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CEN eNewsletter - September 2015                                                                      Contact Us

In this issue...

Letter from the Director
GlobalGiving Challenge Bonus Day Is Sept. 9th
Rural Family Home Well Construction Continues to Progress
Grassroots Development Strengthens Communities’ Ability to “Own” Their Own Development
CEN Empowers Residents to Build Sustainable Livelihoods
Report to Help Other Local Groups to Learn from the Banco da Mulher’s Experience
Join CEN Director Bob Bortner in the Amazon This October
Volunteer Spotlight: Kaelyn Lynch
How You Can Help

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Letter from the Director

BobIt’s been nearly six months since we sent out the last CEN newsletter, and while I apologize for the delay, I’m pleased to report that the delay was due to significant progress in most of the top priorities we announced in our last newsletter.

Establishing Partnerships With Larger Development Organizations

As mentioned in our last newsletter, CEN has been exploring partnerships with larger organizations with established funders where we can contribute our knowledge of strengthening soft skills. To this end, I spent a month in Washington, D.C., in late March to meet with relevant development organizations. While many expressed interest in our work, they had limited flexibility in designing their programs, as the framework for their programs is often closely specified by funders, such as USAID. We concluded that such partnerships will still require a significant investment of time and resources, likely requiring our close interaction with the funders ourselves.

Meanwhile, we became aware of a growing recognition among social services in the Puget Sound area that stronger soft skills can help address many of the problems faced by at-risk communities in the region. Therefore, we are currently meeting with social service agencies in the Puget Sound, including Native American groups, to explore the feasibility of collaborating with them to build the tools they need to evaluate and strengthen crucial soft skills of the populations they serve. Doing so would provide an opportunity to significantly expand the benefits of our work for a comparatively low cost. It can also offer a viable path to support the cost of our continued work in the Brazilian Amazon, as well as the investments we will need in order to partner with larger international development organizations over the long run.

Finishing Our Evaluation of the Banco da Mulher Rotating Savings Fund

We’ve completed a first draft of our Banco da Mulher evaluation. Through the research and writing process, I interviewed many of the fund’s members. A few weeks ago, I met with fund co-founder Eunice Sena while she was in the U.S. to solicit her thoughts and comments on the report, and we’re now putting on the final touches. Next month, we look forward to presenting the evaluation to members at the fund’s first membership meeting in many years. Read more >>

Supporting Community-Led Initiatives

We continue to support several community-led initiatives, including the Rural Family Home (CFR) Artesian Well Project and the Suruacá School Electrification Expansion Project. Since last writing you, the CFR has used the donations we already received to successfully excavate the well. Read more >>

The CFR still needs just under $3,000, however, to purchase a pump and complete the well, and approximately another $4,100 to install the pipes it needs to provide clean water directly to the school, as well as the homes in the community where it is located. In addition to online fundraising, we’ve been seeking local corporate sponsors. Mark Harding, who worked closely with corporate social responsibility initiatives before retiring from alcoholic beverage giant Diageo, recently joined our efforts.

We are anxious to make notable progress toward both of these goals before the middle of October so that I can personally deliver the donations when I visit. This will allow us save the bank transfer fees to have more impact on the ground.

CEN’s GlobalGiving campaign is currently underway, running from Sept. 1 to Sept. 15. All funds raised will be used for the Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project, which will bring clean water to the school’s staff, students, and community as a whole. We encourage you to contribute on the Bonus Day on Sept. 9. All donations made that day will be matched, making contributions go further. Read more >>

I welcome anyone who would like to join me for a week or more on my upcoming trip to Brazil in late October or early November. The trip will include visits to several communities that CEN works with in the Amazon. Read more >>

Also, be sure to check out our volunteer spotlight on one of our newest writers, the well-traveled Kaelyn Lynch.

I’d like to express my gratitude for your ongoing support, be it financial or moral. Thanks to you, we’re able to continue our work empowering communities in need. We welcome any questions about our work or how you can help.

Bob Bortner

CEN Founder and Director

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Sept. 9th is GlobalGiving Bonus Day

Maximize Your Impact on the Lives of Youth in the Amazon

by Stephanie Long

Children in front of Kitchen

CEN is participating in the GlobalGiving challenge to assist the Rural Family Home (CFR) of the Amazon’s Eixo Forte in raising the funds it needs to complete its artesian well project, which will bring clean drinking water to the staff, students, and members of the Santa Maria community. The area is one in which youth often must leave their home communities and search for economic advancement elsewhere – a problem the CFR seeks to solve by providing vocational programs that teach young adults living in rural areas the skills they need to develop sustainable livelihoods.

With a GlobalGiving Bonus Day coming up on Sept. 9th, a portion of funds donated on that date will be matched, stretching the impact of those donations. Contributions will improve the education opportunities, along with the health, of students who are seeking to improve their own quality of life, as well as that of their community.

Please maximize your impact by making a contribution on Sept. 9th, and then help us spread the word by challenging your friends and family to give as well!

Watch this video for more information about the impact your contribution to the CFR’s artesian well project will have on youth in the Eixo Forte.

Your donations of any size will make an enormous difference.

Donate now

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Rural Family Home Well Construction Continues to Progress

by Bob Bortner

Rural Family Home planting seeds

Progress continues on the artesian well project of the Eixo Forte’s Rural Family Home (CFR). As of last month, CFR has successfully excavated the well but has had to cap it until they can raise the approximately $3,000 more needed to purchase a pump and complete the well. The entire project will require an additional $4,100 to install the pipes directly into the school facility, as well as to the homes in the community of Santa Maria where the CFR is  located.

The Rural Family Homes (CFR), a three-year vocational programs for rural young men and women, has a proven track record in many other parts of the Brazil for improving the quality of life and opportunities for sustainable livelihoods for local youth. The CFR in the Eixo Forte, however, has not yet been able to realize its true potential, because it lacks badly needed basic infrastructure, including access to clean drinking water for its staff and students.

When completed, this project will:

  • Provide clean water to the staff and students of the CFR, and to over 200 residents of Santa Maria
  • Improve the staff's ability to provide a quality educational experience
  • Better the CFR's ability to recruit students to enroll in the program
  • Build and connect modern latrines to their home.
  • Be a critical step toward building a permanent facility for the CFR and realizes its full potential.

Read more>>

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Grassroots Development Strengthens Communities’ Ability to “Own” Their Own Development

by Sarah Allen

Grassroots Development

Many impoverished individuals and communities worldwide lack control over the factors and decision-making processes that shape their lives – perpetuating the cycle of poverty. This lack of control undermines self-sustaining development and sustainable positive change, regardless of the amount of resources spent.

CEN empowers communities by strengthening their grassroots capacity to manage their development process from the bottom up, so that it coincides with the culture, values, visions and aspirations of the community. By developing community ownership of the process – and enabling residents with the skills and confidence to bring their plans to fruition – long-term sustainability is more attainable. Read More>>

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CEN Empowers Residents to Build Sustainable Livelihoods

by Sarah Allen

Rennerclay working with wood

In many rural areas of the world, residents eke out a meager subsistence as small stakeholder farmers.  For example, in the Brazilian Amazon, many individuals support their families by raising manioc, a starchy root that is a local staple in the diet of residents of the region. However, growing manioc is very labor-intensive and generates very limited income for the amount of effort required to grow it.

CEN helps small stakeholders like these to build sustainable livelihoods, such as producing agricultural products with higher value than traditional crops, value-added agriculture, services, and handicrafts. For example, through the Couro Ecológico project, we have helped residents convert sustainably harvested rubber latex into stylish women’s handbags that are being sold in boutiques in Brazil and other countries. Read More>> 

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Report to Help Other Local Groups to Learn from the Banco da Mulher’s Experience

by Lindsay Jordan

Santarem Womens Group

In the lower Amazon, most residents have few options for accessing capital to help them build viable micro-scale businesses. The most common sources of entrepreneurial funds come from their own savings and/or money borrowed from family members. These options are very limited, which undermines microenterprise growth.

The Banco da Mulher, one of the few such funds in the Brazilian Amazon – and the only rotating savings funds in the region around Santarém – made loans between 2003 and 2008. The projects these loans made possible resulted in an increase in income, as well as sense of security and personal empowerment for borrowers and even those who never took out loans.

Several years ago CEN Director Bob Bortner met personally with many of the fund’s members to conduct in depth interviews about the Banco da Mulher, as well as its impact on their lives. Using this rich trove of information, as well as access to the fund’s financial and operational records, CEN is putting the final touches on a comprehensive report that documents and evaluates the operations and performance of the fund, as well as offers recommendations for improvement. With this report we hope that the Banco da Mulher can become a framework for other groups in the region to establish similar programs.

Recently we learned that the regional women’s group AOMT-BAM, which is the Banco da Mulher’s parent organization, has restructured and in October will host its first membership meeting in many years. We are planning to share our findings and recommendations with members at this meeting, and that it will serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the fund and the AOMT-BAM. Read more>>

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Join CEN Director Bob Bortner in the Amazon This October

by Stephanie Long

Boat down the river Amazon

With CEN Director Bob Bortner planning to head to the Brazilian Amazon this October to visit the communities with which our organization works, we invite you to join. You’ll get an up close and personal look at the projects we support, as well as the opportunity to visit vibrant areas, participate in a cultural program, and see progress on the various projects. Read more about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity>>

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Volunteer Spotlight Icon

Volunteer Spotlight: Kaelyn Lynch Seeks to Tell Stories of International Communities She Visits

by Marisa Fang


As the end of summer draws closer in North America, the southern half of the hemisphere is bidding farewell to its winter season. There, Kaelyn Lynch, one of our newest CEN writers, is looking forward to warm weather. She lives in Western Australia and works as a divemaster, leading groups of scuba divers.

Since childhood, Kaelyn says she loved reading National Geographic and all types of science books. That early interest sparked her desire to “experience everything there is to explore in the world.” After graduating from the University of Miami in 2014, she set out to do so, and along the way, she’s been making an impact through extensive international work.

Kaelyn traveled to Indonesia after college to work on sustainable ecotourism, and community development projects. She implemented a marine education and dive guide training program to promote environmental stewardship and bring benefits of tourism to the community. She also taught management, budgeting and communication skills to the local people to help better protect their native land from destructive activities. Prior to her time in Indonesia, Kaelyn also spent six months in South Africa helping to establish the Sisters4Sisters organization, a nonprofit that works to rehabilitate women who have been affected by domestic violence.

In reflecting on her experiences, she says that she’s always wanted to use her passion for writing to help tell the stories of these communities. She’s also seen herself grow immensely. In the past, she described herself as someone who planned down to the exact minute. Now, she has become much more adaptable and flexible when plans change. She’s learned to rely on her instincts and be confident in new situations. When she initially left for Indonesia, she thought it would be a six-month stint, but now, 15 months later, she’s living in Western Australia with no plans to return to the United States anytime soon. She says, “I have no idea where life will take me and things have changed, but all for the better.”

Needless to say, Kaelyn will be a great asset to the CEN team in that she has seen firsthand many of the issues and challenges that CEN works to overcome. She hopes to contribute this unique perspective in parallel with her passion for writing to help tell the stories of the CEN community.

While in Australia, she hopes to brush up on her surfing, photography and gardening skills. She also hopes to apply for a storytelling fellowship with National Geographic to go back to Indonesia, where she would be tasked to highlight the lives of the people there. She says it would be a great way for her to dive deeper into the local people’s stories and see how the community has changed since she was last there.

Welcome to the team, Kaelyn!

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How you can help imageHow You Can Help

Contribute to CEN’s GlobalGiving challenge

Help satisfy the region’s youth’s thirst for opportunity
GlobalGiving Rural Family Home Project

CEN is participating in the GlobalGiving Challenge from September 1 to September 15 to raise the remaining funds needed to complete the Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project, which will continue to upgrade the school’s facilities and improve the community’s access to clean drinking water.

Your continued support is crucial to the education and health of Rural Family Home (CFR) students, staff, and members of the community. Please help provide clean water for the school by donating today.

GlobalGiving will match a portion of all donations made on the September 9 Bonus Day, stretching the impact of your support.

donate to Global Challenge

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

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>>

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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!



Stephanie Long


Bob Bortner
Marisa Fang
Susan Kim
McKenzie Kraus
Lindsay Jordan
Stephanie Long
Sarah Allen

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