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CEN eNewsletter - January 2013                                                                          Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
Micro-Hydrokinetic Electricity Project: Bringing Energy to Communities in the Brazilian Amazon
From the Empowerblog: Substance over Statistics
Creating Capital: Opening New Doors for Entrepreneurship
Volunteer Spotlight: Terrel Chang
Join us at Trivia Night in Bellingham, January 24th
How You Can Help
Donate to CEN Follow CEN on facebookFoward this NL to a friend

Letter from the Director


I hope everyone had wonderful holidays! Although the holidays are now over, our spirits are still high at CEN due to everything we’re planning over the next couple of months. At the end of this month, I will be traveling down to the Brazilian Amazon, my first visit in two years. While there, I hope to accomplish the following:  

  • Lead a small group of tourists to explore the culture, environment and people of the Amazon Rainforest. We hope the visit will have a large impact on the communities by providing them with the crucial market feedback they need to better plan and execute their efforts for creating sustainable and comprehensive economic development, based on Community-Based Tourism.

  • Begin evaluation on the feasibility of using a micro-hydrokinetic generator as a source of reliable and economical electricity by measuring river current in the Tapajós River. The communities living in this area have no possibility of receiving centrally generated electricity because their isolation makes it uneconomical for power lines to reach them.  Micro-hydrokinetic energy is a low-impact, low cost technology used in an increasing number of waterways around the world to generate affordable electricity with a minimal environmental footprint. This could provide affordable and reliable electricity for communities of the region, improving health, income and quality of life. Please click here to read the article in this newsletter about the project.

  • Place and facilitate an order for purses from Couro Ecologico, the worker’s owned association that crafts products from locally and sustainably harvested, natural rubber. I will bring the finished purses back to the U.S. with me to sell directly to customers, as well as through local retailers.  I will also share feedback we’ve gathered from retailers and customers that will help the producers improve their products.  

  • Share the results of our evaluation of the Banco da Mulher with the fund's members for their feedback before finalizing and publishing the report. You can read more about this here.

The whirlwind of activities and progress in a range of areas would not be possible without the help of our supporters. I would also like to thank everyone who supported us during the year end Global Giving Challenge. Although we did not reach the $5000 total donations through at least 40 donors goal needed to secure us a permanent place on the site, the donations we received will be put to use right away during my February visit to begin measuring the water current along the river and evaluate the suitability of using Micro-hydrokinetic energy to provide badly-needed electricity to the community of Suruacá.

I would also like to thank everyone who used our Amazon.com link to purchase gifts over the holidays. Remember, by clicking on the link, you are choosing to continue to support our work. Your support allowed us to achieve the progress we’ve reached, and will continue to enable us to empower communities to break the cycle of poverty and foster long-term, sustainable development.

There will be several fun, upcoming events happening in Bellingham and Seattle and hope you can help support us. Please click on the “Upcoming Events” section of this newsletter to learn more!

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

p.s. In case you missed it I was interviewed by www.whydev.org a few months ago about the importance of strengthening  self-reliance in order to ensure the sustainability of community development. You can read the article by clicking here.

Micro-Hydrokinetic Electricity Project: Bringing Affordable, Reliable, and Environmentally Friendly Energy to Communities in the Brazilian Amazon

by Carly Schmidt


The 6,500 residents of the communities along the western shore of the Tapajós River, like hundreds of thousands of people throughout the Brazilian Amazon, live without reliable access to electricity. The current energy options they have are either not technically or economically viable for communities to use for more than a few hours a day.  This leaves them without the reliable electricity that is essential to storing medicines, providing light to study by, operating equipment needed to earn a living, and improving their quality of life in many other ways.  For these reasons, CEN will evaluate the feasibility of using micro-hydrokinetic energy from the nearby Tapajós River to provide these communities with electricity.  This form of energy technology is well-suited to the communities, as they are located along one of Brazil’s largest rivers.  It would involve placing small hydrokinetic turbines in the river that will use the flow of water to generate electricity for the community. Learn more>>.

RSS Feed iconFrom the Empowerblog: Substance over Statistics

by Matt Rosier

"From the Empowerblog" is a regular feature of our newsletter where we highlight one of the postings to our organization's blog. Please subscribe to the RSS feed so you can receive new postings as soon as they are posted. Please note that we had to change the feed service we used so please re-subscribe to the new feed to continue receiving regular posts, even if you subscribed prior to November 1, 2012. Subscribe to CEN's Empowerblog

Boy and Girl with dog

Since I’ve started working with CEN, I’ve realized that there are overwhelming social and psychological aspects of poverty that defy measurement. How do you measure marginalization and the disintegration of identity? How do you measure powerlessness and insecurity? It doesn’t seem like I could even begin to understand these fundamental facets of impoverishment without getting closer to people and their communities, without seeking to understand their perspectives and hear their stories. It’s the stories that illuminate the full scope of poverty.

Of course, when you hide behind data, it’s easier to dismiss stories as anecdotal and to measure progress only by trends in a couple of indicators. Throwing money and material resources at poverty may make a bureaucrat feel good, but it doesn’t cut it for me. I’m drawn to the CEN approach, which is one of engagement with people and communities. It’s an approach that listens rather than tells and assists rather than directs. Learn more>> 

Creating Capital: Opening New Doors for Entrepreneurship

by Elise Koncsek

Suruaca Womens group

Most residents in the Lower Amazon have few options for accessing the capital that would help them build viable micro-scale businesses to increase their income levels. Their most common sources of entrepreneurial funds come from their own savings and/or borrowing money from family members. These options are very limited which undermines the growth of their micro-enterprise. Microfinance is recognized as an effective instrument of change, empowering individuals to build small businesses that help them become economically self-sufficient. The Banco da Mulher is a Rotating Savings Fund that was formed in 2007 in the Brazilian Amazon as a way of generating income for members of a regional women's association, AOMT - BAM. CEN's Banco da Mulher Project is an in-depth assessment of the bank with the objectives of (1) providing bank organizers with concrete recommendations, and (2) providing CEN and other organizations with a model to draw upon for future projects. Learn more>> 

Volunteer Spotlight IconVolunteer Spotlight: Product Manager Terrel Chang Uses Innovation and Hard Work to Help CEN Achieve Goals

by Amanda Maier


Terrel Chang is currently employed as a business analyst/project manager at Morgan Stanley in London, where he manages a team that focuses on projects for institutional equities trade processing in Europe. For the past five months as a CEN volunteer, Terrel did not waste any time towards proving he is an invaluable asset to the organization. This includes incorporating a variety of techniques to assist the organization with raising capital through an Amazon.com program. Now, Amazon.com awards CEN up to 6% of the amount of sale from CEN customers that click on a certain link. Terrel’s dedicated work ethic has helped CEN make an impact around the world. Thanks for all you do Terrel! Learn more>> 

Upcoming events imageUpcoming Events ...

Trivia Night at the Beaver Inn - Bellingham, WA

January 24, 2013
7:30 - 9:30 pm Beaver Inn

115 East Holly Street
Bellingham, WA 98225

$9 entry
21 + only

Join us for Trivia Night at the Beaver Inn in Bellingham. Have fun and escape winter. Come dressed in tropical clothes.

  • Fun
  • Trivia contest
  • Great prizes
  • Auction for a professional massage, and more
  • 50-50 raffle
  • Drink specials

Proceeds from any sales will benefit CEN. More Info »

Trivia night

Brazilian Music, Dance and Capoeira

March 16, 2013
7:00 - 9:30 pm

Capoeira Malês SoDo Studio
Old Rainier Brewery/Tully's Building
3150 Airport Way
Seattle, WA 98138

Save the Date

Details to follow, or visit the event page on our website for the latest information

capoeira instruments

How you can help imageHow You Can Help

Support CEN with all your Amazon.com Purchases

Amazon.com link

Although the holidays are over, 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!

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

CEN is Looking to Expand it's Board

board of Directors

As we grow to service more communities, we’re looking to deepen our leadership by expanding the size and depth of our Board of Directors. Service on our Board offers a tremendous opportunity to help mold our programs and strategies, the impact of which will be felt for many years. We are looking for candidates who share a passion and commitment to empowering communities in developing countries so they can develop themselves. Candidates should also have ten or more years of experience with international community development, skills development/education, tourism, product development and/or marketing, fundraising, marketing, organizational development and leadership. Board members are also expected to contribute annually directly or indirectly to the organization, according to their financial ability, 

Please note that we have an urgent need for someone with accounting and finance experience, since our current Treasurer is planning to step down from the board soon.

Board members are expected to contribute a minimum of eight hours monthly and to actively participate in board meetings. If you, or someone you know would like to learn more, please visit the Join our Board Page on our website or contact Bob Bortner for more information.

Sign Up for CEN’s Capital One® Visa Card

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Save on foreign transaction fees for international travel

CEN's Capital One Card

CEN's Capitol One Credit 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!

It’s a great credit card too, with low fees and no foreign transaction fees. Learn more>>



Kristine Fontanilla

Contributing Writers

Elise Koncsek
Amanda Maier
Carly Schmidt
Matt Rosier

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