalexis is a “quiet young girl that uses her capacity for observation to learn. She has excelled in the workshops because of her logical and mathematical intelligence; resulting in being chosen by Juan as Wood Workshop Assistant. She has a great internal potential that needs to be explored and recognized with the purpose of developing her personal confidence. We have observed she confronts challenges and perseveres until she reaches her goal. She knows how to work as part of a team and collaborates particularly when concepts need to be clarified and calculations revised.”

Thanks to the support from Comic Relief and its trust in Mujeres de Islas, we continue to contribute to the development of our young people of Culebra. Jalexis continues learning and putting into practice what she has learned, while overcoming her shyness. She has demonstrated this as assistant to her mentor, by helping her father to make electrical repairs in her home and by accepting to become a part of a short video expressing her experience. We are certain that these experiences have had and will continue to have a positive influence on Jalexis and on her ecoKit™ partners’ lives.

This is one of the five organizations funded by Red Nose for Puerto Rico Fund, established in 2019 in Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico by Comic Relief US.