Monday, July 29, 2019

Amazon Pueblo Student Scholarship Program: Summer update

This week we return to the Amazon!  Here is an update on what is happening with the project.

The Student Scholarship Program

The Colombian Amazon has some of the greatest natural resources in the world. But the indigenous people who live there are extremely poor. We believe that through education they can improve their lives and help them to live sustainably in one of the most beautiful jungles on Earth.

One of our first student in the program.  She has been studying, with our help, for three years.  Starting in La Libertad, she now goes to school in the jungle city of Leticia.  Leticia offers more days of school per year.

Sometimes a student of the community schools in the tri-border region of the Amazon may strongly desire to attend school but is not able to do so. While students do not pay to attend public school, they must supply their own uniforms, shoes, 12 notebooks, pens, pencils, art supplies, and other small school-related expenses during the year. Their families are not able to meet these expenses.

Our January 2018 trip to Leticia to do the school shopping.  Over 20 people (14 students and parents) were in our 38-foot wooden boat.  Unfortunately, our boat is nearing the end of its life.  Even with maintenance, wooden boats rarely last past three years, due to rot in the extreme climate.  This August I hope to repair it and get at least another six months of service.  We are looking at getting a smaller, aluminum boat soon.

The Amazon Pueblo Sponsor a Student Program helps these students to attend school. For $110/year a student's expenses may be met. The Amazon Pueblo project will use the funds to directly buy and give the materials to the student. The teachers will monitor the attendance and progress of each student.

Muchos notebooks!  Depending on what grade they are in, our student need between 6 and 10 notebooks.  This store is called El Regalia.  We do the majority of our shopping here.  They have almost everything our kids need, very good prices, and they give good receipts!

We supported 23 students for the 2018/2019 school year!  Our students are indigenous youth who live in La Libertad and Leticia in Colombia, Caballococha in Peru, and in Tabatinga, Brazil.  We hope to raise this to at least 25 students for the next school year.

Shopping!  But the days can be long.  It takes an average of three hours to do all the shopping.  That may not include a half-hour wait when the lines are bad.

Freddy with our two Brazillian students.  They do half of the shopping in Leticia and the other half (uniforms) in the bordering city of Tabatinga.  I must work on speaking Portuguese!

One of our newer students from the village of Km18, upriver from Leticia.

When we can, we offer enrichment activities for the students.  Here we visited the science and technology museum in Bogota, Colombia.  These trips help to raise the kids' awareness of the outside world.

Thank you letters

Each year our students write thank you letter to their sponsors.  They often include drawings and sometimes handcrafts made by the kids.

Without TV/electronics for the majority of the day, the kids have the time to put into thank you notes and drawings. 

Almost all of the children make handcrafts to sell to tourist.  This helps the families to meet their basic needs.

What is interesting to note is the improvement year-by-year of the letters.  The last two letters in this post are written by the same boy.  Please note the improvement, which is exactly what we are looking for!

Many of our students love to draw.

A great letter with drawings.

And a letter from a Portugese-speaking student.

This letter was written in 2017 by one of the boys.

This letter was written by the same boy in 2018.  A great improvement!

Employment for Our Students

One they graduate from school, one of the problems our student have is not being able to find good work.  We believe one solution to this is to produce cacao (chocolate).  Cacao originated in the Amazon.  It may be cultivated by techniques that are familiar and learnable by the people.  The education our students attain can be put to use by having sustainable chocolate production, allowing the youth to have good-paying work in their communities.

Amazon Pueblo is helping to promote the cacao business in the Colombian Amazon.

We helped to plant over 200 cacao seedling in La Libertad and the community of Km18.


Would you like to sponsor a student or to help with our operating expenses?  Please join us on our biggest day of fundraising, Giving Tuesday (the first Tuesday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday).  We fund the majority of our scholarships on this day.

Please remember us on Tuesday, November 26, 2019.

We also have an annual benefit Piranha Party in Midcoast Maine each fall.  Last year it was held at Flatbread Pizza in Rockport, Maine.  Great pizza. live jazz music, handcrafts/emeralds, and an emerald jewelry auction are all part of the event.  I will send information when we have a definite time and location.

The outside of Flatbread Company Pizza in Rockport, Maine.

A small selection of our handcrafts.

And last, we sell emerald jewelry and gems to support the project.  We sell at craft fairs, our annual event, and by appointment.

Emeralds!  The best emeralds in the world are mined in Colombia.

A short video of our last school shopping trip.  Thank you, Freddy (the director of Funmi-roca, our partner organization in Leticia) for helping with this outing!

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

From the deep jungle to the bright lights and big city

A trip to Bogota with two of the students (and one parent) from the scholarship program.

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible.  Jhon Carlos, Stefanie, and her father visited the capital city of Colombia, Bogota. While there, we went to the museum Maloka and other spots of interest. Maloka is one of the best science and technology museums in the country!

We wanted Jhon and Stefanie to experience the city and what the world has to offer and to be able to see the possibilities of life beyond their village. We wanted them to have more reasons to study and to excel in school.

Our trip started Friday morning.  Gustavo and the kids left at 4 in the morning.  They caught a small boat to the jungle city of Leticia.  This was less expensive than a speed boat, and it allowed them to go to Leticia earlier to buy things.  The plan was for me to take the speed boat and to meet them at 9 am at the port of Leticia.  However, things do not always work as planned in the Amazon!

Gustavo's sons and nephews waiting with me for the boat.

Unfortunately, the speedboats at 8 am AND 10 am were all booked.  No room for me!  I had to wait for the 2 pm boat downriver.  I called and made a reserving to guarantee a spot on board.  By 3 pm I arrived at the docks of Leticia.

The "barco rapido".  They take about an hour to go from La Libertad to Leticia.
There are three different boat companies which operate on the river.  They are known as the "red", "green", and "blue" lines.  This is based on the color of the boats.  Each company runs their boats on a rotating, three-day schedule.  Today the blue line picked me up.
Don Felino, in the red cap, at the front desk of the hotel.
Once in Leticia, I connected with Gustavo and the kids.  We got something to eat and then checked into my favorite hotel in Leticia, Hotel Fernando Real.

Stop by here for the best chicken in the city!
After running some errands, we met with Freddy from Funmiroca, our partner organization in Leticia.  We had dinner at Cali Pollos at the corner of the main street by our hotel.

We flew with Avianca airlines.
This was the first time any of the kids or Gustavo had ever been in a plane.  While they looked a little worried when the plane was taking off, they soon forgot their fears and got excited when looking out the windows at 10,000 feet!

Stefanie and Gustavo in their seats before takeoff.
The ride was two hours long.  They were impressed that we each had a video screen to play games and to watch movies.  The free beverage and snack service was also a welcomed surprise.
Waiting for our luggage.

The airport was the largest building they had ever been in.  They constantly stopped to look around at different things.  In Bogota, they got the first ever experience of a cold climate.  We were met at the doors leaving the airport by friends of ours who live in the city.  Thankfully, they met us with some warm clothing.

Gustavo rides a moving sidewalk for the first time.  He jumped on it at first and almost fell!
That day we went to the north of the city to stay at my apartment in the barrio of Suba.  After fighting with a bit of traffic, we arrived just before sundown.

The view outside of my window in La Pradera de Suba.
After preparing one of my favorite dinners, hamburgers, we settled down early to be rested for tomorrow's trip to the museum.

The outside of our main destination, the museum Maloka.
Maloka is the largest science and technology museum in Colombia.  They have many interactive activities which help to explain and teach science concepts and principles.  Each area also has museum guides to help explain what is going on and to run special demonstrations.

An interactive exhibit which explained how the energy waves from an earthquake destroy buildings. 

An exhibit which showed how the principles of leverage work.  A 60 ponund child can lift a jeep!

Stefanie hooked up to a Van de Graff generator.  It was a shocking experience!
In the above picture, Stefanie volunteered to be hooked up to a generator which produced massive amounts of static electricity.  Her hair can be seen rising up due to the differences in electric charge.  We also experienced a lightning arc when we were inside an insulated cage.

And what museum is complete without a T-Rex?  We had to be careful, it looked hungry...
After seeing the exhibits we got a snack in the cafeteria and then went to see a movie.  The movie was the new Spiderman animation in 3-D.  They had no idea that a movie could be seen in 3-D!
Resting outside of the museum.

Later that afternoon we met with Andres and his dogs.  He is our friend from Bogota.
Gustavo and the kids stayed at Andres and Patricia's house on Sunday night.  When there they got to see the famous sights that were downtown.

The church Monserrate, which overlooks the city of Bogota.
On Monday morning we all met downtown.  Then we went up to one of the mountains overlooking the city.  On the mountain is the famous church of Monserrate.  Thousands of people visit this shrine daily.  Tens of thousands visit it during holy days.

We had to get there on the teleferico, a gondola car.

At the steps in front of the church.

After visiting Montserrat we returned to Suba.  The next day we celebrated Stefanie and my birthdays, both of which are on January 8.  We had carne asada (thin grilled steak), rice, plantain, salad, and birthday cake.
In my apartment in Suba.  We celebrated Stefanie and my birthdays.
After the birthday lunch, we went to the mall Plaza Imperial to see a movie.  Is was nice to walk through the city and through the mall.  Most of the city was still on vacation, so the place was packed.
The outside of Plaza Imperial at night.

Plaza imperial is the largest "Centro Comercial" in Suba.  This picture was from years ago.
Went we went, this open area was almost standing room only.
The movie we picked was Aquaman.  It had a lot of action.  After the movie, Gustavo asked if there really were people who lived under the sea that fought wars.  I told him yes, but not quite like what was shown in the movie!
We all thought the movie was great!
At last, on Wednesday morning they returned to the Amazon.  I dropped them off at the airport and waited until they passed through security.  I called the next day to check that the had arrived safely in the village.

When they return to the village we hope that the kids share their experiences. We hope they will avoid the poverty trap which many have fallen into and strive to develop sustainable business in the community. They and the other students that we sponsor are the future of the village of La Libertad.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Christmas Dinner 2018

We hosted Christmas dinner (two days late) for over 300 people in the village of La Libertad!

This is the fourth year Amazon Pueblo has hosted a Chrismas Dinner for the youth of La Libertad.  In previous years it was only for the youth, but for this year we had enough donations to invite the whole village.  Thank you to all of our donors, and to the Google One Today program, for making this possible.

In the check-out at Hiper.

We bought the majority of the food at Hiper, a grocery store in Leticia.  Gustavo's son Hector and his friend helped to get everything.  We had over 100 pounds of rice, 60 pounds of chicken, and 30 pounds of Brazilian hot dogs.  In addition, we bought oil, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, spices, drinks, and hard candy for dessert.  The villagers supplied farina (roasted cassava), plantain, and all the work to cook arroz con pollo!

We are arriving at the village.  When the water level is high (now) we are able
to get the boat closer to Gustavo's house.

Gustavo and friends cooking the meal.

A big thanks to Elico, Anderson, and Gustavo for doing the majority of the cooking.

It was a rainy day.  This is the rainy season in the Amazon.
People take shelter from the rain while enjoying the feast!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Happy Holidays from Amazon Pueblo!

Happy Holidays to all of our friends, family, and supporters of 
Amazon Pueblo!

For 2019 we are providing scholarships to 25 students in the Amazon.  We are also planning to host a kid-friendly sustainable business workshop at km 18 outside of Leticia.

On December 29 we will be going downriver to Leticia to do the school shopping

One of our students at La Regalia, the best school supply store in the city

On December 24th Ben Angulo, the project director, will be flying back to Colombia to give the scholarships and to help administer the workshop.  Freddy, the director of Funmiroca (a Colombian NGO) will help us with the scholarship administration and the workshop.  Thanks Freddy!

Back to the jungle!

Freddy and one our of our Brazillian students with her father

And on December 28th we will host a slightly-late Christmas dinner in the village.  We hope to serve 300 people this year.

Last year's Christmas dinner

We will be posting pictures and news of how everything went on this blog in late January.  Please check back then.

Happy New Year!