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.
One of the most significant accomplishments of our work to date is the development of our comprehensive approach to building self-reliance in communities, as well as our unique learning approach called PRATICAR, which sets CEN apart from the work done by many other development organizations. Our pilot project in the Amazon has succeeded, and more than two years after it ended, community members continue to apply the strengthened critical thinking and problem solving skills they developed during the pilot to address challenges faced by their families and communities.
The following are examples of the impact of our work to date:
The initial impact of our work is best seen by changes in the behavior of the participants, such as by:
In addition, an increasing number of residents we've worked with:
With this increased income, participants:
Our work with the communities in the upper Rio Tapajós region has also had substantial impact on the overall communities there. For example:
Couro Ecológico is in a better position to expand.
Income generation activities have expanded since CEN began working in the region, which has begun to increase the economic self-reliance of the target communities.
The computer telecenter in Suruacá, in particular, is much closer to becoming financially self-sustaining by increasing the variety of services for which they charge, such as the online renewal of the CPF (national ID card). The Suruacá telecenter also began to provide limited remote transcription services for outside customers. It is important that the telecenters in both Suruacá and Maguary be able to support themselves because they are an important tool for creating the environment and resources for both communities to build self-reliance.
The project team held two series of town hall-style meetings to hear from residents in each community in the region about their aspirations for the region. Following each tour of every community, the project team presented its findings in a general regional meeting. This participative planning process has already resulted in the foundation of a comprehensive regional development plan. Learn more about the latest regional action plan.
In 2005 when Paulinho Melo started working with the community of Cucurunã, the outside of the church, which is the primary public building in the community, was in a state of disrepair, and the grounds were poorly kept. Paulinho was successful at organizing members of the community, and especially engaging the youth, to repaint the church, create a little plaza and stone walkways and landscape the grounds. Now, every year, the youth group decides on at least one community beautification project. These efforts have increased civic pride and helped organize the community.
A full seven years of education is now available in both Suruacá and Maguary. This is important because sending their children outside their communities for more education is beyond the financial means of most families. Furthermore, many of those who leave to study elsewhere never return 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 credit for this success, the building of the telecenters, no doubt, brought the needed public attention to the area, as well as considerable political pressure to finally expand instruction for three additional years.
In addition, the Suruacá telecenter has become an important resource for students in Suruacá and surrounding communities by allowing students to take some online courses for high school (colégio). While high school students still need to attend classes part of the year in Santarém, they can perform an increasing amount of work from Suruacá, which significantly reduces families' level of financial burden to support their children’s living expenses while away attending classes in Santarém.
Grassroots conservation efforts have started to recover and conserve local streams and improve several local trails. In addition, Cucurunã began a campaign to clean up litter and remove trash from around the community.
As we expand into additional communities, establish partnerships with local organizations, and expand the scope of our work to include the building of entrepreneurial and vocational skills, as well as helping communities remove external obstacles they face, we are confident our work will have a significant long-term, sustainable impact on individual participants and their communities.
In addition to our direct efforts to help build sustainable livelihoods, the tools we provide communities to become more self-reliant can be used to address a wide range of other community priorities, such as improved education, access to quality medical care and sustainably managing their environment.