Read Time: 4.5 Minutes
The “My River POV” series provides readers the opportunity to learn about the unique insight and experiences of the San Antonio River Authority (River Authority) staff and their personal connection to the San Antonio River in hopes of inspiring stewardship of area creeks and rivers.
Minna Paul, Education and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator
I happen to be one of the few lucky humans whose chosen profession is their ikigai which is the Japanese term for reason for being. My role as the Education and Volunteer Engagement Coordinator at the River Authority affords me the perfect platform to fulfill my life mission every single day.
My job is to inspire and educate children and adults toward sustainable actions. The reason this job is my ikigai has a lot to do with an almost magical childhood in India. My childhood summers were spent with my grandparents in the lush, green tropical forests of the southernmost state of South India. Here, I learned the names and the calls of exotic birds on early morning walks with my naturalist and forester grandfather. I remember playing in the small waterfalls and streams that flowed through his spice plantations. Thereafter, the better half of my childhood was spent accompanying my father, an officer in the Indian Forest Department, into the dense, dry, deciduous forests of central India. From watching him protect wild Bengal Tiger habitats to speaking passionately about the need for global environmental literacy, I stumbled upon my calling very early in life.
At the confluence of two mighty Himalayan rivers in the Ladakh region of Kashmir, India
There was nothing I enjoyed more than spending warm summer nights watching the darkest of forest skies. Even today, I reminisce about seeing the milky way with my naked eyes as I felt the cool, humid air waft the fragrance of wild Mahua flowers into my nostrils. I experienced firsthand the knots in my stomach when we stood in the presence of a top predator, the majestic Bengal Tiger. It made me realize how insignificant we were in the big natural world and how truly spectacular wild places and wildlife were. Wasn’t it only natural then that every new endangered animal and every polluted river I encountered strengthened my resolve to help protect our pristine natural spaces on this unique planet?
It is these early experiences that motivated me to study natural ecological systems and the dynamics that controlled their protection and preservation. I learned to shed my inhibitions and walk into my life’s calling—to acquire all the skills needed to tell inspiring stories of pristine habitats and to use impactful communication tools to inspire a stewardship ethic in people within my sphere of influence.
Leading volunteers in a litter pick-up event at Olmos Basin Park for 2021 National Public Lands Day.
Moving to San Antonio with my husband and daughters in 2008 opened my eyes for the first time to the world of spring-fed rivers. I began to learn about the challenges of protecting urban rivers whose health depends entirely on the awareness and collective will of its riverside residents. I now understand the urgent need to put in place a framework of watershed and river protection systems to prevent population growth from adversely affecting stream health and human life. Never in my wildest (no pun intended) dreams did I think that I would eventually work for a world-class scientific agency like the River Authority—a governmental entity that employs cutting-edge technology for flood control and pioneers important projects in the community like the internationally-recognized Mission Reach Ecosystem Restoration Project.
Educating High School students about their watershed and inspiring river responsibilities at Confluence Park
All these reasons and more are why I show up to work every day with obstinate optimism and sheer excitement to create engaging, educational, and hands-on volunteer experiences for our communities. It is my honor to support my small but mighty Education and Engagement team in developing equitable, fun, and meaningful education and volunteer programs.
A job well done! The litter haul at Padre Park by Texas Waters and River Warrior volunteers
As the leader of the River Warrior volunteer program, I strive to create citizen leaders and advocates who are vocal about our mission and vision for safe, clean, and enjoyable creeks and rivers. Hundreds of River Warrior volunteers contribute to science as citizen scientists and create change in their own ways by contributing time and energy to stewardship initiatives that preserve and protect our precious freshwater resources. I am extremely proud of our San Antonio leaders, constituents, and volunteers that have championed projects which improve the health of our local waterways, and I am truly honored to serve toward a healthy San Antonio River for our future generations!
The River Reach is back!
River Reach is a quarterly, 12-page newsletter that is designed to inform the San Antonio River Authority’s constituents about the agency’s many projects, serve as a communication vehicle for the board of directors and foster a sense of unity and identity among the residents of Bexar, Wilson, Karnes, and Goliad counties.
If you wish to be placed on the mailing list for River Reach, please contact us or complete the form.