Empowering Women, Protecting the Planet—Insights and Advice from Thais Lopez Vogel
Updated: Mar 27
An interview with VoLo Foundation co-founder and trustee Thais Lopez Vogel
Philanthropist and climate change advocate Thais Lopez Vogel co-founded VoLo Foundation with her husband David S. Vogel, who serves on Amplio's board. VoLo Foundation is a private family foundation that aims to accelerate change and global impact by supporting science-based climate solutions, enhancing education, and improving health. VoLo Foundation is a longtime Amplio partner and donor.
As trustee, Thais is responsible for setting the Foundation's priorities, approving strategies and allocating resources. Thais envisions VoLo playing a leadership role in expanding awareness of environmental issues. A visionary, she created Florida Climate Week, making it the most important climate-focused event in the Southeastern United States. In 2019 and 2020, Thais was named one of the "100 Most Influential Latinos Committed to Climate Action." Her focus includes childhood education and global health care, which she believes are core building blocks for a sustainable future.
In recognition of International Women's Day and Women's History Month, we invited Thais to talk about women's empowerment. Here's what she shared.
Who is a woman that inspires you and why?
I have been inspired by the amazing Caroline Lewis. A busy educator, she knew she could do more to advance climate solutions. She founded The CLEO Institute, one of the most successful direct action organizations that makes climate education accessible to all. Her model creates change because it doesn’t just educate. It empowers students of any age to become educators and trainers themselves. So, as people are learning the basics of climate change, they can also become trainers and teach others.
Can you share an example of an organization doing great work in the climate change and women's empowerment space?
An example is Project Alianza, a women-led education nonprofit organization working to end education inequity in rural villages across Latin America. This organization has found a use for coffee plantations that have become useless due to climate change. The plants have been destroyed by an organism called coffee rust, as well as flooding rains. Project Alianza leases the land, thereby providing a stable income to local people. They hire local workers and use local labor to build schools in remote rural communities where it’s common for floods to cut the children off from the nearest school for days. With Project Alianza, the schools are set-up with sustainability in mind—including rain barrels and purification for water—and constructed in shaded areas for natural cooling. Local women in each village are trained and empowered as educators. The schools are equipped with tablets and other technology. These children, most of them girls, are now getting a 21st century education.
What advice do you have for organizations, funders, and others who are working on women's empowerment?
My recommendation is to look in your own backyard. Where can education and enrichment of women and girls in your community be improved? If not in your own community, there are many wonderful organizations and programs where dollars go far in rural areas, domestic and international. According to UN Women and decades of research, we know that “when girls and women are educated, we see faster poverty reduction, better maternal health, lower child mortality, greater HIV prevention and reduced violence. Each additional year a girl spends in school can also boost her earnings as an adult by up to 20 percent.” Educating women and girls has the power to lift entire communities.
Venezuelan-born attorney Thais Lopez Vogel is co-founder and trustee of VoLo Foundation. Before moving to the United States, she worked for Petroleos de Venezuela Sociedad Anonima (PDVSA), a Venezuelan State oil company. As a mother of six, Thais found herself called to the clean energy world because of her concern for the future of her children. In 2019 and 2020, Thais was named one of the 100 Most Influential Latinos Committed to Climate Action. She is a board member at Environmental Defense Fund, a Tiffany Circle member at the American Red Cross, and a board member at Water People Theater in Chicago. She also participates in several local community-focused committee groups in the Palm Beach area.