The overarching principle behind the success of PCER and other rural community centers is that they serve the local community to preserve culture and nature by allowing the local community to access the same social infrastructure present in cities. At PCER, most social programs are educational in nature, and are beginning in summer of 2012. In 2012, these programs will include free English courses for ecotourism guides, and courses in CPR and First Aid.
The population is sparsely distributed in the region, and thus the PCER building will not always be the site of educational courses. PCER is meant to be both a physical space for classes and a base for outreach projects. The principal outreach project in 2012 aims to spread bio-sand water filter technology to other rural communities in the Pantanal region. This goal will be accomplished through workshops at partnered schools taught by University of Michigan engineering undergraduates, graduate students, and graduates. The water filter technology was tested first at PCER; in the future, other technologies will be tested first at PCER before being spread to other areas through workshops at partnered schools in a similar manner.
Perhaps the two most pressing facets of public social infrastructure that have never existed in the area are public primary education and healthcare. PCER is not in the ideal location to serve as a public school or health clinic, as the majority of the area’s population lives more than 10km away. However, because no other space exists, leaders of PCER have negotiated with the local state and municipal secretaries of education to allow the PCER building to be used as a public school. The school will start in August of 2012 or May of 2013, depending on the wishes of parents in the area. Classes will be held from May until November, normally, to avoid transporting children during the rainy season. Transport will be both by boat and by bus; future projects to increase fuel efficiency and decrease environmental impact of transport are in the design phase currently. PCER is negotiating with members of the local community to acquire a space that can be used as a school closer to the epicenter of the community, and the public school at PCER will be a temporary location. Administration of the school and matriculation of students will likely remain at PCER even after a new space has been acquired.
In the realm of healthcare, Pantanal Partnership (the associated University of Michigan student organization) has received a Davis Projects for Peace grant to initiate and test an internet system to create a telemedicine network in the Pantanal. The technology will be tested first at PCER before being implemented elsewhere in the community.