Sunday, May 12, 2024

Beyond the Tourist Trail: A Week of Raw Amazonian Life (WITH STUNNING PHOTOS)!


We are happy to share good news from the jungle! Now that we have stable internet (thank you to our donors), we finally have sustainable tourism to help support our mission's educational goals in the village.

Last April, Paul joined us to volunteer in the village. He found out about La Libertad through a website we maintain for Gustavo. Paul is a professional photographer and media specialist. He is interested in helping with the project. Paul took many photos for Gustavo and us to use for information and promotion. He also helped Gustavo translate prospective clients' inquiries into English and gave him advice on managing his tourism business which launched this Spring on Booking.com!


Please read Paul's review below and enjoy the photographic record of the time he spent in La Libertad.


It was an unforgettable experience, unlike anything I've ever done.

For full disclosure, I originally booked for one night, but I stayed a week.  I've traveled across six continents and never done anything like this.  This visit has meant so much to me; I will write a lot about it.

I'm from the US.  I've visited the Amazon once before but felt it wasn't as "intimate" of a jungle experience as I'd hoped.  It was just one of those 4-day package tours out of Cusco.  I realize now that it lacked the cultural connection, which I found here unexpectedly.  Here is a community just living in the jungle.  I don't know how to put it.  There's no show here; it's real and raw.  And I learned so much.  





Gustavo is one of the baddest dudes I've ever met.  I highly recommend a multi-day jungle tour with him.  The amount of ancestral knowledge he has about his natural habitat is incredible.  I now know which vines contain potable water inside, which plants/fruits/bugs treat dengue or asthma or scorpion bites, how to communicate with friends across a 10km distance via a tree root system (yes, really), and how to weave an entire backpack or build a hut from just coconut palm.  I felt completely safe in the wilderness with him, embraced by it even.  His prices are super reasonable.  It was pretty difficult- the heat here is no joke.  But an experience of a lifetime.



For context, I'm the kind of traveler who likes camping, outdoorsy stuff, pushing my comfort zone, etc.  I think that's an essential note since people have all sorts of different travel goals.  They mean it when they say they're not a luxury resort; it can sometimes be primitive.  It might be outside your comfort zone, but you will feel a new kind of comfort in exchange.  You'll do well here if you are a hiker, camper, outdoorsy, or humble/open-minded traveler.  










With that in mind, you get everything to fulfill your basic needs, and Gustavo's family is lovely and attentive.  I bought groceries in Leticia and took them on the boat with me easily.  The kitchen has anything your standard Airbnb would have, just a little weathered.  A few doors down, there's also a small tienda (store) that sells basic things - rice, oil, onions, canned sausages, etc.  

The other struggle I had was just the heat & humidity.  I wanted to join in some of the daily work like jungle foraging for medicines or harvesting plantain, and it was all SO cool, but there were multiple times when I had to stop because I felt dizzy from heat exhaustion.  It was another learning experience.  I'm in relatively good shape, but these folks are tough.  That all said, even just hanging out in the village is excellent, and you'll always have kids to play games with, a symphony of fauna noises to listen to, or a legendary river to dip in.




Here is one of Gustavo's first tourism reviews from an Estonian visitor on Booking.com.

It's an amazing community found in natural beauty mixed with the experience of how modernization goes along with local communities.  Gustavo received me excitedly, showed me around places, took me hiking in the jungle, and taught me many things.  And his hospitality is just 10/10!  This place is not for every tourist but for travelers seeking an authentic experience with the Amazonas and its people over comfort in one of the most unique and beautiful natural settings.

Here are some tips to make your experience better:

    1. Bring your own water.  Resources are hard to get to the community, but it's good to respect that.
    2. Be ready to adjust to a few things depending on the situation - e.g., no electricity at night, makeshift showers, etc.  Treat the whole stay as an experience rather than a stay; these things become secondary.
    3. If you sit by the river for a while (with your repellent on), you'll see many dolphins!
    4. As with any other natural place, always check your shoes, bed, toilet seat, etc before using :)
    5. Ask Gustavo for a custom tour and experience, and he'll happily make it happen at a great price.  He has more than 15 years of experience as a guide!


Visit us in La Libertad!  Gustavo's page on Booking.com and more photos (including details of the guesthouse) may be seen at:

https://www.booking.com/hotel/co/resguardo-indigena-yagua.html 


Monday, February 19, 2024

Our email to the president of Colombia (and the governor, mayor, secretary of education, etc...)!

For people who may not have seen it, we have started a social media campaign to call attention to the deplorable state of the school in La Libertad.  As part of the campaign, we emailed various government members in the Amazon and Bogota.  Here is what we said:

Subject: Greetings from the community school of La Libertad, Amazonas, Colombia.  PLEASE HELP US!

The community school of La Libertad, Amazonas, Colombia.  It is more important that we improve the school rather than assign blame.

The first damage to the roof occurred on September 29, 2022.  It has not been repaired.

Greetings Mr. Petro,

My name is Benjamin Angulo.  I am a volunteer with the USA-based organization Amazon Pueblo.  Our mission is to help the students of La Libertad, Amazonas, Colombia, to improve their educational opportunities.  We have been working with the community since 2012.


Our Help

This year, we expect to provide at least 50 small scholarships to the students of La Libertad and associated families.  We are also slowly building a health care center in the community to assist the currently available health services of Leticia and the department in meeting the health needs of the students and their families.


Problems with the School

First, as a result of a lack of maintenance and storm damage, the roofs, ceilings, and wooden structures of the school in La Libertad are in deplorable conditions.  The main parts of the damage started from a storm that occurred on September 29th, 2022.  The damage has continued with subsequent wind storms.  This, combined with wood rot, has resulted in structures that are unsafe to use.  This safety concern extends to the teacher housing.  The walls, floors, and roof of the teacher housing are unsafe.


Provisional Solution

Second, the organization with which I volunteer is happy to loan the use of the health center as a provisional classroom.  While the structure is not finished, it does have an excellent roof, walls, and a door that may be secured.  At this time, the construction of the health center is suspended.  We expect the construction to resume in September 2024.


A Plan to Go Forward

Third, we (our organization, the students, parents, community members, and teachers) request that repairs be made as quickly as possible.  La Libertad is one of the most vulnerable communities in the Amazon.  We see education as one of the surest ways to improve the community and to help create competent people, workers, and community members.  A school in good repair sends a strong message that the students, teachers, and community are valued.  This helps to promote positive self-esteem and hope for the future.

Please contact me so we may find solutions to the problems of the school in La Libertad.  All the time we wait, the higher the probability that our students leave school to work in illicit activities in Peru.

Thank you for your time,

Ben Angulo


More photos of the school:











Adventure returns to the village: Visit us in the jungle!

Tourism is returning to the village of La Libertad!

Part of what helps us to do this is our internet connection.  That allows us to help connect, plan, and support.  We connected our guide in the village with our guest, translated, and helped to coordinate his visit.

Tourism in La Libertad has been very slow since the pandemic.

We thank Stefan, from Germany, for visiting us in the Amazon.  Please enjoy these pictures of his trip.

At the base of a giant ceiba tree.


Arriving at the shore of the village.  La Libertad is slightly more than a one-hour speed boat ride from the city of Leticia.


The view of the Amazon River from the village's port.


A photo of the new walkway in front of the volunteer and guesthouse.


Gustavo in the doorway of the guesthouse.


The inside of the guesthouse.  It is clean, comfortable, and mostly bug-free!


The mini-stairs were design to make it easy to access the upper bunks.


The start of a mini "caminta" or hike.


A plantain tree.


Cooking plantain and fish on an open fire.


Accompanied by delicious jungle fruit.


Mil gracias, Stefan!

Please stand by, more beautiful pictures of Stefan's trip are to follow in a future post!


To learn more about how to visit the village, please check out our website, https://amazonpueblo.org/visit-us-in-the-amazon/ 


Monday, January 15, 2024

Sanitary Pads for the Young Women of La Libertad

Thank you to HIS Handiwork Guild, the Long Beach-based group that makes and donates washable reusable sanitary pads.  Muchas gracias, Nancy and Irene!

HIS Handiwork Guild donated 100 pads to the young women of La Libertad.

At first, we didn't know if the women would like and use them.  It turns out that the villagers loved the pads and the fabric patterns!  We plan to take 200 more the next time we visit the village in August.  Would you like to help us?  Take a trip to the Amazon and bring some with you!  Please contact us for more information at info@amazonpueblo.org.

From Nancy, one of the coordinators of the group:

"HIS Handiwork Guild gathered yesterday to continue making Washable Reusable Sanitary Pads.  We meet approximately once a month for two days, so we will be sewing today as well.  In 3 years we have made 23,000 Pads that have gone to 19  countries around the world!  It truly is a blessing for all involved. We have more fun than we should be allowed to have and the girls receiving the Pads are blessed beyond measure!  The need for these is dire! The Pads allow girls to stay in school and just be able to leave their homes."
The group works in Long Beach, California.


In addition to pads, we have had donations of baby clothes for the mothers and babies of the village.  Thank you, Crystal and family!



 

Sunday, January 7, 2024

Amazon Pueblo: How we procedurally became, and continue to be, a nonprofit organization.

A step-by-step accounting of what we have done!

After helping a friend who is planning to start a nonprofit, we thought it might be interesting or helpful to others to know how we did it and what we continue to do to keep our nonprofit organization up and running.  Here is our story.


It seems like a lot.  We guess it is!  We have been doing it little by little since 2012.


Steps we took to becoming a nonprofit
1) ​Initial plans
We formed a board of directors.  We learned how to meet and record the meetings, keep the records, and appointed a registered agent to be responsible for the filings.
Next, we registered as a nonprofit business with the Maine Secretary of State by filing articles of incorporation and paying $40.  The registration must be renewed yearly, also at a $40 cost.  Below is a link to our articles of incorporation.



2) We wrote and submitted our bylaws at this time.  The bylaws formalize how our organization is governed.

3) We incorporated Amazon Pueblo in 2012.  In 2015, we applied for and became a 501c3, federally recognized nonprofit.  A simplified application and yearly reporting are required because we have an income of less than $50,000 yearly.  We also had to apply for a tax ID number as part of the application process.  Here is the link to their site: https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/application-for-recognition-of-exemption
4) After we had our 501c3 status, we had to register in each state where we fundraise.  Maine's fundraising requirements are met with our yearly registration.  California's requirements are complicated, including $50 in application fees and three forms to be filled out each year.  Below are examples of California's documentation from last year and a copy of our IRS 990N form.




Mission, Vision, Values
As we formed the nonprofit and developed our program, our principles were formed and have been evolving.  Ours may be found here: https://amazonpueblo.org/mission-vision/ .

Below are the guides we used to help develop these.


Policies
We were required to have certain policies in order to apply for specific grants or to meet other requirements.  These are found below, numbered one through five.


Our Internet and social media presence

This really helps us to get people involved by volunteering time and work, donations, and to help spread information about our work.

Domain service:
We used Google Domains ($20/year) to register our domain.  A domain allows us to have our personalized website address, blog address, and email address (like info@amazonpueblo.org).  However, Google Domains transferred their domain business to Squarespace in 2023.  We haven't renewed our domain yet, but when we do in late 2024, it will be with Squarespace.  https://domains.squarespace.com 


Website:
We use GoDaddy for hosting.  They have a managed WordPress service.  They take care of many background programs and security updates we need.  It costs $130/year.  It includes a secure website with encryptions, which is absolutely necessary to look legitimate and protect data.
We use Elementor to build and maintain the site.  For us, the plan costs $30/year.  It makes it much easier to use WordPress; at times, it's fun!  https://elementor.com/
Blog:
We use Blogger, by Google, to host our blog.  They were recommended by a woman who started a nonprofit in Camden.  Blogger, as Google owns it, has very good indexing services for what we post.  Many people see it.  The blog page was easy to set up and free.

Accounting
We use GNU Cash to do our accounting.  It is open source and has the advantage of being able to store our records within our own cloud storage.  It is based on a double-entry accounting system.  https://www.gnucash.org/ 
Logo, business cards, etc.
We recommend hiring someone.  Alternatively, one can do the research and work (a lot of design and graphics work) to get something that looks good.


Google for Nonprofits

This program has been very helpful.  It is available to registered 501c3 organizations.  It is completely free.  It gives us access to Google's suite of business tools like email management, Docs, Sites, Sheets, business YouTube, and many apps that integrate with their systems.

Additionally, it includes up to $10,000 per month of Google Ad Grants.  This allows the nonprofit to post free ads, up to $10,000 in value, on their search pages.  We have an ad running, but we haven't had many referrals.  Google Ads takes significant time to learn, practice, set up, and maintain.  I believe that when we have spent this time, it will be a valuable resource.

There is an application process to sign up for Google for Nonprofits found here:  https://www.google.com/nonprofits/ 



TechSoup

This nonprofit business helps other nonprofits (must be a 501c3) receive donations (after paying a 10% administration fee) of software and other tech items or services.  We have had multiple donations of the Windows operating system, Microsoft Office, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Acrobat, and Adobe Photoshop/Premiere Elements.  This has saved us thousands of dollars.  https://www.techsoup.org/ 




Find, use, and maintain a good. cloud-based document storage platform

We mostly use OneDrive by Microsoft.  We have the documents used for our blog (and some other things) on Google Drive.  The amount of info and number of documents can grow rapidly.  Including selected photos (a lot), we now have over 5000 documents in 800 folders.  When needed, we can easily share and edit documents from the cloud.

We hope this guide has helped.  Good luck!

Sifting sand to build the health center