Empower Blog

Community Empowerment Network's Blog

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Categories
    Categories Displays a list of categories from this blog.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Team Blogs
    Team Blogs Find your favorite team blogs here.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Building self-reliance doesn't happen overnight. Until now, CEN has primarily focused on creating the tools for building a strong foundation for development by strengthening the basic skills and habits of a small group of participants in three communities in the Brazilian Amazon. We are addressing one of the root causes of poverty and not just the symptoms.

Over the past couple of years, our work has resulted in sustainable change in the communities where work. Here are some examples:

Water faucet with soap With CEN's assistance, the Rural Family Home (CFR) has raised over 82 percent of the cost of the Rural Family Home Artesian Well Project, which has allowed the school to excavate a well and install a pump and a water storage tank. Hopefully the funds we raise through the end of the year will allow the CFR to finish the entire project! We're getting so close. Watch our short video on the artesian well project >>
Meeting about community radio 150 Residents of Suruacá have become increasingly self-reliant in addressing the many daily and long-term challenges they face. For many years, we've combatted the learned helplessness that has affected the community for generations by mentoring residents and strengthening their soft skills. Rather than simply resigning themselves to their fate or holding their hands out to others to fix their problems for them, they’ve learned how to grapple with the challenges themselves.
Larissas Grocery 150 Entrepreneurship throughout the community of Suruacá is also exploding with scores of new microbusinesses taking root where few existed. Read more about the recent progress in Suruacá >>
Banco da Mulher Assembly 150 The regional women’s group, which once provided valuable technical training and microfinancing to hundreds of women entrepreneurs in nearly 50 communities throughout the middle Amazon, has shaken off years of near-paralysis. This is thanks in part to CEN's efforts in helping to hold the first meeting of members of the Banco da Mulher in over five years and presenting our findings and recommendations on the microfinance program. Read more about the Banco da Mulher’s progress >>
Clariss at computer 150x150 Thanks to CEN's ongoing coaching and some 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 and power a freezer, which enables the school to provide students with lunches that have improved the quality of child nutrition in the area. 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 its goals >>


We need your help to maintain our momentum!

CEN needs to raise less than $1,700 by the end of the year to finish the CFR's well – and we can do it!

There are two simple ways to help this holiday season:


Making a donation on our website. Every dollar we raise through the end of the year on the website will go toward completing the well.

donate to Global Challenge


Using endruralpoverty.org/amazon when you shop for gifts on Amazon.com throughout the holiday season and Amazon will pay CEN a percentage of your purchases at no additional cost to you. (please bookmark this link)

CEN Amazon.com Link


With your help, the Rural Family Home will be able to offer thousands of youth in the region a promising future!

Hits: 18918


Self-reliance in community development projects: a mirage or an oasis? CEN Executive Director, Bob Bortner, was recently featured in an article about international aid and community development.  Check out the article here.  Different topics covered in the article are the intersection of "self reliance" and foreign assistance strategies, CEN's PRACTICAR mentoring model which emphasizes skills development for beneficiaries in aid interventions as well as the complexities of measuring aid impact.

Hits: 9023
Image of Rubber tapperThis 5 min video entitled CEN and Couro Ecologico - Preserving a Way of Life in the Amazon discusses a little about what CEN is doing to preserve culture and increase incomes through a modern adaptation of a traditional livelihood.  Watch it.
Hits: 6239

Posted by on in News

Both CEN and Program Participants Learn Alot

Table produced by Alison Camilo

Dated: 15 October 2009

We’re pleased to announce that the cCLEAR Phase 1 pilot in Suruacá, the first community with which CEN began in May 2008 has been completed. As result of the pilot project, the eight participants in Suruaca gained critical basic skills they will need to become successful and independent entrepreneurs, and CEN learned many valuable lessons which will be key for replicating and expanding the program.

Unfortunately, due to the departure of our Field Manager, Marcos Abreu, in July, we have been forced to postpone the continuation of the pilot in the communities on the east bank of the Tapajos River, Jamaraquá and Maguary, until we can hire a replacement.

During the 14 month pilot, CEN faced numerous hurdles in 2009 resulting from the complex nature of managing economic development projects like this from thousands of miles away, and with very limited resources.  Hurdles included a complete failure of telecommunication contact with our field staff for many weeks, as well as the result of the risks of partnering with a tiny local partner, Link Social, which excelled on methodology but had very limited capacity for managing projects.

Magarete Lima sells bread to a customer from her bakery

Due to the hard work and perseverance of our Field and Headquarters staff, CEN successfully achieved most of the project’s key objectives.

Project Achievements

Despite the delays and implementation challenges, most project participants made terrific progress improving basic skills such as problem solving and critical thinking, as well as achieving a marked growth in their acceptance that they can solve many problems they face, without relying exclusively on others. Most participants accomplished, and even exceeded, the personal objectives they set from their participation in the pilot. Here are just a few examples:

  • Regina Souza, one of our participants who had the fewest resources, learned how to sew and has started earning much needed income from selling clothing articles. She’s also realizing a strong sense of accomplishment from her participation in the project.
  • Couro Ecologico is rebuilding. Association members are more engaged, at least partially due to realizing some income from the increased sales of their purses. They’ve developed several new purses that are more authentic to their roots and have abandoned the models with cheap zippers and Velcro that they were producing over the past couple of years, which was a large factor in them losing most foreign customers. They are also noticeably better organized.
  • Magarete Lima is earning more profits from her bakery, because she is now producing only what there is a demand for and not “eating” all her profits by making a lot and having her family consume the leftovers day after day. She also relies less on her husband (an early CEN participant), Djalma Lima, for planning and direction, and has showed improved critical thinking and ability to solve problems for herself.

For more information about each participant, please visit participant profiles;

Luciene Souza shows off some of the clothing she made

Future Plans

With the pilot completed in Suruacá, we have the data we need to complete a handbook about our experiences with the project and how to implement our methodologies. We believe this handbook will be a crucial tool for the expansion replication of the project by CEN and other organizations, as well as important in our efforts to secure funding for the second phase of cCLEAR. The second phase will work with the initial participants and others to apply the skills they’ve learned through phase 1 for larger individual and community-led income generation initiatives. We hope to complete a draft of this handbook by early 2010.

While we don’t currently anticipate beginning the second phase of cCLEAR until the end of 2010, since it will likely take at that long to secure funding once we complete the handbook, we will keep active in the region through the year:

Ecotourism – We are hosting an ecotour to the communities of Jamaraquá and Maguary March 19-30. 2010. This trip will offer an intimate group of 10-15 visitors the rare opportunity to experience and participate in the unique lifestyle of communities in this region, while also witnessing CEN’s work.  For more information, please visit here.

Expand Product Sales by Suruacá Participants – One key challenge experienced by all the participants from Suruacá was the extremely weak market available to them within the community. Prior to his departure, Marcos Abreu began mentoring the Suruacá participants to set up a stand to sell products from their activities in the nearby city of Santarém. This activity is very important because it will enable participants to realize additional tangible results from their effort. It will also offer them the opportunity to put many of the skills they’ve learned to use. We expect to have more details about this activity in our next eNewsletter, scheduled for January 2010.

Couro Ecológico – For the past year, CEN has been coaching this worker-owned association and its Director, Nei Feitosa to improve operations and in particular marketing. Since the beginning of the pilot, production has increased, worker morale has improved and sales have increased; however there’s still a lot more work to be done. Since Marcos’ departure in July, we’ve had to suspend our work with the association; however we hope to find someone local by March, to coordinate orders of purses so we can at least help maintain and expand sales levels. We are also pursuing a project grant to allow us to resume our capacity building work with the association as soon as possible.

CEN still has an inventory of purses available for sale on our store. Your purchase helps support this important entrepreneurial role model, as well as CEN’s operations. Please visit our store.

We are proud of the accomplishments of the program participants and look forward to building on our work in 2010 and beyond.

Hits: 9618



Lauren Mehl - one of Team CEN's runners.

Two thumbs up and thank you to everyone who did their part in the Run to Fight World Poverty!

CEN would like to thank all those that donated and supported our runners in Seattle's Rock and Roll Marathon in June! We are still accepting pledges through our pledge list or by donating online. Help CEN get "one step closer" to ending rural poverty!

A big thank you to our runners Colleen, Larry, Eileen and Lauren for making Run to Fight World Poverty 2009 a wonderful success! You helped us raise over$1000 and increase awareness of ending poverty through empowerment and self-reliance.

We hope you can partner with us again next year! Please contact Bob Bortner if you're interested in running, walking, pledging or sponsoring CEN's team in June 2010.

CEN still accepting pledges for the Run to Fight World Poverty 2000. Please visit our pledge page to learn more or to pledge today!


Hits: 3105