Letter from the Director
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,
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
CEN Founder and
Can-do attitudes of local residents
transform Amazonian community
by Robert Bortner
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 >>
to our blog
The Rural Family Home
Well Installation Is WELL Underway
by Bob Bortner
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 >>
a short video about the well project >>
The CFR Was More Than a
School for Graduate Celson Batista – It Was a Home
by Kaelyn Lynch
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 >>
Suruacá School Is Powered by Creativity and Resolve
by Bob Bortner
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 >>
short video about the project>>.
CEN's Banco da Mulher
Report Helps Resuscitate the Women’s Movement in the Region
by Shandee Chapman
Before Rosa Maria became a member of
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>>
How You Can
#GivingTuesday Day of
Giving Is Tuesday, Nov. 29th
Help us finish the Rural Family Home Well
Project by Supporting CEN on #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
The first $1500 in donations to CEN on
#GivingTuesday, November 29th will be matched dollar for dollar.
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
Help support us,
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!
Attention Fred Meyer
OR, ID and Alaska)
Attention Fred Meyer Shoppers: Earn Money for CEN Just by Linking Your Fred Meyer Rewards Card With Us!
still earn your rewards points, fuel points, and rebates, just as you
Do you shop at Fred Meyer and have a rewards card?
If so, you can earn CEN a donation
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
- Sign up for the
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!
your rewards points, fuel points, and rebates, just as you do today.
- If you do not have a
they are available at the customer service desk at any Fred Meyer