At just 31 years old, Trudy Hilton, a local from the island of Roatan, Honduras is determined to make a lasting impact in her community. She recently became Roatan’s new vice mayor and is focusing on improving the long-term sustainability of the island and its natural environments.
We’re proud to call Hilton a local partner, having previously collaborated with her on initiatives to improve ocean conditions in Roatan. Like CORAL, Hilton understands the value of coral reefs and is dedicated to preserving the many benefits these ecosystems bring to her community.
The Story Behind Trudy Hilton’s Drive
Success didn’t come easily to Hilton. Having grown up in a family affected by generational poverty, she faced many day-to-day challenges and setbacks. But she was able to beat the odds and graduate high school—a major accomplishment in her family—and later went on to study political science at an American college. She has since worked at an HIV/AIDS clinic and in community development, among other projects.
Thanks to her neighbor, a founder of the Bay Islands Conservation Association, she was inspired to give back to her community from a young age. “I think people see the love I have for my people and for this island,” says Hilton, “That is what opened the door for me to be considered for the position of vice mayor.”
Now in office, Hilton is working to put rules and regulations in place that will protect the island’s coral reefs. “I spent almost every day of my childhood in the water,” says Hilton. “So am I connected [to the ocean]? Absolutely.” According to Hilton, coral reefs are important to her and to the island because of the protection they provide from tropical storms and the value they add to the local tourism industry.
Our Partnership with Trudy Hilton
For the last couple of years, Hilton has worked with CORAL, along with other local partners, to improve water and sanitation on Roatan. Wastewater pollution creates challenging conditions for coral reefs and makes it harder for them to adapt to our planet’s changing climate, along with many negative impacts on human health.
Leaders at CORAL, such as our Mesoamerican Regional Program Director Tanya Amaya and Conservation Program Director Jenny Myton, have educated Hilton on wastewater pollution and how it impacts coral reefs. Together, they are now working to implement solutions to this problem.
During her time in office, Hilton says,“We are going to give huge priority to water and sanitation, and black waters, because they are damaging our reefs and affecting our health and the environment.”
Making an Impact: Tackling Wastewater Pollution in Coxen Hole
While wastewater pollution is a major problem throughout the island, Hilton wants to focus on solving the problem in Coxen Hole.
In Coxen Hole, CORAL has been working with local residents to operationalize a wastewater treatment plant. The goal is to replicate the treatment plant running in West End, Roatan, in which we significantly decreased coral disease and bacterial levels in nearshore waters.
“I believe if we can get Coxen Hole in order, then we can do it in any other community,” says Hilton. According to Hilton, a large population, various types of homes, and more traditional ways of thinking, all make Coxen Hole one of most challenging neighborhoods in which to tackle wastewater pollution.
But Hilton is ready to put in the work. She plans to educate and work hand-in-hand with different members of the community, in order to prioritize sanitation initiatives and the positive outcomes clean water will have on local residents and the island’s coral reefs.
We look forward to continuing this important partnership with Hilton and other key players in Roatan, in order to keep coral reef ecosystems healthy and thriving in the Mesoamerican reef region.