Giving Spotlight: Malia Simon

Malia Simon is an environmental studies major at Susquehanna University and a part of the Class of 2019 of Cultural Vistas Fellows. She spent summer 2019 in Hong Kong interning at CarbonCare InnoLab where she was involved with communication and advocacy efforts to create awareness and contribute to solving global climate challenges – read on to hear what inspires Malia about giving back through the Cultural Vistas community.

Name: Malia Simon

Relationship: Alumna of Cultural Vistas Fellowship Program

Current location: Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania

Occupation: Graduating Environmental Studies Major at Susquehanna University

What inspired you to participate in the Cultural Vistas Fellowship?

The ability to expand my horizons as a student, contribute to my Diné community from my international internship experience and overall understand how I could be a contributor to a network of like-minded, global citizens inspired me to apply for the Cultural Vistas Fellowship. I am a first-generation college student; the opportunity to grow not only as a student but professionally as I learned about my future goals and aspirations overseas was the greatest opportunity of my life. Hong Kong helped me understand how I could help my community back home through policy work and advocacy for Indian Country outside of environmental advocacy, though that is my passion. Living outside of the U.S. allowed me to view the intricate government-to-government relationship from an alternative perspective. This fellowship shaped my lifelong goals to be a positive role model for Native youth who want to make a change in their own communities starting at home or aiming for enriching abroad experiences overseas, too.

How have international experiences shaped your professional pathway?

The international experiences in Hong Kong influenced my goals to work alongside Tribal policymakers and lawmakers who are passing legislation and bills to support Indian Country back home. I also became inspired to visualize how I could share my culture, my values, and my vision to inspire others to act on efforts to protect Mother Earth. This vision grew day by day, as I would make the daily morning commute to my internship at Carbon Care InnoLab.  Advocating for Climate Change awareness and advocacy in Hong Kong’s coastal city region gave me the necessary knowledge to learn how to speak on global issues that impact us all such as the increasing climate impacting vulnerable coastal cities across the world. Being able to intern abroad, I found my role to help initiate positive effective change within the U.S. for ALL of our communities across the world, which are interconnected as we share the same home.

What issues impact participation in international programs from your community?

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is a substantial issue that is impacting participation in international programs from my community in Northern New Mexico. The pandemic has shown a growing gap in economic, social, and health disparities among our communities. Community is based on kinship and caring for one another’s health and well-being for the sake of the future of our sovereign nations. The ability to participate in these enriching programs has stopped due to the younger generations doing the best they can to keep their communities safe by making sacrifices to stay home. For now, participation in international programs is paused like many other abroad programs. The focus has shifted to how we can better serve and protect our own communities and homes so that we may envision how these programs may look in the future and collectively decide how to bridge the gap between understanding, interconnectedness, and support across countries.

How can Cultural Vistas community support the Navajo nation and other indigenous tribes where they live?

The Cultural Vistas community could support the Navajo Nation and other Indigenous nations within the U.S. by donating to Indigenous-led nonprofits and grassroots organizations that are taking on-going donations to provide economic relief and support for high-risk populations living on the reservation, who are often far away from nearby towns and cities to acquire essentials such as food and water. The Navajo-Hopi COVID-19 Relief Fund GoFundMe is an active fundraiser taking donations, as well as the First Nations Development Institute COVID-19 Emergency Response Fund. Through the First Nations Development Institute, you are also able to learn how you can further support Indigenous economies to support Native communities. By helping our own communities here on Turtle Island (North America) you are making a difference by advocating and standing by our communities. Ahe’hee.