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!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Buy a Colombian emerald and educate a student in the Amazon!

One way we raise money for our students is through the sale of emeralds.  Colombia is the source of the best emeralds in the world.  Our emeralds are from the Muzo mines, which have produced the finest emeralds found in Colombia.  (Scroll down to see the emeralds we sell. Please contact me at if you are interested in an emerald!)

The emerald region of Colombia.

I buy the emeralds in the emerald district of Bogota.

Shopping in downtown Bogota.

I test every emerald I buy to verify that it is real.  This is required to ensure that they are not artificial, synthetic, and are of a good to highly exceptional quality.

And now, the emeralds!

Medium studs, $50.

Small studs, $40.

Tiny studs, $30.

Cats, $40.

Natural emerald crystal formation, museum-quality, $400.

Large bracelet, $250.

Angled ring, size 7, $ 150.

Teardrop ring, size 7, $150.

Open-sided ring, size 7, $125.

Vibrant emerald leaf ring, size 8, $300.

Round side-layered ring, size 7, $80.

Rectangular drop earrings, $100

Open-sided, angled emerald ring, size 7, $75.

Larger emerald pendant, $100.

Emerald drop earring and pendant set, $150.

Small bracelet with 5 brilliant emeralds, $150.

Large rectangular drop earrings, $100.

Elegant earrings with very small,
fine emeralds with great color and brilliance, $100.

Inlay ring, $150. SOLD

Teardrop earrings, $150. SOLD

Small curved emerald ring, $60. SOLD

Drop curved ring, $80.  SOLD

Leaf pendant, $300.  SOLD

Pair of emerald leaf earrings, exceptional color and clarity, $400 SOLD

Brilliant, beautiful 1/3 ct.emerald of exceptional color.  18k gold, 3 small diamonds.
Size 8 1/2.
  $750 SOLD

I am with Abelardo, one of the emerald sellers on Calle 13, by the Gold Museum in Bogota.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Critical cargo boat repairs and a new faster wooden boat

Boat time!

This summer was filled with boat repairs and boat building.  Boats are very important for the villages which are along the river.  They are needed to go to the city to buy food, supplies, and to receive medical care.  Wooden boats are the workhorses of the majority of inhabitants of the Amazon.

Returning with our cargo, six hours on the river.

Our first boat is a 39-foot wooden cargo boat.  It is two and a half years old.  It will safely carry up to three metric tons of people, animals, building supplies, and fuel in any and all combinations.  This was our first choice of boat.  It was built by Israel the boat-builder in the Peruvian village of Puerta Alegria, 15 kilometers upriver from the city of Leticia.

Repainting our boat.  We used a new two-part epoxy paint which seemed to have worked very well.

Our cargo boat was first used to transport building supplies for our guesthouse.  Now its main use is to bring students, who are in our scholarship program, to Leticia to buy school supplies.  It is also frequently borrowed by the village school to transport students to events in other river communities.  Occasionally we loan it to a group of villagers to go to church-related functions.

Our cargo boat towing our new wooden boat.
The village does not always have a community boat to transport its members.  They have had boats in the past, but as with many community-owned resources, no one was responsible for the boats' maintenance.  Within three years they were all rotted or unable to safely use.  It is very important that we maintain our boat.

We loaned our boat to the neighboring community of Zaragosa.  They are bringing tons of sand into the port.  The sand will be used to make concrete walkways for the village.  This will help to reduce erosion.

One small part of the total sandbags for the project.

This year we replaced six of the boat's rotten internal braces, the stern board, and repaired and resealed the hull.  We also repainted the outside of the hull with very durable epoxy paint and the inside with flexible polyurethane paint.  It's better than new!  Many villagers are surprised at the good condition of the boat, given its age.  Only about half of the villager's boats are painted.  They rot quickly.
Wood, even when painted, rots quickly in the intense heat and humidity of the Amazon.

While our cargo boat holds a lot of weight and is very stable in the water, it is slow and uses a lot of fuel.  Our first solution was to buy an aluminum boat.  Aluminum boats are lighter than wooden boats of comparable size. They do not rot.  But they do have a big disadvantage.  They cost 10 times the price of a wooden boat which carries the same number of people.

While it looked good, it leaked.

We almost bought a used aluminum boat which was within our budget.  However, after a little investigative work, I found that the hull had been treated badly and repainted.  It had leaks that were not fixed.  One day after bailing (the bailing happened directly before they showed it to me) it was filled with water.

Building the boat in Puerta Alegria.  Israel is a third-generation boat builder.

As an alternative we had a new, smaller wooden boat built.  It is 25 feet long and weighs about a quarter of our large boat.  It is twice as fast and uses much less fuel.  It was also made by Israel.  It was painted with grey epoxy paint on the inside and outside.  When we have trips in which we only have a small amount to transport, or we need more speed, the new boat is excellent to use.

Putting on the finishing touches to the sides while we start to paint the bottom of the boat. 

At last, the day after painting it is ready to launch!

We are continuing our campaign to buy an aluminum boat that will be used by us and the village.  An aluminum boat offers speed, much better stability, and is more economical to run.  It will not have a rot problem.  The only problem is the cost.  We have $1,300 now, we need another $1,200 to buy one.  In Novemeber we will be starting our fundraising, on our Facebook Boat Fundraiser page.  Please help us in our efforts.  Thanks!

A video of us traveling upriver with the new boat!