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Posted by on in General

cultural_village3Poverty is a worldwide problem on an epic scale. Large numbers of people do not live in a safe environment with access to clean water and sanitation, education and the ability to create a better future for both themselves and future ) generations.

In the developed world we struggle to comprehend the impact this would have on the day to day life of people living in isolated and developing communities. Our assumptions on happiness and drive have been formed in a world of privilege where want exists, but is not the norm.

When I moved to Africa in the early 1990's I could not have imagined how inspired I would be, by the happiness and drive of people who did not have access to most of the things I took for granted. Women in Zimbabwe, Zambia and South Africa were the nucleus of the society. They were not naturally empowered economically in their communities and yet they were frequently the most innovative, hard working entrepreneurs. They banded together and were stronger for their bonds with each other and their community.

Roadside markets selling local vegetables and craft provided additional income for many families to enable their children to gain a better education. Every additional year of schooling enabled the next generation to move one step further towards a better future. I always marveled at the entrepreneurship these women displayed and how happy they were to dream of a better future for their children.

CEN's work in the Amazon, has resulted in a number of similar success stories - women who are not naturally empowered in their communities and yet embody the entrepreneurial spirit. Work is incorporated into community life and happiness is part of the way of life. Being entrepreneurial does not come at the expense of having a life. Hard work is admired, if it enables a better future, without losing the structure and strength of the family and community unit.

To me this is cornerstone of CEN's ability to make a difference in the region. The local people of the Amazon region already have a strong community and happy life. They want access to knowledge and tools to enable them to expand their horizons while maintaining their way of life. The cClear program encourages this balance in the development of entrepreneurial skills and businesses. Sustainable development is underway in the region and it is not coming at too high a price for the local community-ultimately ensuring one of the best ways to access success in the longer term.

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21020009_xixuau_webOn December 11, 2009, CEN partner organization Amazon Association was named Environmentalist of the Year 2009.at the Copenhagen Conference as result of it's role in preventing deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, particularly surrounding the community of Xixuau.  The Association played a key role in this year's establishment of the Extractive Reserve Baixo Rio Branco-Rio Jauaperi, which protects thousands of hectors from mining and havesting of trees.

The work of the Amazon Association and the people of the Xixuau prove that a standing forest can worth more than a dead one and that development does not necessarily have to mean the senseless use of natural resources. The model has been created and now we need to expand and replicate it.
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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.
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Posted by on in General


From Bob's Brasilia Diary:

Wow, the sun is out for the first time since I arrived here on Tuesday, December, 1st after a 33 hour trip from where I live in Ferndale, WA. It's rainy season in Brasilia. During the rainy season in Santarem, it might pour down rain and then the sun will normally come out. However, here, it has been overcast and rainy for the past day and a half. I'm not complaining though. At least it's a comfortable temperature (it feels like the low 80's) and I can work in shorts and barefoot. I'm in the room pretty much all day and night anyways, working on the computer while Angela is at work, and then meeting with her evenings and on weekends.

I'm in Brasilia for three weeks to work on the "guts" of the Handbook for the cCLEAR pilot, with Angela Viehmayer, our former Field Manager and main architect of much of the program's educational methodology. Although, the current issue is that most of the methodology is still in her head. By the time I leave on the 20th, Angela and I hope to finish a solid draft of the "How the project was implemented" section, including:  how we prepared the communities, selected participants, helped participants select projects, learned about the participant's needs, created activities that would guide participants to learn and practice the particular skills they were lacking and the mentorship process.

While here, we'll also work on another activity for the participants of the cCLEAR program. The activity is to coach participants to set up a stall near their boat to sell products they make.  This will be important in it's own right and will also function as another way for Angela to transfer her knowledge to me, and to share this with everyone else.

Over the next couple of weeks, I will try to update everyone on our progress, as well as share my perceptions of life in the Brazilian capital.

Abracos a todos

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Angela meeting with cCLEAR participants

CEN tries very hard not to drive the agenda of others but rather to give them the tools so they can meet changes on their own terms. A good example would be something I heard from a leader in one of the communities. He said, he knows their way of life is changing, but they don't want to just become a copy of what they see in the cities. They want to change on their own terms.

By contrast, in a community across the river, they have reacted to the opportunities provided by the electricity that just arrived there, by attempting to duplicate what they've seen in cities. In the process, I might add, they've destroyed a lot of social fabric, but that's another story.

We did not tell participants what the objectives of the projects they select should be. While all the projects that they picked were income generation in nature, many of the participants (particularly in the first community) did not necessarily want to earn more money. Some just wanted to learn something new. Some wanted to earn a little money. Others did in fact want to start a business. It's up to them to decide.

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