Susana De Anda: Fighting for the Community

“You can’t come home. No one here wants you.” These were the words Susana De Anda heard from her brother -- her only close remaining family member since her parents died -- when she called home from college, crying.

In spite of feeling lost and alone during her first year, De Anda went on to pursue a double major at the University of California, Santa Barbara, in environmental Studies and geography. She worked in several different organizations on water issues and environmental justice before serving as a community organizer at The Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment.

Susana eventually co-founded the Community Water Center, a nonprofit that she now directs. The organization is solely dedicated to helping low-income communities gain access to clean, safe and affordable drinking water -- a cause to which she is devoted.

Susana works with 11 communities in Central California, each of which is struggling with water-quality issues because their tap water is contaminated by cancer-causing agents. Her organization acts as a catalyst for community water-driven solutions through advocacy and education.

In 2005, Susana was awarded the Rising Tortuga Award from the Latino Issues Forum for her willingness to “stick her neck out” for California’s Latino communities.

In retelling the story, Susana says she later realized that her brother, who has always been her anchor throughout her life and continues to be, had said this in order to give her the strength to keep going. Having lost their parents at a young age, they were there for each other.

From a meager past, Susana -- still a young woman -- has created work, a family and a life she loves.
by Aurelia Flores