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CEN eNewsletter - November 2016                                                                  Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
From the EmpowerBlog: Can-do attitudes of local residents transform Amazonian community
The Rural Family Home Well Installation Is WELL Underway
The CFR Was More Than a School for Graduate Celson Batista
Self-Reliance in Suruacá School Is Powered by Creativity and Resolve
CEN's Banco da Mulher Report Helps Resuscitate the Women’s Movement in the Region

How You Can Help

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Letter from the Director

BobFirst off, I would like to apologize to you and all our readers for my long absence from writing. Please don’t interpret my not writing as not having anything to talk about. Rather, after my visit to Brazil last year, my time was consumed by efforts to develop new partnerships (more about that in just a minute) and organizing a number of fundraising events over the summer. Quite the contrary, in fact; I have a lot of news to share with you.

While in Brazil, I was thrilled to observe tremendous progress with our various projects. At the top of the list are the transformations I observed among residents, particularly in the community of Suruacá, where we’ve been working for many years. I beheld residents actively resolving the challenges they faced, as opposed to being resigned to their fate, as was the typical response when we first started working in the community. I also witnessed budding entrepreneurship throughout the community. Read more in this issue about the transformations >>

During this visit, I also saw excellent progress with the Rural Family Home and Suruacá School Electrification Expansion projects, both community-led projects that CEN has been supporting. Through CEN’s strategy of mentoring communities to find creative solutions to challenges they face on their own, we’ve successfully fostered greater self-reliance and strengthened both communities’ problem-solving capacity. Please read more about the progress with the Suruacá School and Rural Family Home projects in this edition of the newsletter >>

I’m also pleased to report that since our last edition of the newsletter, our hardworking volunteers have completed two new videos. One is a new overview of CEN and what we do. The other discusses how, through fostering self-reliance, CEN helped Suruacá School to improve nutrition and computer access. Please be sure to check both videos out.

Finally, in this edition, don’t miss several important ways you can help CEN help communities to help themselves, including during #GivingTuesday, the global day of giving that is coming up on Tuesday, November 29th.

Now onto the news I alluded to earlier about partnerships. As I’ve shared with you in previous newsletters, our results from our pilot project in Brazil were quite promising, with over 90 percent of project participants demonstrating stronger skills over 30 months after the project ended. Over five years later, all program participants who remain in the communities – except for one – continue to actively utilize what they learned toward their microenterprise, and entrepreneurship and greater self-reliance have spread well beyond the original pilot group. Despite our success, though, we continue to struggle to muster the resources we need to pay for the full-time staff we need to sustain the organization over the long term. I have been serving full time as the director and project manager without a regular income since I started CEN 12 years ago.

After considerable deliberation, our board of directors decided late last year that the most immediate path, not only for scaling the impact of our work, but also for generating the resources we need to build CEN, lies in forming partnerships with other international development organizations. We are primarily targeting opportunities where we can incorporate the PRATICAR Learning ApproachTM into potential partners’ existing or prospective projects as a tool for reducing entrenched dependency, learned helplessness and fatalistic attitudes that often undermine the long-term sustainability of projects and general progress in communities.

In February I traveled to Central America to identify and meet with prospective partners. CEN also explored the feasibility of applying our work within the U.S., including within the Native American community. Even as these discussions are still underway, we are continuing to reach out to other members of the international development community.

We would certainly welcome any introductions by any of our readers to organizations that you feel might benefit from collaborating with us to incorporate PRATICAR into their work. Please read (and forward!) our Capacity Statement for Strengthening Soft Skills and Mindsets.

Although we’re targeting specific engagements to apply PRATICAR to strengthen soft skills as the most immediate path for scaling our work, CEN plans to continue to empower communities through an integrated approach that fosters grassroots community development and builds sustainable livelihoods. I envision our work with soft skills to be the means by which we can secure the resources we need to execute our mission in Brazil and around the world.

Thank you all for your continued support, which has made our success possible.

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

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Empowerblog logoFrom CENs Blog

Can-do attitudes of local residents transform Amazonian community 

by Robert Bortner

Larissa's Grocery Store

During Bob’s latest visit to Suruacá, he witnessed many confirmations of how CEN's efforts over the past decade have helped transform the community. Residents have learned to become more self-reliant by addressing the personal community-wide challenges they face on their own; and many more local businesses have taken root and are growing. This has led to greater opportunities for residents and improved standards of living.

While it would be disingenuous for CEN to claim the entire credit for these gains, our focus on strengthening soft skills and continued mentoring in the community have made an important contribution to the transformation of the community. Read the full article >> 

Subscribe to the EmpowerblogSubscribe to our blog

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The Rural Family Home Well Installation Is WELL Underway

by Bob Bortner

Rural Family Home laying pipes

This academic year, the 52 students who are enrolled at the Rural Family Home (Casa Familiar Rural or "CFR"), located in the Eixo Forte, will be able to drink and cook without having to lug water from over 5 kilometers away, thanks to the facility's new artesian well. Not only will this reduce the risk of waterborne disease for students and staff, but it will also increase the instructional time available since students will not have to dedicate time to hauling water every day.

With CEN's assistance, the CFR has raised 66 percent toward the cost of the project, which has allowed the school to excavate the well and install a pump. The school, however, still needs to complete a water storage tank, and lay pipes to connect the center to the pump. “While we still have to walk to the wellhead and start the pump every time we need water, the project has already made a huge improvement in the quality of the lives of students and staff,” says Marilene Rodrigues Rocha, the director of the Association of the CFR-Santarém.

Only $3,305 is needed to complete this project. When finished, the well will also provide clean water to the residents of the neighboring community of Santa Maria. It will also pump water directly to the school’s main building and irrigate the school’s garden and greenhouse used by the horticulture program. Funds we raise during #GivingTuesday and through the end of the year will go toward completing the project. Read more about the CFR’s progress >>
Watch a short video about the well project >>

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The CFR Was More Than a School for Graduate Celson Batista – It Was a Home

by Kaelyn Lynch

Celson's Photo

The Rural Family Home ("CFR") taught Celson Batista many life lessons and gave him the skills and confidence he needed to find engaging work. After graduation, he went on to work with a local agency that provides critical technical agricultural assistance for his rural neighbors. For Celson, the CFR was far more than just a school, but was truly a home. “For me, it is like a mother, in the educational sense,” he says. By providing a nurturing atmosphere for his personal and mental growth, the CFR provided him with basic life skills that went well beyond a classroom. Read more about how the CFR made a real difference in Celson’s life >>

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Self-Reliance in Suruacá School Is Powered by Creativity and Resolve

by Bob Bortner

Claris sitting at a laptop

With the help of CEN's mentoring and limited financial support – as well as a healthy dose of the residents’ own ingenuity – the residents of Suruacá have prevailed in furnishing the electricity required to double the number of laptops available in the community’s school. The laptops allow students to access information and the support they need for learning, and they are necessary for teachers to develop a compelling school curriculum. The community also successfully found a way to generate electricity to power a freezer, enabling the school to provide students with lunches that have improved the quality of child nutrition in the area. All this was achieved despite the formidable challenges created by the community’s isolation and its inability to access electricity from the national grid. Furthermore, the community achieved nearly all of the project’s goals for only 11.3 percent of the project’s original budget.

Through CEN’s strategy of support through mentorship in creative problem-solving, CEN has fostered greater self-reliance and strengthened the community’s capacity to solve problems on its own. Read more about how the school achieved their goals >>
Watch a short video about the project>>.

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CEN's Banco da Mulher Report Helps Resuscitate the Women’s Movement in the Region

by Shandee Chapman

Dona Rosa

Before Rosa Maria became a member of the Banco da Mulher, a rotating savings fund that was founded by a regional women's association, she felt trapped in the cycle of poverty. The few pennies per kilo she could get at the market for her manioc flour, a local food staple, was barely enough to eke out a meager existence for herself and her growing family. Thanks to the Banco da Mulher, which provided her with technical training, access to low-cost loans, and the moral support of her women's association “sisters,” Rosa Maria was able to increase her family's income and attain the financial stability needed to ensure a sustainable future for her family.

Although the fund was instrumental in helping scores of women to start small businesses and create a steady income for their families, it stagnated in 2008 due to operational difficulties and shifting political and social situations in the Amazon region. Late last year, with CEN’s support, the Banco da Mulher held its first meeting in many years. During this all-day retreat, CEN Director Bob Bortner shared with members the conclusions from a draft of CEN's comprehensive report that documents and evaluates the operations and performance of the fund, and offers recommendations for improvement. As a result of this meeting, members resolved to apply fund membership fees to pay down debt incurred by the women’s association. This allowed both the women’s association and the Banco da Mulher to resume their mobilization and capacity development activities with a clean slate. CEN also hopes that by documenting the Banco da Mulher, the fund can become a useful framework for other groups in the region to establish similar programs. Read more about our progress with the Banco da Mulher>>

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How you can help imageHow You Can Help

#GivingTuesday Day of Giving Is Tuesday, Nov. 29th

Help us finish the Rural Family Home Well Project by Supporting CEN on #GivingTuesday
#GivingTuesday 2016

#GivingTuesday is a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, and kicks off the charitable season, when many focus on their holiday and end-of-year giving. This year, all proceeds that CEN receives from #GivingTuesday will go toward the Rural Family Home Well Project. Our goal this year is to raise the final $3,305 needed to complete the project.

You can really help CEN meet this goal by making a contribution. Also, In the days leading up to #GivingTuesday and on the day of the event, please share our emails and Facebook posts with friends, family and colleagues and ask them to donate as well (pun intended).

Be sure to follow us on Find us on Facebook

The first $1500 in donations to CEN on #GivingTuesday, November 29th will be matched dollar for dollar.

donate to Global Challenge

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Use Our Amazon.com Link When You Shop on Amazon.com - This Holiday Season or Anytime

Benefit the actual Amazon when you shop on Amazon

CEN Amazon.com Link

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. A portion of your purchase will be donated by Amazon.com to CEN with no additional cost to you. Last year CEN earned over $350 through the program!

By going to endruralpoverty.org/amazon every time you purchase from Amazon.com, Amazon will contribute as much as 10% of your order  – without costing you a penny more.

Bookmark this page to use it for all your Amazon.com purchases year-round!

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Attention Fred Meyer Shoppers (WA, OR, ID and Alaska)

Attention Fred Meyer Shoppers: Earn Money for CEN Just by Linking Your Fred Meyer Rewards Card With Us!
Fred Meyer Community Rewards Program
You still earn your rewards points, fuel points, and rebates, just as you do today.

Do you shop at Fred Meyer and have a rewards card?

If so, you can earn CEN a donation from Fred Meyer every time you shop, just by linking your rewards card to CEN.

It’s very easy and doesn’t cost you a dime. Here’s how the program works:

  • Sign up for the Community Rewards program by linking your Fred Meyer rewards card to CEN at www.fredmeyer.com/communityrewards. You can search for us by our name or by our non-profit number, 83204.
  • Then, every time you shop and use your rewards card, you are helping CEN earn a donation!
  • You still earn your rewards points, fuel points, and rebates, just as you do today.
  • If you do not have a rewards card, they are available at the customer service desk at any Fred Meyer store.

Learn More>>



Robert Bortner


Bob Bortner
Shandee Chapman
Susan Kim
Kaelyn Lynch

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