Sunday, June 24, 2018

Amazon Pueblo receives a GOLD ranking in transparency from the nonprofit watchdog Guidestar!

Amazon Pueblo was recently recognized for our transparency with a 2018 Gold Seal on our
GuideStar Nonprofit Profile!



GuideStar is the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations. More than 8 million visitors per year and a network of 200+ partners use GuideStar data to grow support for nonprofits.

In order to get the 2018 Gold Seal, Amazon Pueblo shared important information with the
public using our profile on www.guidestar.org. Now our community members and potential donors can find in-depth information about our goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress. We’re shining a spotlight on the difference we help make in the world.

Check out our GuideStar Nonprofit Profile and tell us what you think:  https://www.guidestar.org/profile/46-0893738 

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Fundraiser for an aluminum boat for safe student transportation


When the kids travel to Leticia, they frequently ride in overloaded, unsafe boats. In addition to safety, they take 2 1/2 to 3 hours to go downriver, and over 4 hours to go upriver. They freeze when it is raining, windy, and cold. They burn in the heat when there is sun. So how can we help?  By providing an aluminum boat for transport!


We may also use the aluminum boat for faster, emergency transportation when accidents or illness strikes the village.

Here is a picture of a school shopping trip with our old boat from two years ago.
Two years ago we tragically lost our neighbor Fermil, the boy in the photo below, when his father's small, overloaded boat capsized in the river. That was a terrible day in the village. After that incident, we bought lifevests for the villagers to use (thank you to all of our donors). Now we are continuing our tradition of caring with this campaign for a boat.

Fermil with his sisters and Sarah, a volunteer and board member.
Want to join me in supporting this good cause? We are raising money for the aluminum boat and your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate a lot or a little. Anything helps. Thank you for your support.

Please visit us on our Facebook fundraising page. Facebook covers all fees. 100% of your donation goes towards our cause.

Monday, May 28, 2018

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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mojojoy: Big edible grubs (live, fried, or roasted) of the Colombian Amazon

The boys in the video at the bottom of this post were showing me how they eat raw, live mojojoy grubs.  These grubs are common in the Colombian Amazon.  They are from the scarab beetle family.  The grubs (gusanos in Spanish) attack different varieties of palm trees.  They will kill the tree if it is not treated.

A palm tree infected with mojojoy

The kids picked them out of a palm tree next to the area where we were working.  Then they started to eat them!


This is one type of mojojoy, but there other types that are fatter and juicier!
They can be safely eaten raw, but in the city of Leticia they are usually roasted or fried, in the form of a skewer accompanied by vegetables or plantains.  They are sometimes filled with beef, chicken or fish.

Yummy!

The mojojoy beetle


Two boys showing us how to eat the mojojoy raw!



Saturday, May 26, 2018

Send Jhon Carlos to the museum!

Our first mini-fundraiser of 2018

Jhon Carlos is very intelligent, but he has seen little outside of his village. He has much potential. With our help, he can experience more of the world and start a change in his community.


A little bit of context

The Amazon Pueblo project supports the education of the indigenous youth of the Colombia Amazon. Jhon Carlos is 10 years old. He is one of the students that we support. His teachers identify him as one of the brightest students in the school. He works hard, is friendly, and always cheerful.

But there’s a problem

Jhon sees how difficult it is for adults, even after they have graduated from school, to find work. He questions the value of his education and the time he spends at it. He has lived in his village of 300 people for his entire life, leaving his isolated jungle community less than 20 times. Most of his experiences with adult life involves alcohol abuse and poverty. He has not seen the outside world and the opportunities that it presents.

Jhon Carlos has six siblings all under 13 years old living in his house. His father earns less than $2 USD per day. They farm and fish for their food. Without help, he will never be able to travel outside of his village as a boy or youth.


Here’s what we’re doing about it

We are going to bring Jhon Carlos and his father (also a very friendly person and an extremely hard worker) to the capital city of Colombia, Bogota. While there, we will visit the museum Maloka. Maloka is one of the best science and technology museums in the country, if not in all of South America.

We want Jhon to experience the city and what the world has to offer and to be able to see the possibilities beyond his village. We want him to have a reason to study and to excel.

When he returns to the village we want him to share his experiences. We hope he will avoid the custom of alcohol abuse and strive to develop sustainable business in the community. He, and the other students that we sponsor, are the future of the village of La Libertad.

You can join us

We need $500 to make this happen.

For every $250 above what we need, we can bring another one of our students to the museum.


And here’s an amazing perk for supporting us that you can’t live without

Anyone who donates $50 or more will receive a handwritten thank-you note (I will try to snail-mail it, but at the least, it will be scanned and emailed) from Jhon Carlos. The note will include a drawing of something that he liked from the museum.

Our donation portal:

https://chuffed.org/project/send-jhon-carlos-to-the-museum

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Successes! Amazon Pueblo director's report winter/spring 2018

Successes! Amazon Pueblo director's report winter/spring 2018

Our mission is to support the education of Amazonian indigenous youth to encourage sustainable business.

Ben Angulo, project director, during the project-sponsored Christmas dinner

Where We Are/Where We Want to Go
We have refocused our program in the village of La Libertad to support the community's youth.  We have also expanded our connection with other communities in the Amazon.  Part of our expansion includes working with the Amazonian nonprofit organization Funmi-roca, based in Leticia. Funmi-roca gives us a year-round presence in the Amazon.

Points to keep in mind as we go forward:
  • We want to keep our budget under $5,000 per year
  • We are supplementing donations to the program with increased chocolate and emerald sales
  • We will only have the non-profit based in the USA with no Colombian version
  • We will continue to connect with other organizations to help us preform our mission
  • We will assign the responsibility of the buildings and equipment in the village of La Libertad to Gustavo (our main supporter and logistics person in La Libertad) and other villagers
  • We will support Gustavo to develop the “voluntourism” model where people pay (heavily discounted rates) to live in and to volunteer (with assistance from Gustavo) in the village.  

The new volunteer and tourist house in the village

Communication in the Amazon
Communication has been difficult. The internet is slow to the point of being unusable during most of the day in Leticia. While there is an internet connection in the village, which at times is a better connection than in Leticia, there is no person willing to work as the monitor of the computer room (a paid position).
Waiting for my email to load in Leticia
We are working on finding and helping to train a responsible person to maintain the computer room, which is part of the local school, in La Libertad. Having a responsible monitor will bring many benefits to the villagers and to the program.


My Reception in the Village
My arrival to La Libertad was gracious. Gustavo’s sister had been talking with the villagers while I was in the states. She explained the program, our method of supporting business development through education, and from where we receive our money. While there is a ways to go, the relations between the villagers and Amazon Pueblo have improved greatly. Even the chief expressed some remorse at the problems of the preceding summer. Christmas dinner (funded entirely by our Google One Today fundraiser) went well and we hope to expand it to the entire village next year.  READ MORE about the Christmas dinner.

I had planned to stay in La Libertad for two weeks then return to Bogotá, but I extended my visit to six weeks.

Christmas dinner
Narcotraficantes
The narcotics traffickers have left the village. This confirmation was one of the main reasons I needed to go back to La Libertad and to stay for a significant time. The national police from Puerto Narino, a larger tourist town two hours upriver, burned the coca fields and arrested seven villagers from La Libertad. The leaders of the narcos were tipped off before the raid and escaped. They are currently on the wanted list in Colombia, and we hear that they are back in Peru.

The villagers say that the narcos want to kill the chief, whom they blame for the raid. The narcos say that the villagers are “sapos” (snitches). However, the regional government had known about the narcotics operations in La Libertad for at least one year. The regional officials had also been threatening the chief with the removal of the school, stopping aid to families with dependent children, and stopping the social security payments to the elderly villagers. Exactly how the local government expected the villagers to kick out the armed narcotics trafficker (who did not want to leave), I do not know.

We believe that the villagers have learned from this experience. At a minimum, we hope they never allow organized crime to enter the village and to set up operations again

However, as I write this a significant number of villagers, some as young as 12 years-old, are continuing to work picking coca in the fields in Peru. This is work for them and it brings in the money they need to support their families. The pay is not good, but it puts food on the floor. Very few houses have tables.

This year we had to expel a thirteen-year old student that we supported from the scholarship program. He chose to leave school to work in the fields of Peru.

The boy we lost to Peru

Scholarship Program
The scholarship program is improving. We are clarifying the expectations and expanding the program. We currently support six boys and seven girls in La Libertad, two boys and one girl in kilometer 18 from Leticia, one boy and one girl in Tabatinga, Brazil, and one boy in Caballococha, Peru. The students were picked based on their academic achievement, school attendance, and recommendation of their teachers or community leaders.

One of the student we sponsor from km 18 and his mother

We continued to support four of the original eight students we sponsored last year.  These four students did very well in school.  They, and their parents, were very happy to remain in the program.

The four students who did not continue in the program missed more than 15 days of school in the following year, did not pass the year, or voluntarily left the program.  We easily found eager students to fill the scholarship vacancies.

This year we did much better with the control of buying the school supplies. We also have clearer expectations for the students to remain in the program. We hope to start workshops on study skills, responsibility, and sustainability with the students next year.

Our partner organization, Funmi-roca, is helping with the administration of the program in Leticia and Tabatinga. In the future, they may be able to administer the scholarships and run the workshops. We hope to invite them to the next Christmas/Holiday dinner and to involve them more with La Libertad.

Send Jhon Carlos to the museum
Later this year we are trying to bring one of our students and his father to Bogotá to visit the science museum Maloka and to experience the city. We already have $100 donated to this fund. We have started a campaign to raise the remaining needed money (400) later this month. The father of the student is one of the most responsible and supportive parents of the project. Here is the link to our fundraising campaign for this activity, and we need donations! 😀 https://chuffed.org/project/send-jhon-carlos-to-the-museum.

Jhon Carlos

As we did last year, the children wrote thank you notes for their sponsors.  This year we will also send the sponsors a brief video of each student showing his or her house.

The Boat, Motor, Buildings, and Equipment
This year we are docking the project's boat in La Libertad. Gustavo is taking care of it and he is not charging for the care. He has permission to use the boat and motor when he needs them.

The community or school may also use the boat for approved, non-alcohol related functions. The boat was well made and very sturdy. Nevertheless, it does need some maintenance work this spring. The community may not use the motor. In the past, the community has not cared for the motors, or other equipment in their control.

The students in the project's boat returning from school shopping

We sold the buildings and much of our equipment to Gustavo for a 10-year loan at 6% yearly interest. He has paid back 10% of what he owes, which is very good for him. He is caring for the buildings and equipment. He is also adding to them, at his expense. He uses the buildings for his tour business. He is also continuing to receive and assist volunteers. He offers volunteers a greatly reduced rate to use the buildings during their work-stay. This is the following the “voluntourism” model of the tourism business.

Gustavo with essential oils for natural medicine

Gustavo’s business is called Selva (Jungle) Tours Gustavo. You can check out his Facebook page and website,
https://www.facebook.com/pg/Selva-Jungle-Tours-Gustavo-2040923072897871
http://www.selvatoursgustavo.com/

Sustainable Business Program
Our support for sustainable business has primarily shifted to the student scholarship program. However, we did have success with the farina processing plant. One of the families that wanted to develop the plant did continue with its construction after we left last year. They built a roof and moved their oven. This winter they improved the oven, building it from clay. This provided better heat, more protection for the roasters, and should last for over 10 years.  READ MORE about the farina processing plant.

The farina (cassava) processing plant
We can continue to informally, as we are not advertising it to the community, offer loans for small projects to responsible, hard-working people who have demonstrated the ability to work with us and to repay us. As the students we sponsor graduate from school we hope to more directly help them to become sustainable business leaders in the community.

Chocolate
For the past four years we have been meeting with Arcecio Rendon, a business person from Medellin who works in the Amazon. He helped bring cacao to the village of San Francisco. This year, he opened a very small chocolate factory in Leticia. He wants us to export his chocolate his to the US. We bought 50 boxes, 25 pounds, to bring back to see how it sells.

Please visit our new chocolate website Amazon Cacao to learn more.

Indigenous-grown and processed organic chocolate from the village of San Franciscio
For the past four years, we have been telling the villagers to grow cacao. Now, when they grow it they will have a place to sell it. One woman of the village has 300 trees in production. They have been neglected for the past two years, but with this news she has returned to weeding and pruning the trees.

We, also, are having the students we sponsor growing seedlings. Once sprouted, we hope to plant 250 trees in the jungle around their houses. We hope this will encourage more production.

Additionally, Funmi-roca planted 200 seedlings in km 18 outside of Leticia.  READ MORE about our work with cacao in the Amazon.

The seedling planted at km 18 outside of Leticia

FINANCES AND FUNDRAISING
We spent about $3,100 on Christmas dinner, the student scholarships, repairs, travel, building, website, emeralds/handcrafts/chocolate, and registration fees during January to April. We currently have about $1,300 in the bank.

We expect to spend about $600 during my next trip to the Amazon in May. This will be used for travel, boat and building maintenance, and other costs.

This will leave us with about $700 when I return in June.


Projected budget 2018-2019
Income (raised during 2018)
Donations for student scholarship program $2,200
On and offline donations $1,500 (Giving Tuesday)
Emerald sales $500
Handcraft sales $500
Chocolate sales $250
Total $4,950

Emeralds used to make our first custom jewelry
We have a new emerald website also, but it is still under construction.  You may visit it at www.amazonemeralds.com.


Expenses (for 2019)
Student scholarship program $2,200
Transportation/travel $500
Business development $500
Business, website, fundraising fees $500
Boat/motor/guesthouse maintenance $250
PayPal debt $1000
Total $4,950

That’s it! If you made it this far, mil gracias for all the reading.

Wrapping extra wire from the solar power installation


Monday, April 30, 2018

Cacao: Chocolate from the Amazon

We sell chocolate to help support our student scholarship program for indigenous youth.

The business of cacao
We also see chocolate production as a possible long-term solution to the lack of employment in indigenous communities of the Amazon.

Members of the Association of Cacao Growers of
San Francisco, Amazonas, Colombia

The director of Amazon Pueblo with a cacao seedling.
Why is it a solution?
  1. Cacao, the tree from which chocolate is made, may have originally developed in this area of the Amazon (about 400 km upriver from Leticia).  It grows very well in our area.
  2. There may soon be a world-wide chocolate shortage.  With the combination of climate change (drought) and mismanagement in chocolate producing countries, we may be seeing a chocolate shortage in the coming years.  
  3. Our region of the Amazon IS NOT forecast to have a decrease in water due to climate change.
  4. We have the water, the climate, a willing workforce, and the waterway of the Amazon River to economically transport our chocolate.
So, we have been encouraging the people in indigenous villages of the Colombian Amazon to grow cacao, the tree from which we produce chocolate.  It takes three years from planting cacao until it produces the beans from which we can make the chocolate.

The pods
The trees take about three years of growth before they produce cacao pods.  Each pod can contain up to 50 cacao beans.  During this time they need at least partial shade.  Large, old growth trees among the cacao trees are an excellent source of this shade.  Other crops like plantain may also grow along side the young trees.  Properly managed cacao plantations encourage healthy cacao and overall forest biodiversity.

The growers inspecting the trees.

Removing the seeds from the pods.

Empty pods.
Processing
After being grown in the villages the cacao beans are transported downriver to the city of Leticia, were they are processed into chocolate by Makambun Chocolates.

Cacao ready to toast

The grinder
For the future
We are thinking about the future.  We teach and help the students in indigenous villages how to plant, grow, and tend cacao.  In three years time the cacao seedlings in the pictures below will be producing pods.

Putting cacao seed into seedling bags

Seedlings ready to plant
Chocolate Now
I could say that in the future your chocolate bar may come from the Amazon.  But the future is NOW!

The chocolate that I am bringing back to Maine this June.  We have two
varieties, milk chocolate and macambo chocolate.
This is Amazonian, indigenous grown and produced, organic chocolate.  This summer it will be in Midcoast Maine, and if it sells well, hopefully beyond.

It is produced by Makambun Chocolates (Arcecio Rendon is the owner), in Leticia, Colombia.  The cacao used by Arcecio is grown in the indigenous community of San Francisco, about 70 km upriver from Leticia.

A graphic of our business model:

Click on the above image and it may enlarge
Please visit us

Amazon Pueblo has published a website  called Amazon Cacao to help promote and sell the chocolate.  It may be found at:  http://www.amazoncacao.org/ .

We also have a new Amazon Cacao Facebook business page:
https://www.facebook.com/amazoncacao/

Monday, April 23, 2018

Making farina: A popular Amazon topping that (WARNING) may break your teeth!

Farina is a staple food source of the Amazon made from yuca (cassava).  It may also be made and sold to produce an income.  However, this tasty nutty-flavored food topping, if eaten incorrectly, may break your teeth!

These bags sell in Leticia for $2 USD per kilo 
In this blog post we are showing off La Libertad's newest farina processing plant.  This allows the villagers to produce a higher quality (less likely to break teeth) farina in less time and under safer conditions for the makers.

And at the end of the post we will explain how to safely eat farina and avoid a trip to your favorite dentist.

Gasoline-powered yuca grater.  This makes a finer farina.

The yuca mash is then placed into large bags which are pressed to remove water.

One thing missing was a good oven to roast the farina.
In this picture we are collecting river clay to build an oven.

While the clay was messy, if was a very fun activity for a hot day.

We are building the frame for the oven.  A large steel pan is
placed over the frame to help with its formation.

Cutting grass which will be mixed into the clay.

The grass helps to improve the insulating qualities of the oven's walls.

At last the oven is finished!  Earlier ovens were made from mud, which did
not insulate well and would deteriorate quickly.

Toasting farina.  The good walls and one opening helps to shield
the toaster's legs and body from the heat of the oven.

It takes three to four hours to roast one big batch of farina.  This farina is almost
finished, but the kids can't wait to try it!

How to eat farina:
  1. First, look at the coarseness of the farina.  If it has large particles that seem to be very hard, ONLY use it in soups or other hot, moist dishes.
  2. Sprinkle about two tablespoons per serving.
  3. If the farina is of good quality and finely ground, you may put it on anything (ice cream?).  It may even be eaten plain by the cupful, as enjoyed by the children of the village.
  4. Chew farina only with the back teeth.
  5. GOOD LUCK!

Why we are very happy with the farina plant of La Libertad

We, the Amazon Pueblo project, are very happy with the farina plant.  The plant is helping the villagers to make high quality farina which they can eat and/or sell for profit.

But another reason is more important.  They borrowed the money for part of the plant, which they are repaying.  They also built much of the plant by themselves.  And it is used almost weekly.  This is one of our most successful projects.




Friday, April 20, 2018

Christmas dinner in the jungle!

First, thank you to all the supporters of the project.  After a rough end of 2017, we are back on track for this year!

I especially would like to thank all of the people who donated to the Christmas dinner through Google's platform, One Today.  Next year we hope to feed more of the village's adults in addition to the children.

The weather was great during the morning, but it started raining in the afternoon.  Luckily everyone wanted to cook and eat early, so we had everything eaten and cleaned up by 1 pm, just in time for the showers.

Preparing the meal.  Everything was cooked over an open fire.

Cooking the chicken.  The broth was used for soup.

Soup for you!

Waiting in line for arroz con pollo (chicken mixed with rice and vegetables).

This year we cooked the most food of the past three years, and it went quickly!

The sun was strong in the late morning, but it rained during the afternoon.

The cooks and helpers resting after the Christmas feast.


Feliz Navidad!