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CEN eNewsletter - October 2014                                                                      Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
CEN Adopts a New Approach to Scale Our Impact Faster
Rural Family Home Resumes Classes as Artesian Well Project Builds Momentum
The CENShop: A Renewed Outlet for Couro Ecológico Handbags
From the Empowerblog: Microfinance: Solution to World Poverty or Another Way for the Rich to Get Richer?
Alternative Holiday Market in Bellingham -  Sunday, November 16, 2014
How You Can Help

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Letter from the Director

BobWith our ten-year anniversary approaching in November, this summer was an optimal time to reflect upon our many accomplishments, identify areas where performance can improve, and plan for meeting our aspirations over the next decade and beyond.
Over the past decade, CEN has achieved a great deal with limited resources. Our key accomplishments include:

  • Developing a comprehensive approach to break the cycle of poverty in developing countries, by empowering communities and their residents to take charge and forge a self-envisioned future.
  • Developing and validating the PRATICAR Learning ApproachTM, which offers CEN and our peers a set of essential and badly-needed tools for strengthening the soft skills and mindsets required for building sustainable and empowered communities.
  • Mobilizing the 16 communities of the Eixo Forte and leading a participative planning process with hundreds of individuals from these communities. Through this two-year process, residents of the communities created a master development plan, reflecting their vision and self-led approach for their communities’ economic and social future.

We are very proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past 10 years through collaboration with our amazing partners and backing from supporters like you. While we have created a foundation for the future, there is a long road ahead before communities everywhere have broken the cycle of poverty.

Through our strategic planning process, we realized that the extraordinary amount of time and energy required by our staff to raise resources has limited the time and energy available to achieve a greater impact. Furthermore, while our all-volunteer staffing model allows us to accomplish a great deal, a lack of stable core staff siphons off a tremendous amount of time and energy needed to train and manage the inevitable staff turnover.

We also identified a wealth of assets within our organization, including expertise in soft skill development, community mobilization and empowerment, utilizing renewable energies, information and information technologies to advance development, grassroots development, e-commerce and more. We will continually explore ways to leverage these strengths to expand our positive outreach.

In response, we have decided to shift our business model. To date, we have designed and directed projects ourselves through local partners, supported largely through donations and grants. Moving forward, we will put increased emphasis on collaborating with larger international organizations by contributing our specific areas of expertise on a fee-for-services basis. This will enable us to expand our positive impact through working on larger projects affecting more people.

Improved financial stability should also allow us to hire a core of paid staff necessary to complement and coordinate volunteers, making possible the higher level of operational stability that we need to build a sustainable, high performing organization.
Please rest assure that although our business model is evolving, our dedication to empowering rural communities in developing countries to break the cycle of poverty and foster long-term, sustainable development has not wavered. Please read more about this in this edition of the CEN eNewsletter.  Learn more>>

In this edition of the eNewsletter we’re also pleased to share recent and notable accomplishments:

  • The Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project has made progress toward raising the resources needed to help the CFR build their well by raising approximately $1,200. CFR only needs $1,629 more to begin construction of the well. With the money raised, CFR is now in a position to mobilize local funding sources. Read more>>
  • The CENShop is back online! It has reopened for business, selling bags, purses, and sandals to environmentally- and socially-conscious shoppers. Read more>>
  • With our shift in resources, we are able to continue work on the Banco da Mulher evaluation, which will provide insight into effective approaches to microfinance. Our goal is to finish by the end of the year. I will be collaborating with two CEN volunteers, Sónia Pires and Marina Celinski.

Also, be sure not to miss the Mehvish Jamal’s look at the microfinance sector as she examines the ways in which microfinance institutions succeed and fail in empowering impoverished communities. Mehvish is a second-year grad student in International Studies and Economics at American University. Read more>>

It’s thanks to all of you that CEN continues to impact communities in need. We are grateful for your ongoing support – whether financial or moral – and we welcome any questions about our work or how you can help.

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

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CEN Takes on a New Approach to Scale Our Impact Faster

by Jeffrey Helzer

Fitting the pieces together through partnerships

Since starting our work nearly a decade ago, CEN has empowered individuals and communities in the Amazon and around the world to improve their quality of life and build self-reliance. With very limited budget and an entirely volunteer-based staff, we achieved a great deal over the past 10 years. Despite these significant accomplishments, our limited resources have greatly limited the numbers of individuals and communities we’ve been able to benefit. We’ve come to realize our current business model just isn’t going to deliver the large scale of impact that we seek. 
In response we have decided to shift our approach from managing projects directly to one where we collaborate with larger international development organizations by contributing our specific areas of expertise on a fee for service basis.

Our commitment to empowering communities to become more self-reliant will not change, but our new approach should permit us to focus more resources on executing projects rather than spending so much time and energy raising money for the projects on our own, as well as simplify internal operations. We hope to scale up our work and benefit more people and communities faster than in the past.  Read more >>

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Rural Family Home Resumes Classes as Artesian Well Project Builds Momentum

by Steven Williams

Rural Family Home planting seeds

In spite of a hiatus caused by financial difficulties, the Rural Family Home (Casa Familiar Rural in Portuguese or CFR) is operating again and making progress in their artesian well project. The Well Project has already mobilized the school and neighboring communities.

By serving as seed capital, the approximately $1,200 that CEN has already raised for the project serves to further empower the CFR to take on a greater share of the responsibility to raise the the rest of the funds it needs to complete the project. Read more>>

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The CENShop: A Renewed Outlet for Couro Ecológico

by Michael Flanagan

Inside the Couro Ecologico factory

Nearly two years after the original CENShop was closed amidst revisions to the CEN website, the outlet for Couro Ecológico products has been re-opened. The artisan-owned association produces an assortment of products including purses and handbags, and supplements the income of more than 15 men and women in the poverty-stricken region. Proceeds from sales provide income for the association’s members and help support CEN’s ongoing effort to empower communities to become more self-reliant.
The current line of Couro Ecológico products available in the new CENShop includes a variety of backpacks, shoulder and messenger bags, purses and sandals. The products are handcrafted and feature authentic Amazonian designs. Environmentally- and socially-conscious shoppers can be proud to wear a bag or purse created from sustainably harvested materials. Read more>> 

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Empowerblog IconFrom Our Empowerblog: Microfinance: Solution to World Poverty or Another Way for the Rich to Get Richer?

by Mehvish Jamal
The Empowerblog hosts regular postings of opt-ed pieces on topics related to international development written by our staff and volunteers. Please subscribe to the RSS feed so you can receive new postings as soon as they are posted.  Subscribe to CEN's Empowerblog

Banco da Mulher Women

Although microfinance has been around for centuries, it was not until its popularization by Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank in the 1980s that it came to be viewed as the “solution to poverty.” For years it was unthinkable to openly criticize microfinance, but recently critics have started to emerge, and boy, do they have a lot to say. What once was hailed as the beginning of the end of world poverty is no longer a crystal-clear path. Many microfinance institutions (MFIs) have shifted away from the pure vision of alleviating poverty, instead making their goal profit-generation for foreign investors. Nonetheless, while the path taken by some MFIs is discouraging, the sector as a whole is far from hopeless.
Unlike many MFIs, Banco da Mulher (Women’s Bank), which operated as a rotating savings fund (ROSCA) in the area around Santarém, Brazil between 2007 and 2009, used members’ own capitol to make loans. It is a promising model for member-based associations throughout the region. In order to facilitate learning for local organizations, CEN is in the process of researching and writing up a report that will document and evaluate what worked and did not work for the fund, as well as recommend areas for improvement. Once the report is finished later this year, CEN plans to organize a workshop in the region to disseminate the conclusions. Read more>>

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Upcoming events imageUpcoming Events ...

Alternative Holiday Market (Bellingham, WA) -  Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday, Novermber 16, 2014 1 - 4 pm
Our Lady of the Assumption Catholic School Gym
2116 Cornwall Avenue
Bellingham, WA 98225

Begin your holiday gift purchase by visiting the 7th Annual Alternative Holiday Market for an eclectic range of hand-made and gently-used goods curated by local Whatcom County non-profits. CEN will be selling products from the communities we serve, as well as a range of fun and functional donated items. Your purchases at our booth will support CEN's work.  More Info »

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How you can help imageHow You Can Help

Donate to Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project

Help satisfy the region’s youth’s thirst for opportunity
Rural Family Home Artesian Well 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 there 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. By giving to the Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project, you will help the school better realize it's powerful potential.

Your continued support is crucial to our continued success. We’ve raised $1200 so far and the Rural Family Home needs only approximately $1,600 before they can break ground on their well. Please help provide clean water for the school by donating today Donate Now>>

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

Every purchase you make supports our projects.

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 from Amazon.com to CEN with no additional cost to you. Last year CEN earned over $300 through the program!

By using the link http://endruralpoverty.org/amazon every time you purchase items from Amazon.com, Amazon pays CEN as much as 10% of your order – without costing you a penny more.

Book this link to use for all your Amazon.com purchases year-round!


Attention Fred Meyer Shoppers - Earn money for CEN just by linking your Fred Meyer Rewards Card with us!

You still earn your Rewards Points, Fuel Points, and Rebates, just as you do today.
Fred Meyer Rewards

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 of any Fred Meyer store.

For more information, Learn more >>

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Visit our Couro Ecológico online store

Sales from the site builds sustainable livelihoods in the Brazilian Amazon
Couro Ecologico

Couro Ecológico's products are unique with their authentic Amazonian design and they're made out of sustainably harvested materials. These bags and purses are waterproof and durable, making them perfect for the environmentally conscious, artistic, or outdoor sport lovers. Your purchase helps support sustainable livelihoods and the way of life of the artisans. Visit our online store>>

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Stephanie Topacio Long

Contributing Writers

Bob Bortner
Tina Dilegge
Mike Flanagan
Mehvish Jamal
Steven Williams

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