Founder & President, Asociación Guatemaltecos Sin Fronteras
Director of Community Outreach, Defensores de la Cuenca
As Founder and President of the Asociación Guatemaltecos Sin Fronteras, Carlos Lam works tirelessly to support the underserved in the Latino community. He runs campaigns to assist those in need after natural disasters in Central America and to assist communities at home hit hard by COVID-19. Lam’s activism does not stop there. He is the Director of Community Outreach for Defensores de la Cuenca, an organization that is dedicated to connecting the Latine community with the natural world.
Lam, whose community activism began at a young age in Guatemala, has been serving underrepresented communities for most of his life. His gateway into community advocacy began in his early teens, during Las Posadas, when he was invited by church youth to participate in a gift drive for children. That experience led him to participate in community outreach through the church, that led to a series of events that brought him and his advocacy to the United States.
Lam, who studied political science, philosophy, and theology, in addition to spending five years studying to become a Catholic Priest, understood that his calling was to participate in the Latino community to support social justice and grow community participation in environmental issues. He worked for over a decade and a half in the non-profit sector across Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica promoting socio-economic equity. In Guatemala, he worked to keep young people out of gangs and away from drugs by running youth camps and coordinating recreational activities, all while sharing the importance of taking care of the Earth. Lam also worked on a UNESCO project promoting the culture of Guatemala and peace building in a torn community. “This was important because after 35 years of conflict in Guatemala, there was a lot of division, so I worked teaching communication and tolerance,” says Lam. Lack of economic opportunities and violence toward Lam’s family, including the murder of his younger brother, led him to the decision to immigrate to the US in 2004.
Drawing from his life’s work, Lam integrates environmental conservation into the Latino community and by connecting the community, the culture, and the environment, he has created capacity across the Maryland and DC region for Latinx participation, “We cannot talk about any of the things without the other, it’s all connected.” He has focused his efforts and talents on supporting the Latinx community and environmental stewardship at local and region levels, throughout the DC metropolitan region. As a partner of regional conservation organizations, such as the Anacostia Watershed Society, he has connected Latinx businesses with area festivals such as the Festival del Rio Anacostia. His connections have put aspects of Guatemalan culture, such as music and folk dancing in the spotlight. As Director of Community Outreach for Defensores de la Cuenca, he has been able to connect his humanitarian efforts within the Latino community with his passion for environmental advocacy. Lam enriches the community by connecting the public with regional greenspaces, coordinating outreach events, and encouraging members of Latinx communities to become environmental stewards. His work unifying the social and environmental spheres is what makes him a Naturally Latinos Environmental Champion.