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Posted by on in Tourism

Here's how to become a mindful traveler

 By GreenMatch.co.uk

Neutral density filter demo 300x200The following article from GreenMatch, an online service which provides quotes for green energy sources, includes a mention of CEN's work with community-based tourism (See "C as "Culture" and Community Empowerment Network in the full article below")

There is always something positive you can do for the planet, even while you are on holidays! To do so, you need to analyze your habits as a tourist and spot what could be improved in your behavior.

We do not expect you to avoid planes or become crazily sustainable. After all, we all wish to enjoy our holidays. What we have in mind is something way closer to you than you could imagine! Here we present you some new and very creative tourism practices that can be fun if put into practice.

Read More



©GreenMatch http://www.greenmatch.co.uk/
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SourceL Pha Le, VietnamNet

VietNamNet Bridge – Whenever tourists visit, the farmers in Yen Duc Commune become tour guides in their area.

community tourism, yen duc village

Mr. Nguyen Van Hien is a farmer in Yen Duc commune, the town of Dong Trieu, Quang Ninh, but also the employee of the Yen Duc Cooperative - a model of community-based tourism that is gradually becoming familiar with travelers in recent years.

Yen Duc not only has peaceful scenery and quiet rice fields but also many relics and scenic spots such as Canh Huong pagoda, Cave 73, and mountains with simple names as Thoc (Paddy), Meo (Cat) and Chuot (Mouse). I t lies on the route from Hanoi to Ha Long.

Since 2011, the Indochina Cruise Company has turned Yen Duc into an attractive tourist site, especially for foreigners. They can join the tour to become Vietnamese farmers through planting paddy and vegetables, using fishing-tackles to catch fish, resting in Vietnamese traditional houses, watching water puppetry shows, listening to quan ho love duets and visiting old houses of nearly 200 years old.

Hien said initially when the tourism company’s representatives came to the village and offered to buy their ponds and fields, villagers were afraid. Now they know about the enormous benefits from tourism and Yen Duc farmers are more bold with the "new profession".

"Previously I only did farm work. At first when I became involved in tourism services I thought that it was very difficult but I tried. Normally we are called rural men,  but when we join the tourism cooperative we are taught communicative skills and reminded to dress tidily so that tourists will have good impression about our village," Hien said.

Yen Duc Cooperative has 30 employees. One employee can pick up tourists and drive a tramcar in the morning but at noon he can become a room service staff or a cook and at night he can sing quan ho love duets, control water puppets or teach tourists how to make banh chung (square glutinous rice cake) and banh troi (floating cake).

community tourism, yen duc village

Ms. Nguyen Thi Huong, one of the major tour guides in Yen Duc, can confidently talk with visitors in English. She is assigned to teach English to other farmers so that they can tell visitors about the wonderful things of their village.

"The teaching of English is very difficult, but when people feel very interested to talk to visitors, everyone tries to learn the language. Villagers are also surprised about themselves because now they can speak English and can chat with tourists. Visitors also find it interesting because they are closer to the local farmers," Huong said.

Ms. Duong Thi Men, Chair of Yen Duc Cooperative said: "We choose local staff because only they understand best about the history and culture of their hometown."

Yen Duc people have gradually changed their perception about tourism. Not only their living standards are better but their lifestyle is as well. Yen Duc today is a very clean and green village, and the people are also very friendly.

From the "barefoot" farmer, Yen Duc people have become tourism service providers who are becoming more professional. Annually, Yen Duc welcomes about 8,000 visitors. Many of them returned the second and third time and were greeted like family members.

community tourism, yen duc village

Jay Garrett, a tourist from Australia said: "I was surprised about the ability of the farmers here. They welcomed us enthusiastically and professionally and it made me feel I was very special. Definitely my family and I will go back there one day."

Looking ahead, Yen Duc will expand the homestay model. All locals will have the opportunity to participate in community-based tourism, to not only raise their incomes but also improve the environment and culture. Connected with the community, Yen Duc will be a sustainable-developed tourism model, an interesting destination of Quang Ninh, beside Halong bay.

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Posted by on in General

Regina Crocheting web

I woke up this morning to a beautiful day here in the Pacific Northwest, one certainly befitting the specialness of this day - Mother’s Day. We are creatures of habit aren’t we, and so across the country at this very moment I’m guessing families are gathering, phone calls are being placed (did you call your mother?), flowers are adorning tables, brunch is being arranged and children’s artwork is being held up for loving inspection.

Like most days as I sip my morning coffee my mind will drift to Brazil, wondering how things are with the families we’ve served there. On this special day I’ll take extra time to think about the mothers of Suruacá, mothers like Regina Souza. As far as moms go, she really is a special one. That’s her in the picture. Wow, what a smile. Her four kids were nearby when we took this picture and I know they know how special she is. Regina thinks she is special too, thanks in part to the work you’ve enabled us to do in her community.

Regina was a participant in cCLEAR, our program that provided skills training which participants can then successfully apply to a range of community development priorities. That’s a lot of words for a simple concept. Through the program we assisted Regina, and many others in the community to strengthen core basic skills that they are now applying to build economic security for themselves and their families.

Through the program, Regina became more persistent, self-disciplined, motivated – and much more self confident. As a result of her enhanced sense of empowerment she taught herself how to crochet and sew, and launched her own independent needlework business. Her designs and instincts regarding fashion and function have positioned her for success and she shared with our team a while back the joy she gets from earning her own money and helping to make a better life for her family.

Regina 7 10 1 053 web

Not only has the extra income Regina earned from her needlework allowed her and husband to improve her family’s nutrition and general health, but Regina has also become a powerful role model for her kids and her neighbors by demonstrating that they too have the power within themselves to improve their own lives.

The support donors like you have provided enabled us to build the cCLEAR program and empower moms like Regina to become more self-reliant break the cycle of poverty. On behalf of the mother’s of Suruacá, their children, husbands and loved ones we say simply - Thank You.

Now go call your mom, or if you are a mom yourself, settle back into bed…breakfast should be arriving any moment now.


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March EmpowerBlog imgSocial media activism has proven to be a controversial phenomenon. Its efficacy is hotly debated, as some hail it as the future of social activism and others dismiss it as mere “slacktivism.” Certainly, we’ve seen that social media activism has the power to have an impact on activism. It is credited, for example, with playing a central role in shaping political debate in the Arab Spring, as well as for spurring on $115 million in donations through the viral ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. Yet examples on that scale are few and far between. Far more common is “hashtag activism,” which seems to begin and end at posting a message about an issue. If the potential for benefit is there, though, how can international development activists harness it?

In international development, social media matters. A study published in the Journal of Information Policy surveyed advocacy groups who described four major benefits to social media activism based on its ability to: 1) strengthen outreach efforts by connecting individuals to advocacy groups; 2) promote engagement by creating feedback loops; 3) strengthen collective action by increasing the speed of communication; and 4) provide a cost-effective tool for advocacy. These findings hold true for international development, a realm in which parties are by nature spread out and cost-effectiveness is key.

By facilitating connections to remote pockets of the world, social media brings awareness to a larger public. While not every person who “likes” a post or tweets about an issue will become actively involved in development efforts, they increase the audience and the possibility of finding someone who will take action. Additionally, The 2014 Cone Communications Digital Activism Study found that 60% of Americans will continue to engage with a nonprofit organization’s content after liking or following its page. This provides organizations with a forum to continue sharing information with potential activists, including making appeals for donations, encouraging participation in events, sharing petitions, and the like.

The cost-effectiveness of social media and ease of communication make it ideal for grassroots movements, especially as technology and Internet access spread to even some of the world’s most isolated areas. As such, members of impoverished communities are increasingly gaining the ability to take on their own campaigns and are not forced to rely solely on outside organizations. Social media is a tool that can empower individuals to have a broader and potentially more effective impact on development efforts.

Of course, international development can’t rely on social media to just work. Communities and organizations have to develop strategies that will maximize its impact. As social media evolves, it’s important to understand the variety of user bases and how to use them to target different demographics. For example, a January 2015 Adweek infographic shows that, of the major social networks, Instagram has the highest percentage (59.8%) of 18- to 34-year-old users, while over half of Facebook users are now 35 and above.

Demographics aren’t the only important factor, either. Given how individuals’ level of engagement can vary as well, a variety of calls to action should be offered. According to the Cone Communications study, some people are more likely to take action, while others prefer to passively engage, such as by reading content and watching videos. Although these activities don’t translate into action at the moment, the Cone study suggests that they may over time. Participation isn’t static, so maintaining variety is key.

Whether geared toward the active or the passive, international development efforts should ensure that their social media initiatives clearly show why their cause — and supporting it — matters. The Cone study found that Americans are most motivated to participate in a social or environmental effort online if they see an urgent need, feel their involvement would make a real impact, and if it is easy. Doing things like laying out everyday steps people can take may help turn good intentions into actions.

While international development activists can’t count on social media activism as a singular solution, it can certainly contribute to their efforts. As it becomes better understood, we will continue to see social media’s power to create connections, empower individuals and communities, and effect change.

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Children in front of kitchen in SuruacaTen years ago a German organization funded the construction of a kitchen for the women of the tiny Amazonian community of Suruacá to make and sell doces (sweets) from local seasonal fruit, generating income for themselves and their families. About a year later, CEN Director Bob Bortner met with the women’s group to learn why the facility was not being used. The group explained that although they were trained on how to make a variety ofdoces, they were not shown how to sell them. Instead of taking the initiative to come up with a plan to turn a profit of their own or speaking with others who have had success in similar pursuits, the women of Suruacá were holding off on using the kitchen until someone with power and authority would determine how they should make and sell the treats. The impact of the project, which had initially appeared to be a success, turned out to be ineffective because it could not be sustained.

As Pulitzer Prize winner Tina Rosenberg said, "(Sustainability) is important to donors, who don't want to see their money wasted. It's important to the groups that do the work: No project is successful unless it's taken over by local people to run. And it's most crucial to villagers themselves, who grow cynical about promises after they see project after project inaugurated only to fail." Failed projects feed into the community’s sense of helplessness and powerlessness.

Poverty is powerlessness

Poverty is more than just the lack of income. It is the lack of nutritious meals. It is the lack of clean drinking water. It is the lack of adequate shelter. It is the lack of access to a doctor or medicine. It is the lack of education. It is the lack of opportunity. It is the lack of quality of life. It is the lack of a future. According to the World Bank, poverty is powerlessness, and a lack of representation and freedom.1

John Friedmann, widely regarded as among the most authoritative living planning writers on sustainable international development, argues that poverty should be seen not merely in material terms, but as social, political and psychological powerlessness. He presents the case for empowering the poor in their own communities and mobilizing them for political and economic participation on a wider scale. Unless people have an active role in directing their own destinies, long-term progress will not be achieved.2 “The poor must take part in meeting their own needs. To do so, they must acquire the means to do this.”3


“(Sustainability) is important to donors, who don’t want to see their money wasted. It’s important to the groups that do the work. No project is successful unless it’s taken over by local people to run. And it’s most crucial to villagers themselves, who grow cynical about promises after they see project after project inaugurated only to fail”

Tina Rosenberg

Pulitzer Prize winner


Learned helplessness is a mindset in which an individual has learned to believe that he or she is helpless in a particular situation — that he or she has no control over the situation and that anything he or she does will be futile. They feel powerless to control their future, so they just accept their current situation, no matter how unfavorable it happens to be.

The term "learned helplessness" suggests that a person has learned to feel helpless and think in self-defeating ways. In other words, the person has been taught that nothing he or she can do will make a difference, that he or she can do nothing right, that others know better, and that he or she has little or no power and control over either his or her own life or external events.
Unlike actual helplessness, powerlessness implies that a person does indeed have power over outcomes, but in a particular circumstance, has lost that power. Powerlessness can be overcome by building self-reliance.

Building self-reliance through strengthened soft skills and mindsets

Achieving self-reliance requires more than just overcoming the sense of powerlessness. Self-reliance also requires individuals and their communities to possess certain actual skills and mindsets that strengthen their capacity to assume responsibility for addressing the economic, social and environmental problems they face.

Higher-level skills are generally technical skills that can be taught and, most importantly, applied in a concrete way. They're measurable and are related to an area of expertise, such as bookkeeping, sewing and filing. Soft skills can be described as the ability to apply hard skills to actual situations. Mindsets, or habits of the mind, are when people adopt a deeper quality of learning and thinking. Although it's possible to learn higher-level skills without mastering basic skills, in the long run, the lack of basic skills and self-reliant mindsets catches up and interferes with the continuous practice of the higher-level skills.

For instance, a person could be very proficient in bookkeeping, but without critically thinking about what the numbers in the books mean, or without the discipline to maintain the books, he or she could be seriously inaccurate. Similarly, while an entrepreneur might learn how to establish prices, he or she won't be able to do so effectively unless he or she possesses the discipline to keep track of expenses, production levels, and sales.


Soft Skills for Self-Reliance

Accuracy/Precision/ Attention to Detail









Critical Thinking


Through our decade of work in community development, CEN has identified the 10 soft skills and mindsets (please see sidebar) that help overcome the sense of powerlessness and bolster the self-reliance of individuals and their communities. Additionally, these basic skills and mindsets strengthen the capacity of communities to address many of the economic, social and environmental problems they face, as well as form a firm foundation for applying higher-level skills that are typically addressed by development programs.

Strong basic skills, mindsets and the habits — as well as the behaviors that are associated with them — are critical for communities and their residents in addressing the economic, social and environmental problems they face. As in the case of the women’s group mentioned earlier, many community development projects worldwide have collapsed after the outside project team departed because local community members lacked the basic skills and mindsets to keep the project operating on their own. In many cases this has been because they felt dependent upon others outside their community to fix a broken pump or plug a budget shortfall, due to undeveloped critical thinking, problem-solving skills, as well as failure to believe in their own capabilities. As a result, the projects are not sustained.

If community members decide that they can't do a task, or perhaps they don't feel worthy, they may give up. While training and resources, such as money and equipment, might give the community members some additional confidence, they'll often give up when they hit an obstacle that they don't feel equipped for. On the other hand, if they are given the same situation when they have confident and disciplined mindsets, they will not be discouraged by difficult tasks and will likely arrive at several solutions.

Individuals and communities frequently have many resources available to them, but are unable to harness these resources for their own long-term benefit. Youth mentorship, microcredit, workforce and entrepreneurship development programs, for example, offer opportunities to many individuals; however, without attention to detail, discipline, persistence, problem-solving and critical thinking skills, or motivation and self-confidence, they will not derive full benefit from these opportunities.

Self-reliance is essential to long-term, sustainable development

Self-reliance is defined by independence. It is the ability to think and act without the help or influence of others, the ability to decide what you should be or do. Dependency, on the other hand, is the act of relying on others to make decisions on your behalf. Learned helplessness and the sense of powerlessness that results from dependency are learned behaviors that must be reversed before an individual can become self-reliant.

A self-reliant individual has the ability and motivation to recognize and take advantage of opportunities and solve problems without relying on others. The program in Suruacá, for example, did not progress after the women were trained to make their treats because they lacked the skills and mindsets to market their treats without outside assistance. Had the project developed greater self-reliance as well, the initiative may have had a greater lasting impact.

Self-reliance is critical for sustainable community, regional and national development. Sustainable development requires the full support of the community and the participation of ordinary people at the local level. The ability to manage resources sustainably on the local level is essential for ensuring that gains are maintained long after a project is over. A higher measure of self-reliance also allows communities and their residents greater grassroots participation, and develops the capacity to address many of the economic, social and environmental problems they face.

Furthermore, self-reliance is vital for residents to successfully govern their own lives and economies. When residents rely too heavily on outside influences, even supposedly benevolent players such as government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, they relinquish control of their resources and more importantly, their future. They allow others to make decisions that are not always in the best interest of these communities.

Empowering citizens to create and pursue opportunities, as well as overcome the obstacles they face through increased self-reliance, breaks the cycle of poverty and is essential for long-term, sustainable development.


1 Poverty. N.p., 2011. Web. 8 Mar 2012.
Friedman, John. Empowerment: The Politics of Alternative Development. Wiley-Blackwell, 1992. 102. Print.
3 Ibid
Ghai, Dharam Ghai and Jessica M. Vivian. Grassroots Environmental Action: People's Participation in Sustainable Development. Routledge, 1992. 13.

Related articles

Our Approach to Development
What is Empowerment?
Disempowerment is at the core of poverty

©(c) 2015 Bob Bortner
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