Group shot Filter demonstration
In Michigan, we're working on partnering with more organizations with similar goals. Last week, eleven bright eyed students woke up at what they call "the crack of dawn", formally known as 8:30 A.M., and drove two and half hours to Holland, Michigan. The eleven students consist of members from the Pantanal Water Systems Team and NicarAGUA, another University of Michigan student organization. They visited Aqua Clara International: a Michigan based non-profit organization, which is involved in microfinance with bio-sand filters.
Harry Knopke, President of Aqua Clara, gave students a tour of their laboratory, where they designed and tested water systems. Aqua Clara has developed two types of filtration systems, one was the typical bio-sand filter and the other consisted of a plastic hollow membrane filtering system. Later, Bob McDonald, the Founder and Chairman joined the discussion. He spoke more about the anthropological importance of these filters. Harry interjected, and told a story where he re-visited an area to check up on the bio-sand filters and they were abandoned and used as garbage cans because the people didn’t know how to maintain them. The best advice Bob gave was to be constantly aware that people in other countries do not necessarily believe or understand our ways of thinking. Therefore, in order for these filters to exist permanently, we must tailor our teachings about filter upkeep to their culture and lifestyle. This is something we need to keep in mind as we start developing the lesson plans.
We are working on developing a relationship that will be mutually beneficial in the future. Having a connection with this organization that has such experience with bio-sand and other filters in many different countries is a great resource for PCER.
At Nazaré Orphanage in Poconé, we have been holding English classes. These classes are aimed at the public but especially catered to the needs of local ecotour guides. Ecotourism in the area has caught on, but many of the guides that are currently working in the area are from big cities. Ideally, the people guiding tours in the Pantanal should be the people from the Pantanal. However, there is a marked dearth of resources for the people who live in and are actually from the Pantanal. The English classes open to the public are in the evening. During the day, we have been teaching the kids of Nazaré.
Teacher Bonnie teaches Nazaré kids PCER classroom with donated desks
We will continue the English courses here at Nazaré, the fees garnered from which aid the orphanage, next year in combination with tour guide field courses at PCER, where we just received a donation of classroom desks and chairs. We are also continuing to develop the music program at the orphanage, and are looking to partner with the local university's music department and two non-profits here that manage their own music and orchestra projects.
In Ann Arbor, we have three four groups hard at work designing projects and fundraising for their specific goals.
-Water systems group, which will continue to expand their work with bio-sand water filters
-Waste systems group, which will continue work on biodigesters and begin a recycling education program.
-Alternative energy group, which is working on using recycled parts to build wind turbines
-Music group, which has joined with Michigan Pops Orchestra to teach music at Nazaré
These groups will be maintaining their own blogs; their milestones will be noted here.
Campo Grande Paraguay River, Southern Pantanal
We have begun a new long-term project in the Pantanal, which aims to spread sustainable technologies, which we have been developing and testing at PCER, throughout the region. The project will be realized through partnerships in Mato Grosso do Sul, the Brazilian state immediately to the south of us. Some of the communities we will be working with are reachable only by boat, and some are up to 10 hours or more by boat from the nearest road access. The goal of the project is to teach 'social technologies', which range from bio-sand water filters to trash incinerators, and which will aid in some aspect of public health and natural preservation. Our partners in Mato Grosso do Sul will include ECOA, a non-profit, and the local federal university. Traveling with ECOA president André Luiz Siqueira, we visited some of the more accessible communities and the university campus in Corumbá to to meet with the parties involved in Mato Grosso do Sul. Ultimately, the education of these technologies using local resources will hopefully be used as a model for the environmentally sustainable development of threatened communities throughout the rural third world.
André and our all-terrain vehicle A trailer for vocational training in communities set up by ECOA
This newsletter covers what we've been up to this past fall at U-M and in Brazil, ranging from building cheap wind turbines to meeting the Brazilian musician/politician Gilberto Gil
. If you don't see the newsletter in your inbox, email firstname.lastname@example.org with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line to receive this and future newsletters.
Starting this January, PCER will offer courses in the rainy season when schools are shut for summer vacation and many adults are on vacation from their jobs.
Next week, we'll begin teaching English at the Nazaré Orphanage, one of our partners in the community. The proceeds from the class will go in part to the orphanage to help pay its bills and in part to PCER to fund future projects. In addition to English classes, we are also laying the groundwork for literacy programs and classes in biology for tour guides in the area. We hope to have a pilot program starting this January. We are very excited to launch these classes as part of our adult education programs.
We are also taking advantage of this rainy season to further test our internet system, to gather weather data for modeling wind power generation, to continue teaching music at Nazaré, and to build partnerships through connections with non-profits Panthera
I will try to post here weekly or bi-weekly until March with updates, videos, pictures of mosquitoes, etc.
We are starting a new quarterly newsletter, the first edition of which is released today. The newsletter will complement the blog, summarizing accomplishments and failures of PCER projects and programs. The blog will focus more on detailed accounts of individual experiences, and will continue to be updated when team members are working at PCER.
Please email email@example.com with "SUBSCRIBE" in the subject line to subscribe to the e-newsletter.
Coming soon to the website: t-shirts and other merchandise! We'll keep you posted!
Thanks for your continued interest and support!
During my time spent at the boarding school of Nazaré, my language abilities, tolerance for sugary juice, and soccer skills were tested. My greatest test, however, came in the form of an hour-long CPR course. The first thing I realized while designing the curriculum was that nearly all of the material that I wanted teach…had to be cut. This was partly due to my own language abilities (or limitations) but mostly due to the environment in which the children lived. Kids living in a rural area have no use for an AED (automated external defibrillator--a standard emergency heart re-starter in the USA), nor did I have one with which I could demonstrate. Only the most basic ideas were presented to the kids: in the event of an emergency, find an adult; activate the emergency response system; and make your own safety the #1 priority. After teaching proper chest compression and mouth-to-mouth technique, we ended the class on a high note with all of the students performing five continuous cycles of CPR on pillows. In the future, we hope to make these classes longer and part of a more extended curriculum teaching kids about not only emergency medicine, but public health and disease in general. All in all, we felt like the kids learned something and are more prepared than they were before. We hope to extend this knowledge to more kids and adults in the Pantanal and surrounding areas in the future!
As some of you may know, I was in Belo Horizonte the week of May 20th to present all aspects of the project here in the Pantanal to Brazilian diplomats, lawyers, and others in the fields of sustainability and sustainable development. The conference, called Sustentar, is held annually in Brazil and brings in people from numerous different fields of work related to sustainability. Five members of our team were also in Rio de Janeiro in late June to be present at Rio+20, the United Nations conference on sustainable development which aimed to build on the accomplishments of the Rio 1992 conference on sustainability twenty years ago. The 1992 conference was and continues to be integral to the implementation of sustainable development, in concert with natural preservation, and has influence legislation and growth worldwide.
Recently, I met the president of another non-profit organization operating in the Pantanal. The non-profit, called Ecotrópica
(warning: website is in Portuguese), manages several private nature reserves that are contiguous with the Pantanal Matogrossense National Park. These reserves (and the national park) are located about six hours by boat downriver from Porto Jofre and our beloved Transpantaneira highway. The Pantanal Matogrossense National Park, like many Brazilian national parks, is almost entirely inaccessible. Around the national park there are other forgotten communities of ribeirinhos
without any social infrastructure. It is PCER's goal to expand education and other social resources throughout the Pantanal, and gaining access to these communities through a new partnership with Ecotrópica is the first step to helping these even-more remote populations.
Back in the Pantanal, we are currently still fighting to get a public school open. In a previous post, I mentioned that a school that we have been pressuring to open for almost four years now finally opened; sadly, this school is open only to children who live on the ranch where the school is located. We have attempted to negotiate with the owners and managers of the ranch to open the school to other children, but, so far, to no avail.
In better news, it appears that through a new connection with the local federal university in Cuiabá PCER will be receiving its first group of biologists to begin its tenure as a field station for biological research in late August.
The Poconé representative of the state secretary of education has seen our work at the boarding schools of Cotia and Nazaré, and was thrilled as always to see us. This year, our project for water filters was relatively simple: educational outreach in boarding schools. Next year, it looks like we may be helping design and construct filtration systems for whole communities. Chumbo, a Quilombo (strongly Afro-Brasileiro) community, is located about 20km from Cotia, still in the Pantanal, and has had its local school shut down numerous times due to water contamination. A small community near IFMT, another local partner, is in a similar situation. We will try to focus on these communities next year as well as continuing our bio-sand filter outreach projects.