Monday, October 12, 2020

Amazon Pueblo: Should our work go on?

An open letter from the director of Amazon Pueblo: Should we continue operations? 

This week I returned to civilization, and a good internet connection, in Bogota.  I write this letter to share the reality of our work. We, the board of directors, believe in the truth. We will not publicize only the "good news" and hide the difficulties that we face.


Dear Friends and Patrons of Amazon Pueblo,

Overview 

During the pandemic, things were, and continue to be, very difficult in the Amazon. The pressures of Covid-19 graphically exposed heinous corruption problems in the levels of the national, regional, and local governments and supporting organizations. During the past four years, Amazon Pueblo has received no financial or co-sponsored project help from any Colombian government organization. The health care system of the Colombian Amazon collapsed one week after the virus arrived in force. In the past, we have faced opposition to our work from some of the villagers. During the pandemic, over half of the village has been involved with the cultivation of coca to produce cocaine. The project's guest house and facilities were used to house narcotics workers. Alcohol abuse and domestic violence in the village have dramatically increased. One of the villagers, an uncle of one of the students in the scholarship program, was violently murdered four weeks ago. This was not reported to the police. His killer remains at large. 

What progress have we made in the village? Is the cost and effort of what we have been doing worth the results that we have seen? Should we continue operations? 


The history of our mission 

Amazon Pueblo's first mission was to encourage the development of sustainable business in the village.  The intent was to give the villagers more opportunities to work. This plan specifically included alternatives to working in the cocaine industry.

After problems in the community associated with a lack of education (90% illiteracy, severe math deficiencies, and lack of planning/implementation strategies) and diverse work experience, we revised our mission.  We elected to educate the youth of the Amazon. The younger generation is more open to learning and the changes which will help them to engage in sustainable business.  Three years ago, we made this decision.  

In August of 2017, we formally left the village. That is when we revised our mission.  Part of the reason we exited was due to narcotics traffickers living in La Libertad and using it as the main entry point in Colombia for their coca fields, which were a three-hour fast hike inland from our village.  They had permission to operate in the village from the majority of the villagers.  The traffickers were mainly Peruvian. 

Three months after we severed our official ties with the village, the Colombian National Police entered the jungle by boat and hiked to the fields.  They destroyed and burned everything.  They arrested seven of our villagers, but all of the Peruvians escaped. 

As mentioned, we formally ceased working in La Libertad and expanded our efforts to other areas of the Amazon in Leticia, Colombia, Tabatinga, Brazil, and Caballococha, Peru.  However, we continued to provide yearly scholarships for up to 14 students from La Libertad.  Over the past three years, we have slowly improved our relations with the people.  Last fall, after much discussion and clarification of expectations, we resumed formal operations in the village. 


Alcohol abuse and domestic violence 

As alcohol abuse is such a force within the lives of many families, it deserves its section of this letter. From its founding over 25 years ago, the village has had problems with alcohol. The pandemic has only amplified these problems. 

Even when the results of alcoholism are extreme domestic violence, it is difficult for others to intervene. Due to fear of retribution, neighbors and family members are reluctant to stop fights between spouses, including when their lives may be in jeopardy. Three years ago, one of our scholarship student's mothers would not give her intoxicated husband the household's money for food, which he demanded to buy alcohol to continue his drinking binge. He hit her in the throat, causing an injury that led to her passing three weeks later. She was taken to the local hospital, but due to the terrible standard of care available to indigenous people (in part due to corruption), the injury to her throat was not repaired, and she starved to death. 

The villagers respond very negatively to criticisms or suggestions that they drink less and work or give more attention to their families. In some ways, I don't blame them. Who wants to have someone from another country tell them what to do when the habits are life-long and enjoyable, however destructive? 


Narcotic industry 

We have dealt with narcotics issues for over three years.  It is a story that has many subtleties that are influenced by the pressures and realities of life in the Amazon.   

Narcotics workers during the quarantine  

During this winter, after two months of quarantine in Leticia, I received permission to provide humanitarian food-aid to the village.  We raised a little over $1,000 for this aid.  After we delivered the food, I arrived at the volunteer guesthouse.  When I arrived at the project's houses, I was surprised to find eight Peruvian drug workers living there.  On the first floor of the house, they had over 200 gallons of gasoline, cement, and other supplies.  I told them that I did not want any problems, but I could not associate with people in the drug trade. They told me they were loggers and in-route to cut lumber in the jungle and planned to leave soon.  I accepted their explanation.  Later that day, one of the students in the scholarship program (in a matter-of-fact way) told me they were narcotraficantes. He gave me details about who they were, where they were from, and what they were doing. 

Luckily, over the next two weeks after I delivered the food shipment during the quarantine, the drug workers gradually reduced their presence in La Libertad and left the guesthouse.  One week after they had left the guesthouse, the Colombian military was seen entering a tributary, which leads indirectly to their coca cultivation.  The field is a three-hour hike behind the village.  Three days later, the Colombian military entered the village with about ten soldiers.  They gave out food and visited the villagers.  At the same time, over 20 soldiers entered the tributary on coast guard boats.  They traveled up the waterway to destroy the crops, buildings, and equipment.  The Peruvians have not returned since the military arrived. 

I believe the Peruvian drug trade returned to La Libertad because the police and coast guard were no longer patrolling the river, resulting from the quarantine.  Virtually no aid or government presence was in La Libertad for two months.  No medical help arrived.  No face masks were worn in the village.  People freely traveled from the village to work in the coca fields.  Many of the villagers from La Libertad regularly traveled to work in the coca fields in Peru.  At one point, 70 people (1/4 of the total population) were working in Peru.  

The villagers needed and welcomed the work offered by the narcotraficantes.  Their primary source of income, tourism, was nonexistent.  The narcotics industry was stepping in to take advantage of the pandemic to expand their cultivation activities and to provide work and structure where the government was not.  When I returned after staying in the city of Leticia for two months, I noticed the people of La Libertad were visibly thinner. Some children were significantly malnourished. They were starving. 

Our approach to the narcotics industry 

Essential points to mention are the characteristics of the narcotics workers in the Amazon.  After being around and talking with them, they are nothing like what I previously thought.  They were ordinary people who desperately needed work.  They were not paid well, and their work was physically demanding.  They worked with toxic chemicals.  They were as young as ten years and as old as 60 years.  About 10% of the workforce was women.  Some of them traveled and stayed at the cultivation site with their spouse and children.  They were migrant workers.  Additionally, there were managers and AK-47 or shotgun carrying security at the cultivations.  At specific points along the trails to the cultivation were explosive traps. 

Telling the villagers that working in the drug trade is wrong and demeaning the parents because their 11-year-old son has been harvesting coca for money is not a productive approach. This approach may be dangerous to us. These people need food, clothing/shoes, and other necessities for living. Even without the pandemic, this is one of the only reliable options available for work. 

Amazon Pueblo seeks to provide alternatives to the illegal, dangerous, and poorly-paying (but paying) work. We believe that through education and guidance, we can bring about the cultural changes needed to support sustainable, legitimate businesses in the village. During the past eight years of being in La Libertad, we have seen the attitudes of the youth, and some adults, slowly change. 


Working with other entities 

Part of our original plan of helping the village was to connect them to outside services and agencies. During the past four years, Amazon Pueblo has not had success in working with any part of the Colombian government. We have been told that a significant reason for this lack of cooperation is because we are not willing to engage in grossly overinflated project budgets, with the excess money being siphoned to corrupt officials. 

A non-governmental organization in Leticia with which we have successfully partnered, Funmiroca, also has this problem. In 2015 they had one project approved to build a soccer field for 7000 US dollars. When the final papers arrived to sign, the cost had been increased to 21,000 US dollars. The director of Funmiroca refused to sign the paperwork, which resulted in the project being canceled. 


Health and educational systems 

The health and educational systems of the Amazon have been systematically robbed of funds.  This travesty has happened through years of government corruption. The adverse effects of the mismanagement and betrayal of public trust are in direct opposition to the goals we are trying to achieve. 

Waiting for this corruption to improve on its own is futile. Our programs are taking steps towards addressing these vital needs. 


Other considerations in our work with the villagers 

The villagers are not simple people. While the vast majority of them are illiterate, they are also intelligent. As do all people, they resent being told what is and is not suitable for them. 

Many of the villagers' experiences are limited. They do not readily see or understand the benefit of intangible things like education, good health care, or a robust and diverse work ethic. Some of the adults are very concrete in their thinking. If they cannot physically see something, it is not valuable to them. They more easily see the benefit of the physical "things" which they have. They do not always understand the many benefits of education or other programs. This is especially true when education or a plan or project does not directly benefit them. 

Influences of the modern world 

TV and movies are in the village. They see the illusions of what life is like in the outside world through videos, TV, and the tourism industry. They want what they see. Access to TV and movies has also placed a strain on relationships. They watch Spanish soap operas, with all of the accompanying drama and the mistreatment between spouses. Many times, the villagers have told me that interpersonal relationships in the village were better before TV. 

Electricity and TV are responsible for less work in the village. I have heard that it is more difficult for people to work in their fields, fish, or for the students to do homework when the call of entertainment is powerful. Some of the villagers prefer to watch the TV whenever they have electricity. 

Cultural shifts 

So what may be happening with the village culturally? Last year I spoke with a missionary who has been working for over 30 years in the Amazon. He told me that in many cases, their culture is caught between the old ways (10 years ago there was no electricity and 20 years ago some of the villagers wore clothing made of grass) and the new contact with the outside world. The villagers have experienced a shift from a communal way of living where everyone had equal access to the same resources (and work) to significant differences of wealth brought by contact with the outside world. People became envious of their neighbors, or even family members who had access to more wealth. 

No individual land rights 

The village of La Libertad is located on an indigenous reservation. There are no individual property rights. People are not allowed to own the land. Because of this, it is complicated for individuals to secure bank loans for business or other needs. No one has capital in their houses that they may use for loans. Additionally, as no one legally owns the land, the villagers may "vote out of the village" an individual or family they do not want. For example: If a group of envious people bands together, they may make life difficult for a person or family who does have a successful business of their own making but is seen as not "sharing" their wealth. 


Is what we are doing wanted or needed? 

Given all of the challenges that we face when trying to achieve our mission, why are we doing this? Is it our responsibility? Do the people of the village want and appreciate our help? 

There is a parable of a Mexican fisherman. It asks, "If I can fish for a short time each day to provide for my needs, then spend the majority of my day in a hammock, playing guitar with my friends and spending time with my family, why would I want to create a business and work hard for 15 - 20 years just to get back to the same place? 

At first thought, I thought, "Yes, that's right. Why would they want to work as hard as North Americans do, when they live a semi-retirement lifestyle now?". After thinking about it and getting to know their lives over the past eight years, I do not find the parable accurate. 

These people are impoverished. They can "fish" or grow plantain, or cassava, and have enough for the day. This does not allow them to save. As long as their health remains good, what they have will be adequate. But health problems always come up. Just making enough is not enough when they need to buy medicine or travel to the city for health care. They also want sturdy, and in some cases, fashionable clothing and shoes. The people watch what is on TV and in the movies. They want the things that they see. 

To achieve what they need for a good quality of life, they do need to work hard, and to plan, and to have a better education. But also, to do these things sustainably. Just waiting for the government or other organizations to give them something is not an option. They are starting to understand this. 


Appreciation from the village 

Since our return to the village one year ago, we are more welcomed by the villagers. A significant part of this improvement came about when they understood from where we received our funding.

A misconception that greatly complicated our work was that the villagers believed we received money from the Colombian government.  They thought that we were embezzling large sums of this and not providing adequate services for the village. They are accustomed to this form of corruption from many organizations in Colombia. When they understood that NOTHING came from the government (instead, it was from generous, private donors, mostly in the United States, Europe, and Colombia), they were much more appreciative.

I am now almost universally greeted with smiles and conversation when I walk through the village. 


Our influences on the community 

After eight years of working with the village of La Libertad, we have had a positive impact. 

  • The Student Scholarship Program gave twenty-five scholarships (14 to students in La Libertad) during 2020. All of the students and their families were very happy with and appreciative of the help. 
  • School Attendance The village school has noted an overall better attendance rate in school. 
  • Aluminum Boat Provided an aluminum boat for safe and fast transportation, especially for emergency medical trips. 
  • Bathrooms Many more bathrooms (five of the nine houses in our barrio have bathrooms, opposed to just one bathroom, the volunteers' guesthouse, four years ago) 
  • Water Treatment Fewer children with distended stomachs due to intestinal parasites (in part from a rainwater treatment plant provided by a United Nations program, in-part from our health education efforts). 
  • Wooden Building Preservation More houses being painted to preserve the wood (three of nine homes in our barrio) 
  • Responsible Trash Disposal There is noticeably less trash around the village. 
  • Agricultural Loans Provided We selectively gave microloans to support agriculture, mainly yucca cultivation, to families in La Libertad. 
  • Future Agricultural Opportunities We provided cloned fruit and cacao trees to La Libertad and our partners in Leticia. When they are of sufficient size, they may be used to produce additional clones. These trees will help with food security and business. 
  • Volunteers in the village Over 30 volunteers have provided work, educational, and enrichment
    activities to the children and adults. 
  • Student Dental Program Within the past year, we have informally provided dental treatment for students in the scholarship program and some of their family members. 
  • Health Care Center We are raising funds to build the first health care center in La Libertad. The center is truly needed. There is currently an outbreak of intestinal worms and scabies in La Libertad. These very treatable diseases make it difficult for students to do well in school. We hope to build the center in 2021. 


Should we continue our mission in the Amazon?  

I believe, emphatically, yes. Trying to solve all of the problems in the village is not possible. We should focus on supporting the education of the youth towards the goal of sustainable business. That also involves, to a limited extent, supporting the community that they live in to be healthy and sane. 


Serenity 

I recently came across the serenity prayer. I think it is an excellent approach to our work in the Amazon. 

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

Sincerely,

Ben Angulo




Monday, May 18, 2020

Great news from the Amazon! Recovery in the jungle.

After a seemingly continuous stream of news about sickness, corruption, and death from the region, it is with extreme happiness that I report that one of the students that we sponsor, and his father, have both recovered from COVID-19.

Nicolas and Victor in a make-shift hospital in Caballo.

Nicolas has been in the scholarship program for three years.  He and his father Victor live in the city of Caballocoacha in the Peruvian Amazon, about 35 km upriver from La Libertad.  Nicolas's stepmother is from La Libertad.  Victor built one of our project's houses and also helped us to buy the fruit tree clones which are growing in the village.

This lunch photo was taken last year.

Caballo has fewer resources than Leticia.  The lack of medicine has caused the price of acetaminophen to triple.  Additionally, the "hospital" does not provide food.  It is the responsibility of the family to bring it.  I don't know what that means if you don't have family or friends in the city!

Victor recovered, but then his brother caught the virus.

Thank you for reading our update.  If you would like to donate to our relief efforts, please visit one of our links:

Facebook fundraiser address

https://www.facebook.com/donate/691914561576203/

Chuffed fundraiser page

https://chuffed.org/project/lalibertad

You can also follow what is happening on our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/AmazonPueblo/ 




Saturday, May 9, 2020

Amazon Pueblo Winter/Spring update 2020: COVID-19, clones, scholarships, boats, and more!

Amazon Pueblo Winter 2019 and Spring 2020 update


Welcome to the news from our small part of the Amazon. This update is longer than most, as we are quarantined in Leticia.  We are using this time to do office work, rest, write, try new recipes, and to catch up on reading. 


COVID-19
The virus has arrived in Leticia, where it is spreading rapidly.  Due to years of underfunding and corruption, the health care system is not able to deal with the problems it is facing.  Likewise, the neighboring Brazilian city of Tabatinga (were there is no consistent containment policy) and the city of Caballococha in Peru are both severely overwhelmed by illness.  

La Libertad
Many people are currently sick.  The first person to have died was the village chief's mother.  She passed away Tuesday in the early morning.  As it spreads we expect to lose more people.  So far, no health services have attended the village and no testing for the virus has been done.

As bad as the virus is, and it is bad, they tell me that without help and if they are not allowed to work (they are under a military-imposed quarantine) they will starve.  Please follow our Facebook page for more updates.

Donations
Donations to help the village with the COVID-19 crisis are accepted (with zero processing charges) on our director Dianne's Facebook campaign page.  We are also setting up an alternative donation portal which we hope to be ready later this week.  This blog post will be updated with the link when it is ready.

We have also created a donation portal on Chuffed.org, as an alternative to Facebook.

But now on to our positive news!


1: School shopping with our students in the store La Regalia, in Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia.


BOATS FOR THE AMAZON!


2: Alirio, the village chief fell in love with this boat after his first trip on the river.  He excitedly called me as soon as he got back to shore to finalize the purchase.

Aluminum boat
Thank you to everyone who donated towards our aluminum boat fundraisers (over two and a half years) and to everyone who has supported our programs. I am happy to report that we have purchased a used 24-foot aluminum boat! It is in excellent condition, has a roof, proper running lights, and a horn. It has the documents necessary to operate in Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.


3: The former owner, from Brazil, is on the left.  Next is Alirio, Chiqui, and me.  If you look closely, you can see a smile on Aliro, something that does not often happen!


The boat will be used to transport the students when needed, to go to the city for shopping, for official village business, and most importantly, for emergency trips to the hospital. This is especially needed in the time of the pandemic!  It will cut the travel time from 2 1\2 hours to just a bit over one hour.


4: Some of the village kids in front of the boat.  To avoid theft, it must be pulled out of the water and stored next to the houses every night.
This picture was taken at sunset during the inauguration and presentation of the boat to the community.


Cargo boat
Our 39-foot, three-ton cargo boat has been repaired. This March marked its third year of use. We had rotted supports and wood replaced, it was resealed, and we painted it with epoxy paint. With luck, it will last another two years. The life expectancy of an unpainted wooden boat in the Amazon is less than three years, at which time it is completely rotted.


5: Israel (the boatwright) and Hector (Gustavo’s son) are painting the boat.  Fibrous hemp and tar are used to seal the boat.
 


6: This is the first time we used epoxy paint.  So far, we are delighted with the results.  It covered well, dried quickly, and has held up well to the rigors of the river.  The bright yellow helps to make the boat very recognizable.


A new wooden boat
We have a new, small, and light 22-foot wooden boat which is much faster than the cargo boat. This will be used for volunteer transport and project work. It cuts our travel time and expenses by about 40%. However, its faster time means less stability on the water. We must be very alert when driving.



7: Israel also built our new boat.  He lives in the Peruvian village of Puerta Alegria, about an hour upriver from Leticia.  It took him about four days to build after he had collected the wood, nails, tar, and hemp fiber.  In the background is the Amazon River.  It was at one of its lowest levels last August.


8: We used grey epoxy paint on the new boat.  We had to drag and carry the boat about a half kilometer to place it in the river.


Motor repairs
We have a 15hp Yamaha outboard motor. It is very important that our motor remains in excellent condition. We do not want to be adrift in the river, hours from repair, due to motor failure. The gear oil in the lower unit must be replaced after 25 hours of use (every 5 roundtrips). Additionally, general maintenance of the motor must be done after every 100 hours of use (every 20 roundtrips).


9: The mechanic getting the first good look at the problem.  Luckily, it seems like no lasting damage was done to the motor.


Unfortunately, regularly scheduled maintenance has not been done with our motor. When leaving the port of Leticia on the day before the Coronavirus lockdown (a hectic time in the port), our water pump was not pumping, and the engine overheated. We were in the open river, and the waves started to toss us about. Luckily I insist that we always have at least one good paddle. Today we happened to have two. We spent the next half-hour rowing back to the port. We were very fortunate to find a mechanic. He quickly identified the problem as a broken impeller. The engine also had severe carbon buildup in the lower unit. He had a used impellor and did some quick maintenance. Then we were back on our way upriver. If we had been further away from the mechanic, the story might not have had as happy an ending. With routine maintenance, I am sure this problem would have been identified before it became a problem.

 
10: You can see the new impellor on the shaft at the top of the lower unit.  Note the old, broken impellor to the lower right of the shaft.  All of the impellor’s fins are missing! 


BUILDING AND REPAIR PROJECTS

Repairs in the village

Boats and motor repairs are only part of our story. The extreme climate (daily 85F to 100F, 80-90% humidity, and frequent rain) causes organic things to rot quickly. We have made many repairs to the buildings and raised walkways. We also had to replace our stove, refrigerator, and some of our cookware. Our one new building, in addition to the bathroom, is a storage shed for tools and larger building supplies.

With time, we are trying to replace the wooden structures with concrete. Thanks to one of our volunteers, Stephan from Switzerland, we now have a new bathroom with a concrete floor and posts. Stephan also replaced the bases of our water tanks and one of the walkways with concrete. Additionally, he replaced our kitchen countertop with a stainless steel surface.


11: Floor rot which looks like a face.  Photo credits to Sarah K.


Kitchen repairs

 
12: In addition to replacing rotted boards and applying new paint, we also have a new stainless steel countertop.  Thank you, Stephan!


New Bathroom

With time and diligent work, we have a new bathroom! It is almost twice the size of the old one. It includes an area to shower. The floor and supporting posts are made of concrete. The walls are metal laminate in the parts most likely to come into contact with water, and treated, pre-painted wood is in the other parts of the structure.


13 Gustavo with Stephan. 



14 Edinson, who dug the pit. 


 
15 The inside of the bathroom.  We moved the old toilet and sink to the new bathroom.  Unfortunately, the water pipes supply the toilet leak badly.  For the moment the water pipes to the bathroom are turned off.  This is next on the list to fix.


FRUIT TREES AND CACAO

We brought grafted clones and regular fruit trees to La Libertad and to our partners in Leticia. With the exception of three that were dug up and stolen and one that died, the other 25 are growing well.



16 Our first cloned orange tree is growing well.  When it is of sufficient size and producing well, we will use this tree to make more clones.
 
 



17 Cacao from Arcesio, the owner of Chocolates del Amazonas, a chocolate business in Leticia.  We may plant these cacao seeds and then use clippings from our cacao clone to produce more cloned seedlings.


Chocolate in the Amazon

Our first cacao tree clone in the village is producing its first significant amount of cacao. The tree is approaching the size where it may be used to make more clones.



18: This cacao pod has been broken open.



19:  Here the the fruit is being eaten.  The white part is chewed off the seed.  If the seeds were to be used to make chocolate, they would be gathered together with the white part, and placed in large wooden crates to ferment.  They would then be dried, roasted, and crushed to make chocolate.
 


20: Chocolates del Amazonas is a business that make chocolate candies using cacao from the indigenous villages of the Colombian Amazon.  It is located in downtown Leticia in the Parque de los Orellanos, across from the Hotel Anaconda.



STUDENT SCHOLARSHIP PROGRAM

All of the student scholarships (25) have been given for 2020. All of the students and their families were very happy with and appreciative of the scholarships. As of late April, all schools are closed because of the virus. The Colombian government changed the dates of their summer vacation to coincide with the national lockdown. Our students are looking forward to returning to school.




21: The scholarship students and their families arrive at 7 am in the port of Leticia.  They left their village of La Libertad at 4 am in the morning!



22:  After years of shopping, we mostly buy all of our school supplies at four different stores in Leticia.  




23: We know what the students need, and the best places to find a good mix of quality and price.




24: After shopping, we usually go out to get something to eat and drink.
 
  


25: We try to be finished with everything by 12 noon.  Then we met at the town docks for the trip upriver.  The return trip takes up to four hours.
 


26: One of our students reading a book with her mother.



GOOD VILLAGE RELATIONS HAVE RETURNED


Due to the problems we had in 2017, we decided to officially leave the village and to only support the students in the scholarship program. After changes in the community, I have been speaking with the village chief and we are planning to start formally working with La Libertad again.


27: A toast, with the chief, to the new boat of the community of La Libertad!


Our influence on the community

After eight years of intermittent time in the village of La Libertad, we have had a positive impact.
• Many more bathrooms
• Fewer children with distended stomachs due to intestinal parasites
• More houses being painted
• Less trash
• Better attendance in school
• Helped to establish a strong work ethic

In the coming years, we hope to continue our work with the help of volunteers, donors, and most importantly, the villagers.


OUR GOALS FOR 2020 / 2021

1) Student Scholarship Program
Continue the student scholarship program to support 25 students during 2021. We will start our scholarship fundraising in November.


28: Gustavo with his daughter on our last school shopping trip to Leticia.


2) Health Care Center
We will start to plan and raise funds for the first health care center in La Libertad. Amazon Pueblo would be responsible for $1,000 for labor costs, as well as transportation and project coordination. The government of the Amazon would supply the materials (other than wood), and the village would supply laborers and wood. A health care center is truly needed. There is currently an outbreak of intestinal worms in La Libertad. This makes it more difficult for our students to do well in school. We have already talked with the government and they seemed interested in the project. We hope to start construction in 2021.

3) Expanding the cacao program
We will start to do the initial planning to grow good cacao clones in the Amazon this year. For a pilot project, we estimate a monetary need of between 3 and 4 thousand dollars. So we will be busy with FUNDRAISING!

29: Our first cacao tree in the village is producing well.


FUNDRAISING

Craft Fairs -We went to a craft fair in Searsport, Maine. We also attend three more fairs in Mid-Coast Maine during November.


30: Some of the handcrafts that we sell, made by the people of La Libertad.


Emeralds -We have picked up a nice selection of emerald jewelry to sell for fundraising. I am also having an emerald eternity ring custom made. The ring will include 4 carats of high-quality emeralds completely encircling a gold band. It should be finished this May.



31: Uncut emeralds of mostly exceptional color and clarity.  Some of these will be used for the ring.



32: These were offered to me as a possibility to use in the ring.  However, while their brilliance is outstanding, their color is lighter than I desire.




33:This is an example that I used when planning the ring.  I hope to exceed the quality of the emeralds shown in the picture.

Giving Tuesday 2019 – Giving Tuesday is always the first Tuesday following Thanksgiving. We would like to thank all of our donors for our most successful fundraising day to date, during which we filled all of our scholarships for 2020.




Additionally, on Giving Tuesday Facebook gave us a matching grant of $1,000 to help fund our cacao program. Thank you, Facebook!


Thank you for reading our newsletter. We will be posting more updates on our blog and Facebook page.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Scholarship Program and Autumn in the Amazon

Thank you very much to everyone who has supported our students in the Amazon!

This fall we gave out the final two scholarships of 2019.  Here are some pictures of our students in and around Leticia, and in Peru.

Shopping in our favorite store in Leticia, El Regalia.

Ben talking to one of our students on the outskirts of Leticia.

Elizabeth showing us her kitchen.

This year we had our largest number of scholarship recipients, 25.  We met with each one of the students individually, and also took them on group trips to do their school shopping.

Henry and his mother.  He was one of our new students for this year.

A meeting with one of our families.  They live next to a small lagoon.  It is a beautiful location.

While talking with the students and their families we learned much above their daily lives.  Our discussion included how they farm, village politics, health concerns, and their hopes and dreams for the future.  Life is not easy in the jungle.

Brayan on a trip to a yuca cultivation area.

Jesus, Freddy's son, joined us for our travels on this day.

Some of the village kids and scholarship students at the project's guesthouse.
We always bring kites and other toys to keep the kids active.

The school lunch line during in the village.

Nicolas is our student in Peru.  He is in his classroom.

Each student has their normal, dark blue pants and white shirt school uniform.  During physical education days, two per week, they dress in their sports uniforms, shown here.


Many times the parents of our scholarship students help us with our project's work.  Victor, the father of our student Nicolas, helped us to go to the city of Iquitos to buy fruit tree clones.  Without this help, we probably would not have been very successful at finding the trees.


Two of our students writing thank you notes to their sponsors.

Ben with Victor and his family by km18 outside of Leticia.

We hope to continue providing scholarships for the 25 students currently in the program during 2020.  If we can find donors, we also have five students on the waiting list.

If you would like to sponsor a student for the 2020 school year, it is $110.  Please visit the links below on Facebook (or on Chuffed as an alternative to Facebook) to help!

https://www.facebook.com/donate/1303114459868171/ 

https://chuffed.org/project/scholarships-for-amazonian-indigenous-students-copy