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 CEN eNewsletter - February 2014                                                                  Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
State of the Organization 2014
Tourism Update – CEN Tours Take a New Direction in 2014
From our Empowerblog: Thinking Away Poverty
Volunteer Spotlight: Leon Kingsley
How You Can Help
Donate to CEN Follow CEN on facebook

Letter from the Director

BobAs the Founder of the Community Empowerment Network (CEN), I continue the honor and privilege to serve as Director.  As we begin anew in 2014, I reflect on the accomplishments of 2013 and remain committed as ever to the vision and purpose of this organization.

As a valued supporter of CEN and subscriber to our eNewsletter, I want to take this opportunity to share a few of our achievements and give gratitude for the generosity of your time and donations. It is important too, to provide an overview of how we are putting your dollars to work. 

We have a clear set direction for 2014 – while continuing our current in-progress efforts. The year ahead holds continued promise and momentum thanks to the CEN team, a dynamic group of volunteers, our Board of Directors, as well as our generous contributors and donors. 

With our promising progress, in truth, our path forward is not without challenges. In this edition of the eNewsletter, I want to highlight a few key programs, recognize and spotlight one of our many valued volunteers, and outline the next steps to meet the needs we must continue to address.

Some of our most notable achievements during last year included:

You can read more about our accomplishments and agenda for 2014 in this edition of the eNewsletter by reading the State of the Organization 2013

In the article CEN Tours Take a New Direction, you can read all about our latest plans for organizing tours to the Amazon. Also, be sure not to miss the thoughts of Claire Abdul-Azeez, a CEN Volunteer originally from Africa but currently living in the Ukraine, about how the mindset of poverty must be overcome if communities are going to break the cycle of poverty they face.

I am confident in the CEN Community as we continue to meet our immediate and long-term objectives.  We strive to continue the ongoing strength of the organization and importantly, to support the mission of providing the support and resources indispensable for community self-sufficiency, improving the lives of those in need.

Please contact me directly if you have any recommendations or just would like to know more about our work.

With gratitude and warmest regards,

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

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State of the Organization 2014 – On The Road to Sustainability

by Bob Bortner

the State of our Organization 2014

Now that 2013 has come to a close, we look back with admiration for the support we have received, progress made within CEN and, importantly, with the programs we support and the people we serve. We have made some important strides in our Amazon water and electrical projects and continue to strive for excellence within the organization. 

As we embark upon this new year, we would like to take this opportunity to have an open discussion with you on the state of CEN and the actions we are taking to further our mission as we continue to make a difference in the Amazon communities we support.  As subscribers to our newsletters - and our supporters - you are all part of our team. We're in this together and our success is your success. It’s important that you know what your support donation has helped fund, what accomplishments we have achieved and what our current needs are so you know how you can best help continue to contribute to our success.

Accomplishments in 2013

During 2013 we made significant progress with our various programs designed to empower rural communities of the Brazilian Amazon, including the execution of our Micro-hydrokinetic Project, Development, launch and funding for two new Projects, and leading the first international group tour to the Eixo Forte. Learn more>>

During 2013 we also made significant progress building CEN’s own sustainability by securing our first grant for our Eixo Forte Community-based Tourism Project and achieving greater financial health of the organization. Given our very small size and the fact that we hav no paid staff in the US, these accomplishments are all the more impressive. Learn more>>

Challenges We Face

Thanks to our accomplishments in 2013 and over the past few years, CEN is in a better position to serve more people by scaling the impact of our work. To take advantage of this opportunity, we need to address several key challenges we are facing including increasing the scale of tangible results of our programs,  strengthening our organizational leadership capacity and increasing the financial resources we have available to meet our mission. Learn more>>

Our goals and plans for the year

Together with the Board and our new Leadership Council, our Director has developed a realistic plan with specific goals and actions for addressing our key challenges. Learn more>>

What you can do to help us achieve each of these goals

As a stakeholder in our organization, there are many things you can take to help CEN realize its goals for 2014, including donating your time or money, help fund-raise, spread the word, think of us when you shop, and share your personal and professional network. Learn more>>

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Tourism Update – CEN Tours Take a New Direction in 2014

by Terrel Chang

The group of visitors to the Eixo Forte on CEN's February 2013 Tour

Organizing tours to the region we serve has played a growing role in our Eixo Forte Community-based Tourism Project and our Community-based Tourism Program for the past two years.  Through the tours, our supporters and other visitors have had the opportunity to visit remote areas of the Amazon, witness the beauty of the Tapajós River and the rainforest, interact with people of the communities, all while providing residents experience that is critical to lead and build a successful, sustainable community-based tourism industry.

After cancelling our Tapajós River Rainforest Tour group tour this winter because we were unable to line up enough people to cover our costs, we’ve decided to step back and re-evaluate program. We are now actively looking to partner with other affinity groups who have access to customer base that would be an appropriate match for the group tour.  Meanwhile we are working with several universities to develop trips tailored to their students, and continuing to offer individual tours to the Tapajós and Eixo Forte, as well as our Experience the Pristine Amazon in Xixuaú-Xiparinã Xixuau TourLearn more>>

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RSS Feed iconFrom the Empowerblog:Thinking Away Poverty

by Claire Abdul-Azeez

Thinking Away Poverty

Is it really possible to think away poverty? I believe that it is. That's because the mental state of a person has a lot to do in with keeping them there. What a person believes about their situation determines their response to that situation.

That's why I applaud CENs approach of showing people who live in rural poverty that they are able to give themselves a better life, and that they can have a controlling hand in eradicating poverty in their communities.

In the past, CEN’s done this by organizing programs that focus on building the right mindsets in our program participants. They teach them to be self-reliant, so that they do not have to wait or depend too much on the government or any other outside source for help.

 Although the mindset alone is not enough to solve poverty by itself, it is with this mindset of self-reliance that people begin to truly understand that their destinies are literally in their own hands.

That's because they are the ones who have to choose to say no to poverty. They have to choose whether to accept the help that we give them... they have to choose to participate in the skill-building and self-development programs we organize... they essentially are the ones who have to decide to make good use of the knowledge they have acquired and change their economic situations. Yes, they have to choose to think (and work) themselves away from poverty. No government or foreign aid worker can help them do that for them.

CEN focuses on helping rural community members make the necessary mindset shift from feeling stuck and helpless, to feeling empowered and self-reliant enough to improve their lives and community. This way communities can tackle whatever problems and challenges they face, whether in the form of healthcare, education, governance or a myriad of issues that they will inevitably need to address in the future. This way, they can leave a legacy for generations to come. A legacy which says that self-reliance is a sure route out of poverty.

Claire Abdul-Azeez (@Clairewriter) is a freelance writer and blogger with many passions, including helping the less privileged. She is also the founder of OrganizedProductivity.com, where she regularly blogs.  Claire is a CEN Volunteer originally from Africa who currently lives in the Ukraine.

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Volunteer Spotlight IconVolunteer Spotlight: Leon Kinsley Empowers Volunteers to Take a Leadership Role in the Organization

by Ashley Truxon

Leon Kinsley

After learning about CEN through the Whatcom Volunteer Center and seeing their meaningful impact on society, Leon Kinsley was inspired to get involved and put to use his professional volunteer management abilities. Since October 2013 he has served as the Manager for the Volunteer Management team, where he works to identify, recruit and interview potential CEN volunteers, as well as improve the satisfaction and effectiveness of active volunteers.

Leon is playing a central role in our growing efforts to empower our all-volunteer staff to take increasing ownership and be successful in their role within the organization. He is coordinating efforts to improve our orientation of new volunteers and their training, as well as working with the IT Team to roll out tools that enable volunteers to collaborate more closely.

As a Bellingham, WA native, he attended the University of Washington and studied library science. He currently works in library and information services at a technical college and lives in Lummi Island, WA. He describes himself as punctual, dependable and busy, which is evident in his numerous volunteer initiatives, which includes serving as technology instructor with the local public library system.

At CEN, he enjoys the opportunity to talk with people from around the world. In his words, “Doing something in or for your community is essential to spreading goodwill and hope.”
Leon’s long-term goals include making a significant impact and contribution to the library profession.

Meet our other volunteers>>

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How you can help imageHow You Can Help

It‘s always fun to give and great to receive. Check out the many ways you can contribute.

There are many ways you can contribute to CEN and the Amazon community, time, money, party, shop!  We offer a variety of ways you can show your support and continue to help our rural Amazon communities, and sometimes, you can benefit too!

Donate to Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project ?

Help satisfy the region’s youth’s thirst for opportunity.
Donate to our Rural Family Home Project

The Rural Family Home is a three-year vocational school located in the Brazilian Amazon which stems the migration of young men and women from rural areas in the region to overcrowded cities by providing them a quality secondary education that builds the skills and opportunities they need to realize a better quality of life and improved economic opportunities in their own communities.

In order to realize its full potential though, the Rural Family Home needs better facilities, including access to clean drinking water. The nearest drinking water is over five kilometers away and needs to be carried daily by the students and staff. The challenge of supplying drinking water consumes staff time, contributes to staff frustration and burnout, and complicates the staff's ability to provide a quality educational experience. We only need a bit under $6000 before the Rural Family Home can break ground on their well. Donations to through our Website will go directly the project. Donate Now>>

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Use our Amazon.com Link whenever you shop on Amazon.com

Every purchase you make supports our projects.

Use this link to Amazon.com to support CENs projects.

Help support us, simply by purchasing from Amazon.com! Go to this link or click the Amazon.com image to the left to get started. Up to 10% of your purchase will be donated from Amazon.com to CEN with no additional cost to you. Last year CEN earned over $300 through the program!

Bookmark this link to use every time you purchase from Amazon.com year round!

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Sign up for the CEN Capitol One® Visa Card

Allow your money to work for you, while helping us!

CEN Capitol One Affinity Visa Card raises money for us and saves you money

Apply for a CEN Capitol One® Visa Credit Card and CEN will automatically earn up to 3% on every purchase you make. Furthermore, you can save hundreds of dollars of year on international transaction fees by using this card instead of your other credit cards when purchasing outside the US, or even on websites based outside the US.

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. Learn More>>

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Alexandra Bell
Melanie Mitchell

Contributing Writers

Claire Abdul-Azeez
Bob Bortner
Terrel Chang
Melanie Mitchell
Ashley Truxon