CEN addresses some of the root causes of poverty, such as building basic skills and changing attitudes, instead of purely the symptoms, and so it takes time for these changes to demonstrate themselves in the form of large income gains, reduced migration, improved health and a better education. Progress, particularly during the early stages of our work, can best be measured in qualitative term; through a change in behavior and attitudes. Tangible progress is expected to accelerate during the next phase of the cCLEAR, when we focus on helping participants apply what they've learned to larger, more complex projects and problems. Even so, we are seeing real changes with the individuals with which we're working in our pilot project. The following are some examples:
Creating new sources of income based within our client communities is vital for all other forms of self-sufficiency and development. Currently, thousands of residents of the Brazilian Amazon, including many of the community's youth, move to the cities each year in search of work opportunities. This trend is stripping the rural communities of important talent and dynamism, as well as contributing to urban overcrowding. Our goal is to help our clients create sustainable, local, economic opportunities.
The number and variety of income generation initiatives has expanded since CEN began working in the region, which has begun to increase the economic self-reliance of the target communities:
Why it's important: These initiatives are a positive step toward the goal of economic self-reliance. They are providing badly needed income for families in the communities we serve, and create an environment of self-determination. These are vital steps in fostering sustainable development.
Why it's important: Managing financial and other resources more effectively is a prerequisite for building a sustainable business.
Why it's important: Not only did the community improve transportation between Suruacá, neighboring communities and the city of Santarém, which is the primary market for many goods made in Suruacá, but they also learned how to critically evaluate to the economic feasibility of a proposal, and to create a rudimentary business plan. Furthermore, the fact that they successfully raised such a large sum of money demonstrates the feasibility of establishing a community rotating saving plan in the future. (Which is planned as a component of Phase 2 of CEN's cCLEAR program)
Why it's important: The goal of the CEN is to help our clients gain the ability to become self-reliant and achieve development on their own terms. The telecenters are a vital part of creating the environment and resources to achieve this. However, these too must become financially self-sustaining if we hope to achieve our goals. The revenues from the CPF renewal programs offer a way for the telecenters to get the income they need, while still providing valuable and affordable services to the community. Without a current CPF, residents don't qualify for many government programs. Renewing the CPF online saves the significant time and expense of going into the city and waiting in line for renewal. CEN's client communities benefit from the self-sufficiency of the telecenters and the services they provide.
Aside from tangible improvements in standard of living, the most important tool for these communities is education. Education is vital to tackling many of the dilemmas that areas like rural Brazil are facing today. With better access to educational resources, the power to become self-reliant becomes more viable. By delivering our clients the necessary educational infrastructure, support, and resources, CEN hopes to help establish an environment of opportunity in these often overlooked communities.
These are a few of the impacts that CEN has made in the area of education in our target communities:
Why it's important: With easier lines of communication available, there is an opportunity to share and coordinate lesson plans in a substantive way. Additionally, TWB is utilizing online instruction to help instruct their teachers in collaborative learning and problem-solving techniques. CEN has also fully integrated educational software into the curriculum in Maguari, and is in the process of doing so in Suruacá. These programs help students develop skills in areas such as spelling, vocabulary, math, as well as provide vital health education on issues such as sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
Why it's important: As these communities gain access to the internet and the global economy through the telecenter and other initiatives, English language skills can be vital in bridging the gap between these isolated communities and the rest of the world. While the program is up and running in Suruacá, a program for the community of Maguari has received and installed the software and is under development.
Why it's important: Until 2005, students in these areas only received four grades. Alternatives for the youth of the communities, such as studying in other cities where more education was available, are beyond the financial means of most families. Many of those who left to study elsewhere never returned home to help their communities. Today, however, there is no need for students to leave their homes to pursue their basic education.
While CEN cannot take full responsibility for this success, the building of the telecenters, no doubt, brought the needed public attention to the area, as well as considerable political pressure.
CEN is attempting to foster an environment of empowerment in our target communities. Coordination between the communities is a vital step toward this goal. The people best qualified to address the issues facing these communities are those who live there. As such, facilitating easier communication, coordination, and collaboration between these populations is one of CEN's main objectives.
These are a few of the impacts that CEN has made in the area of community coordination:
Why it's important: The communities we serve have the resources to coordinate with one another because of programs like Rede Amazônia. The results of these activities have been important sharing of ideas on a number of issues, including: health initiatives, controlling bat infestations, garbage disposal, an anti-smoking initiative, hog raising, and eco-tourism. The impact of Rede will increase exponentially as more communities are expected join it.
Why it's important: Eco-tourism is one possible way that our client communities can create new economic opportunities. However, for this and all similar initiatives, community input and coordination is crucial. As result of the discussion, the residents of Suruacá now have a better idea of what they need to research to make an informed decision. Suruacá will organize and lead additional discussions on the subject in the future.
Why it's important: CEN has coached the Community Health Agent in Suruacá, Djalma Lima, to organize and facilitate a community palestra (training and discussion) on HIV and STDs. This was one of the first (if not the first) palestra researched, organized, and held by the community rather than depending on NGO's or the Brazilian government. Since the original palestra, the Djalma has gone on to facilitate and speak at a number of other palestras in nearby communities.The Djalma has also been using Infocentro Communitario, an online community information portal developed by CEN, to research and advise residents on a variety of ailments, including STD's, back problems, and breast cancer.