Letter from the Director
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
- 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
- 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
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
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
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
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.
CEN Founder and Director
CEN Takes on a New Approach to Scale
Our Impact Faster
by Jeffrey Helzer
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 >>
Rural Family Home Resumes Classes as
Artesian Well Project Builds Momentum
by Steven Williams
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
The CENShop: A Renewed Outlet for
by Michael Flanagan
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
From Our Empowerblog: Microfinance: Solution
to World Poverty or Another Way for the Rich to Get Richer?
by Mehvish Jamal
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
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
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
Upcoming 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
How You Can Help
Donate to Rural Family Home Artesian
Help satisfy the region’s youth’s thirst for
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
Use our Amazon.com link whenever you
shop on Amazon.com
Every purchase you make supports our 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. 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.
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
- 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!
still earn your Rewards Points, Fuel Points, and Rebates, just as you
- 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 >>
Visit our Couro Ecológico online
Sales from the site builds sustainable
livelihoods in the Brazilian Amazon
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>>