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CEN eNewsletter - September 2013                                                                       Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
The Rural Family Home Fosters Sustainable Livelihoods
New Project: Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project
New Project: Suruacá School Electrification Expansion Project
Announcing Two New Adventure Tours to the Amazon from CEN
From our EmpowerBlog: #FirstWorldProblems
When You Travel…Absorb the Culture, Not the Foreign Transaction Fees
How You Can Help
Donate to CEN Follow CEN on facebookFoward this NL to a friend

Letter from the Director

BobI’d like to apologize to everyone that it’s been nearly five months since we sent out the last CEN newsletter. The reason for this has not been from a lack of progress to talk to you about, but rather being so busy!

Over the past few months, we’ve continued to focus on strengthening the ability of Eixo Forte residents to manage their comprehensive regional plan, which was designed to build sustainable livelihoods in their communities through community-based tourism. One example of residents’ growing involvement and capability is the increasing number of local festivals that communities in the region either have held or are organizing now. For example, in early June, the Gastronomy Festival in the tiny community of Vila Nova celebrated local cuisine and locally produced ingredients. São Francisco’s Folkloric Dance Festival in August helped revive local interest in folkloric dance. These festivals not only generated income from the many visitors from the nearby city of Santarém, but they also provided valuable experience that organizers need to expand tourism in the region.

In this edition of our newsletter, please read about the opportunity to accompany me to the Amazon this fall or winter. Like the first trip we organized this February, the tour offers an intimate experience of local forests, rivers, wildlife and communities, and it will support the communities’ efforts to strengthen their community-based tourism program. Along the way, I will share my stories and insights from over a decade of visiting the region – hopefully that won’t scare everyone off! We have set three possible departure dates: in mid-November, early January or early February. The November date overlaps with the local celebrations Caipira Chicken Festival. (A caipira chicken is a special variety with an especially rich flavor.) We have also teamed up with the Associação Amazônia, a Brazilian nongovernmental organization, to offer an opportunity to visit the pristine Amazon forest, where you can experience firsthand the sort of wildlife you normally only see in wildlife documentaries. Learn more>>

In this edition of the newsletter, we are also announcing two exciting new projects in the region. The Suruacá School Electrification Expansion Project will provide the electricity the school needs to double the number of laptops available to students and faculty for schoolwork, as well as power a freezer that will allow the school to provide a nutritious lunch and improve overall child nutrition in the community. Learn more>>

The Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project will allow the Rural Family Home to construct a well for clean drinking water for staff, students and their neighbors in the small community of Santa Maria. The Rural Family Home offers youth a locally relevant, interdisciplinary education they need to earn a good, sustainable living in their community, without having to emigrate to urban areas to look for work. Both projects are important steps we’re taking to support community efforts that provide immediate benefits for residents, while we simultaneously foster the long-term transformation of the communities through our strategic programs, such as the Community-Based Tourism Program. Learn more>>

Thank you everyone for your financial and moral support, because our progress these past months would not have been possible without you! If you have any questions about our work, or how you can help, please drop me a line.

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

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The Rural Family Home Shows Local Youth How to Build Sustainable Livelihoods in Their Own Communities, Reducing Out-migration to Cities.

by Colin Curley

CFR Student with plant

The Rural Family Home (or Casa Familiar Rural [CFR], in Portuguese) offers rural youth a locally relevant, interdisciplinary education that enables them to act as rural professionals, in addition to becoming men and women able to exercise their full rights and responsibilities as citizens. In this respect, the CFR seeks to improve the quality of life for local youth through the acquisition and application of expertise and scientific knowledge. An alternative to the formal secondary education provided by the government, the CFR demonstrates to youth how they can create sustainable vocations for themselves in such fields as farming, livestock production, and tourism, right within their own communities.

The CFR in the Eixo Forte belongs to an international movement with hundreds of similar centers around the world, including several others in Brazil. The CFR has the potential to become a critical resource for the region by strengthening the skills and resources of the youth of the region so that they are capable of building sustainable livelihoods for themselves. Without these skills, they will continue to out-migrate from their communities to urban areas in search of perceived better economic opportunities, resulting in the loss of their unique lifestyle, culture, and ecological base.  Learn More>>

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New Project: Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project

Addressing the youth of the Eixo Forte’s thirst for opportunity
by Bob Bortner

Suruaca's Water Well - similar to what we're going to build

One of the greatest threats to communities is the loss of its youth. When youth leave a community, they, in many ways, take with them the future of that community. Not only does urban migration aggravate overcrowding and poverty there, but it also robs their home communities of their vital energy, and puts their community's cultural identity at risk. Once youth leave, few return to live in their home area.

The Rural Family Home of the Eixo Forte (“CFR”) has great potential to provide youth of the region with a secondary education that enables them build sustainable livelihoods for themselves, within the communities, rather than migrate to urban areas. The center’s own future is compromised though by a lack of permanent facilities, as well as a source of drinking water.

Through the Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project, CEN will help the CFR build a well that will supply the center, as well as its host community of Santa Maria, with clean drinking water. The construction of the well will be a first step towards assisting the CFR to construct a permanent facility on its land, a precondition of making the center sustainable. Learn more about CEN’s efforts and how you can help >>

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New Project: Suruacá School Electrification Expansion Project Will Help Meet Students’ Exploding Quest for Information

by Kerry Dirk

Suruaca's Computers

The availability of information and communication technology (ICT) in the community of Suruacá, has helped it overcome its isolation and improve the quality of education available to youth in the community. It has done this by allowing teachers to make their classes more interesting by supplement their teaching materials and by nurturing students’ curiosity and problem solving skills through access to a wealth of information far beyond what is available in the few textbooks they have. Because of this, demand for use of the laptops by students and school staff far exceeds the capacity the current computers can meet.  

The community of Suruacá, located on the western shore of the Tapajós River in the Brazilian Amazon, like many isolated communities in the Brazilian Amazon, and is not connected to the regional electrical grid.  As result, the school uses a small photovoltaic system to charge its existing laptops and internet access. While the school has secured five more laptops to meet demand, the existing photovoltaic system does not have sufficient capacity to run the new machines.

The Suruacá School Electrification Expansion Project will expand the capacity of the existing photovoltaic system in community's only school so it can power twice the number of laptops available to students and teachers. This will provide them with increased access to information and support for research and curriculum development. The expanded system will also be used to power a freezer necessary to store food for a school lunch program, giving students access to nutritious lunches and two daily snacks, which will improve child nutrition in the area. Learn more about CEN’s efforts and how you can help >>

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CEN’s Two New Tours to the Amazon Provide Communities with Opportunities to Build Their Sustainable Tourism Industry

by Shiv Shetty

Resident hugging guest in the Eixo Forte

A resident in the Eixo Forte welcomes Ron Harmon, a guest on this past February’s trip, to her community

CEN is pleased to announce two new adventures to the Amazon region in part of the Community-Based Tourism Program; One tour will visit several communities along the upper Tapajós River, while the other will journey deep into the pristine Amazon jungle. Both tours will promote economic, social and environmentally sustainable development using community-based tourism as an engine for growth.  One way we do this is by slowly introducing the communities to a growing number of tourists, allowing them the opportunity to build experience hosting cross-cultural guests, and to professionalize their level of skills.

The Tapajós River Communities and Forest Discovery: CEN Founder-led Tour will include Eixo Forte and the Tapajós National Forest, located along the upper stretches of the Tapajós River. Both areas are protected due to their diversity and environmental sensitivity, which has largely protected them from the deforestation nearby.  In addition to offering an opportunity to viewing amazing wildlife, this trip, which will be limited to no more than 8 people, will give the attendees the opportunity to experience and interact with the local communities while simultaneously learning the culture and daily life of its people.  CEN Director, Bob Bortner, who will lead this intimate expedition, will share over a decade of personal experience in the region.   Learn more about this tour>>
The second tour, Experience the Pristine Amazon in Xixuaú-Xiparinã  will visit a nature lover’s wonderland. As a protected forest reserve, the region is home to countless species of birds and animals. Parrots, toucans and several birds of prey are indigenous to the region; while animals such as the endangered giant river otter, gray and pink river dolphins, caimans, various kinds of monkeys and jaguars are among other inhabitants of the region. During the high-water season, the area is characterized by vast tracts of igapó (flooded forest), and the low water season presents immense sandy beaches and extreme concentrations of aquatic life. This makes for an excellent canoing, fishing, hiking or photography expedition. Learn more about this tour>>

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RSS Feed iconFrom the Empowerblog:#FirstWorldProblems

CEN student volunteer puts her “problems” into perspective with those of the worlds’ poor
by Maitreyee Joshi

Maitreyee JoshiMaitreyee Joshi is currently a senior at Lynbrook High School, San Jose. She is an aspiring tech and social entrepreneur and is in process of founding a social entrepreneurship company to build software technologies to assist the disabled and the impoverished. To learn more, please visit her website: www.maitreyeejoshi.com. Subscribe to CEN’s EmpowerBlog to automatically receive notifications of new postings.

Girl texting

I can’t imagine what I would do without my MacBook Pro, iPhone, Facebook or the million other technologies that I take for granted every day. It seems like the end of the world when I’m unable to Facebook message my friend or enjoy Youtube videos.  I’ve also cried my heart out for not getting that A in a class or over fighting with my parents about cleaning my room.

My biggest worries are getting into a good college, having an exciting social life and finding a job. Chances are, your worries are quite similar. Though these problems seem overwhelming at times, when I think about it, all of these issues are so petty, especially when I think about the issues that people face who are less fortunate than me. And that is why I volunteer for nonprofit organizations.

I volunteer with nonprofit organizations not only because I am helping those in need, but also because it helps me gain a better perspective about my own life. Whenever these times come, when I feel like crying about school or having to work so hard, I think about the millions of other children who would love to be in my place. These children who would give anything to attend school for the sake of learning. Children who would love to clean their room because that meant that they actually had a place to live. In comparison to their realities of poverty, abuse and neglect, my worries seem so insignificant and minuscule.

Many towns in rural areas, such as Eixo Forte, lack basic necessities, such as water
systems, that are essential to perform any activity. Impoverished families living in these areas make a living through subsistence farming and thus are barely able to support themselves, let alone the costs of constructing a water distribution system and a well. The lack of these basic necessities hinders the education of children and development of the town. Essentially, the lack of basic necessities creates an endless cycle of poverty that the residents in these rural areas are unable to escape.

So while our biggest worries may be earning more money to buy the newest iPhone, there are many people in the world whose worries are finding clean water and putting the next meal on their table. I think it is only right if we take just a few minutes out of our day to appreciate all that we have and volunteer to help those less fortunate. Whether it be volunteering at a local school or donating a few extra dollars to help build wells in rural areas, you will not only give someone else a brighter future, but gain a more enlightened and optimistic perspective on your life as well.

RSS Feed imageSubscribe to CEN’s EmpowerBlog

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When You Travel…

Absorb the Culture, Not the Foreign Transaction Fees

CEN's Capitol One Connect card can save you hundreds of dollars on foreign transaction fees from your international travel while supporting CEN.

CEN's Capitol One Card

CEN has teamed up with Capital One® Card Lab Connect to bring you specially designed CEN credit cards. With every purchase, you can help build and expand our programs in the rural communities!

With low fees and no foreign transaction fees, you can save hundreds of dollars a year. This makes an especially great credit card for anyone who travels outside the US. Read more>>

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How you can help imageHow You Can Help

Does your company have a Fall Giving Campaign?

If so, please put us in touch with the organizers
Employee Giving

If your employer is one of the many that have a campaign in the fall to encourage employees to support charitable causes, please help us get in touch to see if CEN can participate in their campaign this year. Our participation could help raise a lot of additional funds to support our programs – all made possible because of your call. Please contact Bob Bortner

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Remember to use CENs Amazon.com link when making back to school purchases from Amazon.com

Buy from the world's most popular online store and support CEN at the same time
CEN's Link for Amazon.com

Please don’t forget to use our special link for purchasing from Amazon.com. By using this link or clicking on the Amazon.com image to the left, a portion of the proceeds from your purchase will be donated from Amazon.com to CEN at no additional cost to you! Use and bookmark this link

Please book this link to use for all your Amazon.com purchases year round. Forward to all your friends for them to use too!

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Bob Bortner

Contributing Writers

Bob Bortner
Colin Curley
Kelly Dirk
Maitreyee Joshi
Shiv Shetty

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