Sunday, June 19, 2016

Colombian Dinner Fundraiser a Success!

Thank you to everyone who helped us to set up the event and to everyone who attended.  We raised a little over $2,600 to help the people of La Libertad!  Where you unable to attend but willing to help?  Please visit our website to learn how.

Pictured are my aunts Irene and Gloria, to whom I deeply thank.  Without their help we would not have had the event.  We did much planning and cooking!  Here you see the carne asada, grilled expertly by my cousin Mike.

I would also like to give a heart-felt thank you to my family Crystal, Rudy, Joan, and Diane for helping to organize, clean, and set up their house for the event.

We prepared fried plantain and yuca.  Many people at the dinner ate yuca for the first time.  It is called cassava in English.  Yuca is also used to make tapioca.  It is a high-protein staple of the villagers of La Libertad.

Colombians frequently have simple salads of tomato and cucumber.  Limes are squeezed over the vegetables as a dressing.  The salsa is made from hot peppers, scallions, garlic, cilantro, water, and salt.

The soup is called ajiaco.  It is made from chicken and three different types of potatoes.  The soup gets its distinctive flavor from a Colombian herb called guascus.  Guascas is very difficult to find in the US.  I brought it up with me from Colombia.

Crystal is enjoying a bowl of ajiaco while tending the tables. 

Emeralds?  Handcrafts?

Juan and Carlos, two visitors from the Amazon.  They are red-bellied piranha.

They may look aggressive, but they are very friendly once you get to know them.

The family Aguilar.

Modeling one of our newest handcrafts, a cross-body cell phone bag.
This was very popular, and we sold the only three we had quickly.

Good food and good company.

A beautiful surprise!

A bit of light reading.

Conversation while waiting for the presentation.

Cousin, brother, and sister.

We had a beautiful, sunny day weather-wise.

During the presentation we discussed how the project started, what
we have done during the past year, and what we plan to do during the
upcoming year.  Good questions were asked, and answers given!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Emeralds and Handcrafts at the Colombian Dinner Fundraiser

Join us on June 11, 2016 at 4 pm for a Colombian Dinner in Long Beach, California!

We need to raise $6,000!  Are you unable to attend but willing to support the project with a purchase or donation?  Please click here: HOW TO HELP.

Theses emeralds are from the emerald district in Bogota, Colombia.  There were all tested for authenticity by using an emerald filter.  The filter detects the presence of chromium, which is found in natural Colombian emeralds.  If there is no chromium, the chances are it is not a real emerald.  Please see our EMERALD POST for more information.

First, the emeralds.  Then the handcrafts!

And now the handcrafts:

Piranha from the Amazon

Seed-bead handbag.  This is wearable art.  Each seed must be strung with
one hour of taking it out of the pod.  About 24 hours of labor goes into
each bag.

Iridescent earrings

Bloodwood carvings

An Amazonian blowgun

Natural fiber cell phone cases

All handcrafts are made with natural materials and dyes
found in and around the jungle village

More bloodwood handcrafts

Balsa wood masks

These masks are the newest handcraft design made
in the Colombian Amazon

The mask is made from fish scales of one of the largest
fresh water fish in the word, the pirarucu.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Community Garden in the Village (Huerto Comunitario/Horta Comunitária)

First, I would like to thank Kathy and all the people from the Flannel Shirt Fund for the support that they gave us to make the community gardens possible.  I would also like to thank our volunteers, both from the village (young and old) and our visitor/volunteers from other countries.

Vegetables for all
The people of the village do not eat vegetables.  Vegetable are not part of their traditional foods.  However, many of the villagers, especially children, suffer from vitamin deficiencies which may be alleviated by eating vegetables.  The gardens will also help to supply more food to supplement their diets.  Additionally, surplus vegetables may be grown and sold in the city or to other villages.

Putting in the posts for the compost bin.  The school's cafeteria is in the background.
Our partnership with the school
We are building the first community garden next to the school.  The school serves the children in grades pre-kindergarten through fifth.  The teachers are very supportive of the garden.  They can help to teach the children how to create compost, plant vegetable, care for the plants, harvest, and to collect the seeds needed to replant.

Our hope is that the children will be excited to tend the gardens and to eat what they have grown.  We also hope that the children will pass what they have learned in school about the gardens to their parents.

A roof is required for the compost bins.  If the compost pile becomes too wet,
it will not properly breakdown into good soil.
More gardens in the future
We have created the first compost bin next to the garden.  In all we hope to be able to make four small gardens in different locations around the village.  What we learn by building the first garden will help us to improve our designs for the following three.  We hope to start building the second garden in the fall of 2016.

Alirio, the chief of the village, is going in the jungle with our volunteer Alex
and other villagers to carry wood.
Difficulties finding workers 
It is easy for us to find local volunteers when we have foreigners working in the village.  However, we have had trouble finding local people to do work when we are not present to lead an activity.  When we are not directing the work the villagers are not productive.  Why is this?

The villagers are building something that they have never had, or even seen before.  We are asking them to grow plants that they have never grown or, in many cases, never eaten.  We believe that this is one of the reasons that they do not take the initiative to put material which may be composted into the compost bins.  They are also not taking advantage of the materials that we have made available to them to build additional raised beds.

While this may seem like a wasted opportunity to us, the village people are more focused on their immediate needs of food and work for money.  We are many months away from the first crop, and many villagers only "live for the moment".
The trip through the jungle paths.
Differing perspectives
However, the villagers are not "lazy".  What we as foreigners may see as a priority, may be far from the interest of the indigenous people of the community.  Our job with the project is to help them to learn of and experience the benefits of improved nutrition from vegetables.  They may also benefit from the additional income from sales of surplus vegetables.
Our bins were almost complete in this picture.

The first addition to the compost pile!

Our younger volunteers sharing some shade and a soda on a very hot day.

The kids love to climb!
The children are our future
The children of the village are very curious and always willing to help.  It is our hope that they will enthusiastically take ownership of the gardens.  One day they will be the leaders of the community!

At last we have our first raised bed.  Now we must create the soil to fill it!

The children in this picture are wearing their school uniforms.

Humberto is adding material to the compost pile.
Poco a poco
Little by little we hope that all of the community will take part in building, caring for, and benefiting from the community gardens.  Please follow our progress on this blog and on our Facebook page!