Monday, November 30, 2015

Please Remember Amazon Pueblo on Giving Tuesday!‏


We help indigenous people of the Colombian Amazon to improve their lives through the development of sustainable business.
By your donation you are joining us to do this.

Thank You!
Amazon Pueblo is an IRS registered 501c3 organization.
EIN 46-0893738

We Have New Life Vests for the Village!

The adults of La Libertad now have life vests.  Our next step, vests for the children.

During times of storms, high winds, or fast current river travel can be dangerous.  The boats belonging to the community members are sometimes not very seaworthy.  At other times the boats are overloaded with people, items to transport, or both.

But how to help? Can we just buy and give out life vests? We don’t believe that will work. As the vests are free, they may not be valued. They may be sold by the villagers so that they may use the money for something that is a more immediate need. The life vests also need to be regularly dried, cleaned, and repaired. The proper use and care of the vests must be taught. All of these factor make the large scale “buying and giving away” wasteful.

Instead, we have created a loaning program, a LIFE VEST LIBRARY, to insure the proper distribution and use of the life vests:
  • We have bought 20 adult vests. This will almost cover the maximum number of people on the river during any given day.  We now need at least 10 child-sized life vests.
  • We will store the vests in a locked room on the village's dock.
  • We will loan the vests out to people who will be on the river for the length of their trip.
  • We will require a small deposit (cash or the equivalent of goods) in order to borrow the vest.
  • We will keep records of the borrowers.
  • We will maintain the vests.

We bought the vests in Leticia.

Hector cutting out the letters

 We printed and cut out stencils with which to mark the vests.

The vests are drying after the painting

We spray painted 'Amazon Pueblo" and "Property of La Libertad" on each vest.

Bringing the vest to the project's cabin in La Libertad

We delivered the vests to La Libetad.  Now comes the difficult part.  We must educate the villagers to use them when needed.  They must also treat the vests with care and return them after use.

We currently have a community project underway to build walls on and to reinforce the village's dock.  The work is scheduled for the first week of December, 2015.  Once this is done we will be able to house the life vest library.

They REALLY need life vests!

Now we need child-sized life vests!  We have part of the funding.  However, the vests are not available to buy in Leticia.  We may have to buy them in the US, then bring them down (little by little) when volunteers visit the village.  (Or have them shipped, which would be very costly.)  If anyone reading this is able to visit and bring some vests with them, PLEASE send me a message from this blog.

We are continuing to accept donations:

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Director's Report November 2015

Dear Friends and Project Supporters,

We now have Internet in the Leticia office!

Blue-gray Tanager outside of our office

I have had a case of “welcome back to the Amazon” intestinal parasites (caused by cryptosporidium cysts) for the past three weeks. If I have diagnosed it properly, then I am now taking the right medication to clear it up. I probably got this from contaminated food/drink in a local restaurant. Unfortunately this has slowed me down a bit.

Washington Trip in October

I met with Sustainable Harvest International. They have a good 5-phase model that helps villages to develop sustainable agriculture. Their model would teach the villagers to grow, harvest, use, and sell their agricultural products. The model is designed to allow the villagers to develop self-sufficiency in their businesses.

I believe it would be good for us to form an information-sharing partnership with SHI. They are very open to this. We could use their model and techniques to help develop La Libertad’s agricultural businesses.

If at some time in the future we can locate funding sources, they may be able to send someone down to work with us. However, this would be some time in the future, and the money and commitment required would be significant.

Meetings with congressional representatives, foundations, and the Colombian ambassador to the USA

What I learned

  • Money is available for our work in the Colombian Amazon –provided by the US and other governments at a national level, as well as by the Colombian government and other foundations. It will then go to our village mostly through government programs. However, just because it is available DOES NOT mean that it is easy to get. Many boxes need to be “checked off” on a grant request before receiving the support.
  • It is most effective to develop connections between the many parts of the government, NGOs, and business, which will strongly support our efforts.
  • One of the main problem faced by development efforts, as stated on the US Embassy on Colombia’s USAID webpage, “is not lack of national funding, but the inability of local governments to put forward effective infrastructure proposals and transparently and efficiently administer funds.”

Steve at the Disabled American Veteran's Memorial

As a result of what we learned, Amazon Pueblo will:

  • Work closely with the community to help them to understand how to voice their needs
  • Teach the villagers to organize into indigenous-led associations to advocate for themselves
  • Teach the associations to connect to other foundations and agencies to apply for and effectively manage development funding
  • Assist the villagers to develop sustainable, socially-conscious indigenous-led businesses
  • Develop a model that may be used throughout the indigenous populations of the Amazon

Basically, we are making connections in Washington with the people who supply much of the money from US programs to Colombia. The money then goes through other agencies and eventually to Colombian entities. If these people in Washington, and the agencies which they support, and the Colombian government know who we are, and what we are doing, it should make the securing of funds more attainable.

Thank you very much to Steve Chisholm and Dan Martinez for helping me to set up appointments and taking me to meet people.

Ben and Miles Frechette (former US ambassador to Colombia)

Ben and Steve Chisholm
Project Updates

Office in Leticia
We have settled into our Leticia office. We will be there until at least May, 2016.

We now have a good internet connection in the office. It is through SkyNet. If you remember the Terminator series of movies, SkyNet was the computer that tried to extinguish all human life on Earth. This is a different SkyNet.
We really need this connection. The internet with other systems in Leticia is unusable. The technology that they use is quite remarkable. It relies a network of O3b mid-Earth orbit satellites.

Boat and Motor
Gustavo repainted the project’s boat and sealed the leaks. We have maintained his motor. We replace the piston, carburetor, coil, spark plug harness, and pull-starter. We need Gustavo’s motor for transportation while we have volunteers in the Amazon.

Motor repairs in Santa Rosa

Life Vests Project
We bought 20 good adult life vests from a vegetarian store in Leticia. This number should be sufficient for the adults. The store was selling them for On Vacation, the largest tour operator in the Colombian Amazon. However, I could not find any adequate child-sized life vests. What they sell here in Leticia is more like a child’s pool toy. We may have to ask volunteers to bring them down to us, little by little. (Anyone reading this who is thinking about visiting us, please contact me.) It would be good to have at least 10 child-sized vests.

Life vests from Leticia

Community Vegetable Gardens
There is a lack of variety and vegetables in the diet of the village. This contributes to poor nutrition. There is strong interest in growing vegetables in small community gardens (raised beds) in different areas around the village. All of these need to be fenced. We also need to create good growing soil.  The phosphorous content of the soil in the village is very low.

I have spoken with Sinchi, an agricultural technical support agency in Leticia. They are helping us with the technical know-how to start these gardens.

Kathy Cartwright, a friend and former co-worker, has encouraged us to apply for a grant from a non-profit she helps to manage called The Flannel Shirt Fund.

Dock Project
It seems like the supplies to repair and enhance the dock and build the pier will arrive in the village next week. I have been meeting weekly with the governor’s office for international relations.

They have also planned for a local artist to work with the children to paint a mural on the side of the dock, for refreshments to be served, and pictures with the community members taken.

Rosana, Suly, Ben, and Liliana in our Leticia office

Christmas Dinner for Village Children
Continuing our tradition, we are supplying the food needed for a Christmas dinner for 150 children of the village. It will be chicken soup and chicken with rice (like fried rice, but less greasy). It was a big hit last year.

Christmas Dinner 2014
Well Project
The well project is more complicated than I initially thought. The first thing I have done is to divide the formally combined well and sanitation (bathroom) project into separate projects. This simplifies the grant process for the Amazonian government and for the foundations to which we are expecting to apply.

While I have a spreadsheet worked out for the Coca Cola grant, this needs to be revised. I also have done a bit more research into grant writing which leads me to do some things to increase our chances of approval.

  1. Get estimates for all the materials that will be used, including a line-by-line cost for the charges by the well drilling company.
  2. Estimate the value of the “goods in kind” offered by the village for the project.
  3. Have the village formally vote on the grant request and their contribution to the project. This is done by a “radicacion” process which generates the required paperwork from La Libertad.
  4. Compile data which supports the need for the project. In this case I must contact the health department and try to get information on the numbers of people sick, and how this affects the village, due to the problems we are trying to address. In our grant request we will tell how the well will reduce the number of illnesses and improve the villagers’ quality of life.
  5. Revise the Excel spreadsheet.
  6. Translate and write the grant request on the Amazonian government’s forms.
  7. Fill out and submit the online Coca Cola grant request.

Bathroom/Sanitation Project
I must basically do the same thing for the bathroom project that I will do for the well project.

Aquaculture Project
I am recommending to the village chief that we do not go forward with the aquaculture project. I believe this is prudent for the following reasons:

  1. The level of reading and experience in following complex directions is very low in the village.
  2. The village did not accept ownership of the dock to the level that they felt responsible for its upkeep. Granted, it is partly our responsibility to imprint the importance of the dock maintenance. We must make sure that they have a good system in place to designate who is responsible for repairs and from where the money will come to make these repairs.
  3. The fish will die quickly if they are not properly cared for.

Cacao Pilot Project
Chocolate production and exportation is the future of the Colombian Amazon! If we don’t do it (sustainably and with social consciousness) someone else eventually will. If we help this production to happen we can guide it in an environmentally friendly direction, for the benefit of the indigenous people who work the land.

  1. The cacao project requires the same data-driven proposal as the well and sanitation projects.
  2. We need $55,000 for a pilot project of 10,000 trees. It would be best to have everything approved and start to plant these in 2016.
The future of the Colombian Amazon

Volunteers in the Village
I am now receiving 1 to 2 weekly requests for information about volunteering. I have put together a volunteer package that I email to our prospective volunteers. The package is pretty realistic, and so far we have only had two people out of the last 10 want to come to the village. I will forward a messages that I sent to a prospective volunteer to all of the directors.

The two volunteers from Brazil, Paloma and Beatriz, are pictured below. They arrived today. They will stay in the village for five days. They will help with the dock project if the materials arrive this week, planning for the community gardens, English teaching, evaluations for bio-construction projects, and circus skills teaching and performance.

Paloma and Beatriz

More Fundraising
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It is being developed as a movement for people to give to charity after the spending sprees of the preceding days. I would send out emails, and do blog and Facebook posts. People in turn, hopefully, will share the email and the posts.

So far, we have not had much luck with crowdfunding sites like Razzo and Go Fund Me to bring in pledges. The vast majority of our donations come from people we know.

We will use the following link in our giving Tuesday message:

Amazon Pueblo is a registered 501c3 organization.  All donations are tax-deductible.
(If anyone tries this button and it dose not work, please tell me.)

Money from Grants
All of the grants I am writing include at least a 10% administration allowance. That means that if we receive $15,000 from a grant, at least $1,500 of that may be used for our administration of the grant money to complete the project for which the funding was given. This would give us a lot of help.

That’s it. As always, questions, comments, and advice are needed and appreciated.