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Stories for Thriving on Earth: Patrick Kasele

by | Aug 4, 2022 | Changemaker Of The Week

Patrick Kasele never expected to work in environmental education. After realizing that his work in corporate communications was not fulfilling his desire to help the community, he quit his job to pursue his passion for sharing and protecting the natural world. “Nature is the place I get really inspired,” says Patrick.

In Congo, his home country, Patrick got his masters degree, worked in conservation education, and started a nonprofit before coming to the U.S. in 2017. Though he knew very little English when he first moved to Georgia in the southern United States, he found a way to put down roots by connecting with the local refugee and immigrant population in Clarkston, GA.

Patrick noticed that many of the children from refugee and immigrant families at his church did not have the opportunity to spend time in nature. Knowing how beneficial that time is for children’s mental and physical wellbeing, he sought to change this by organizing a field trip to the Atlanta botanical gardens for the children and their parents. Afterwards, he recalls overwhelmingly positive feedback from the families. “Of course I would love to do the same every week but I didn’t have the resources to do something like that every week. I didn’t have the money, even the church didn’t have the money.” Despite the financial limitations, he persisted because he felt it was important to find a way to help the kids discover and learn from nature.

He started researching nature access in Georgia and the United States and realized that, although wealthier neighborhoods often have well maintained green spaces, underserved communities like refugees and immigrants have access to fewer natural spaces. After discovering this environmental injustice, Patrick felt that he needed to take action — “Maybe this is something I have to advocate for.” 

With limited funding for transportation, he sought to continue this environmental education through mediums easily accessible to children: books, crafts, and board games. When his friend sent him a link to The Pollination Project’s Daily Grant, he was hesitant to apply. Looking back, he remembers thinking “I’m not a grant writer.” Fortunately, after reading about TPP’s mission to fund startup projects and support new changemakers, he felt confident enough to apply. Recalling when he received his grant, Patrick says, “I was very happy. I was like ‘okay that’s a good start!’”

This positivity and vision continues to shine through in his work. Currently, he’s working on establishing a nonprofit so he can expand his activities, programs, and reach. “My dream is to make sure that every kid in Clarkston, in Georgia, in refugee and immigrant communities — regardless of skin color or financial background — has access to nature.”

Although all of his activities have an educational aspect—teaching kids about conservation and building a healthy relationship with nature—Patrick finds that his work is ultimately about joy. When asked about the impact of the activities he organizes, he explained, “You know those kids experienced some hardship when they were back home. That’s why they came here: to find a more peaceful life. Stories are a very powerful tool to bring back hope, somehow, especially for kids. Storytelling is a good way to plant this seed in them so they can dream again, they can hope again, they can live like any normal kid. It’s all about happiness somehow, even if at the same time you are trying to educate them.”

Written by Amelia Lorrey