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The Las Tolas Express

One Week of Volunteering in an Ecuadorian Cloud Forest

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We’d gauged the time a little loosely and arrived at the bus station, Ofelia, in the north end of Quito, with less than ten minutes to find our bus to Las Tolas. The stakes were high because, unlike other places, buses for Las Tolas leave once a day at 5:30 pm (they depart Las Tolas once a day as well, at 6:30 am) We asked the turnstile attendant, who pointed us towards a waiting line of coaches, with probably five-plus minutes to spare.

However, our problems were not over. Standing on the sidewalk, I stared back and forth from the placards in the buses’ front windows to the scribbled directions—on the back of a supermarket receipt—in my hand. We were supposed to take the Las Minas bus until its last stop: Las Tolas. To my left was a bus with a “Minas” placard. To my right was a bus with a “Las Tolas” placard. Neither Emma nor I knew what to make of it all.

With time short and a-wasting, we opted for Las Tolas. Sitting in the bus, we discussed in strained whispers whether we’d made the right choice. Then, at the last minute, we leapt off, deciding the “Minas” bus was better. Then, thirty seconds later, after grilling the bus attendant and driver, we boarded the Las Tolas bus again, watching the “Minas” bus disappear. There was no turning back.

When you … when one … when we hop a bus to a distant (two and a half hours) rural village in the cloud forests of Ecuador, not knowing where exactly our “last stop” is going to leave us, or with whom, it’s hard to not spend the next two and a half hours worrying, especially when paved road gives way to bumpy gravel—let’s call them—bus/wagon trails that the massive coach is cornering about plunging cliffs in the dark.

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At the penultimate stop, a lady came up and asked us if we were going to Las Tolas. She was Cecilia, the matron of the family we were traveling to meet. Emma and I looked at each other, exhaled into smiles, and finally unclenched our tightened gluts. Later, we admitted we both been playing out what-if scenarios in our heads, mine involving pitching our tent alongside the road, hers being taken by some kind local.

Whatever the case, it was official: We were headed in the right direction. Thank Dios.

Cultural Connect[: We were later informed that the name of the bus company we used was “Las Minas” and that the instruction meant to take the Las Minas company bus to Las Tolas. No one seemed to know there was, in fact, a town called Minas. Another end of the line country town, likely as remote and small Las Tolas, it’s no wonder they had no idea that the neighboring bus would have caused so much confusion.

Forget How to Get There. Why Were We on that Bus?

For those who have not happened upon the website of a tiny NGO affiliated with the village of Las Tolas, there is little to no reason to have heard of the place. Truthfully, as we’ve established, it is at the end of a bus ride to the middle of nowhere in the mountains of northern Ecuador. There is no sea nearby, no hot springs or markets. There are no hotels, only one tiny restaurant, and neither WiFi. nor ATMs to be found. However, I’d been really looking forward to seeing the place.

For most who follow this blog, or the Jonathon Engels travel train in general, you are aware that about six months ago I launched a website called The NGO List. On this website, an NGO is featured each month. In the beginning, I wrote these features but have since been encouraging NGO affiliates to write their own accounts of organizations. In early March, just about a month before my first trip to Ecuador, a representative submitted a profile of her experience of Las Tolas.

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Within a week of reading it, I’d signed us—Emma did agree—up for a week—in fact, our last week of vacation*—of volunteering.

*Though the expat, long-term traveling life does seem a bit like a permanent vacation, we do get jobs quite regularly and often juggling fairly demanding positions. We just typically do it in really nice place, like our upcoming (15 April-15 Oct) lakeside caretaking gig in Arenosa, Panama. We’ll be transforming a beautiful property into a food jungle. And, we are accepting work-trade volunteers interested in helping.

Back to Las Tolas: When the bus finally stopped for good, Cecilia led us a little further into the darkness, along a road turned muddy from invierno (literally translated as winter, equatorially meaning rainy season). Her house—our house for the next week—was a small wooden abode, with a kitchen of the front and a bathroom out of the back, with living room devoid a furniture save a plastic patio chair facing a small TV, and with a husband (Edgar), two teenagers (Alexis and Pamela), and a Chihuahua (Cookie). Upon our arrival, Edgar was laboring over a pot of soup. We were shown to a private bedroom where we could unload our bags. It was good to be temporarily home.

Cultural Connect: As vegetarians before and now as vegans, Emma and I generally avoid homestays; however, we were assured it was no worry. Though slightly bewildered by the no dairy aspect (a lot of local income is from milking cows), Edgar and Cecilia understood well and quickly. Our diet and concern of what to feed us, nevertheless, became the talk of the town. By Friday, we witnessed the neighbors across the street escorting a pig to its death. The squeals were frantic but quick. As we walked down the street a little later, the corpse was in the yard, a man with a blowtorch burning the hair off it, strengthening our resolve all the better.

A Little Slice of Life Laboring in Las Tolas

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In Las Tolas, the mornings are a not unwelcomed cacophony of cockerels, fighting it out for territory. Each house seems to have a multitude of roosting boxes for the free-running fowl that chase each other in and out of the downward slopping backyards. Seeking morning bladder relief, it’s hard not to stop and look out over the clouds misting through the treetops as the sun burns off the veil of night…really dark night.

Breakfast was an interesting variation everyday. It usually consisted of Edgar and Cecilia running a little late for the bus (they work out of town), but they’d taken the time to prepare us something. The something was usually atypical breakfast food: mashed potatoes and salad or sautéed cabbage with peas and carrots. It was a sincerely endearing and much appreciated effort to feed us well, and honestly, Emma and I are seriously considering making breakfast with a wider range of ingredients in the future.

Cultural Connect: The funniest breakfast dish actually was a bit more traditional, for both cultures. In Ecuador, it’s common to prepare oatmeal as a thick breakfast drink, boiling it then filtering the oats out. It’s custom to ad a little citrus, cinnamon, and panela (a local sugar thing). When we asked what it was called, Cecilia told us Qua-care, pointing to a package on the shelf, a little man in a black and white suit on the front. We knew him as the Quaker man. There was no other name for the drink.

Daily task vary, from projects that seem solely for the travelers experience to laborious adventures in volunteering. They take place in the mornings, organized somewhat loosely the night before and rearranged by the time they get underway.

• Day one found us filling about 400 bags with soil—beautiful, rich soil with a fine mix of organic matter—to aid a reforestation project. The community’s main source of income used to be wood. Now, through the community is working to plant trees to connect to sections of jungle that were separated. While working, we had rousing games of memory and taboo, in Spanish, with our local little sister, Pamela, and the other volunteers.
• On day two, Emma and I hopped in the back of a milk truck with massive metal storage tanks rattling and tilting all around us. We arrive some thirty minutes outside of town to Luis, our boss for the day, milking Frisian cows along the roadside. Later, he leads us into the jungle to work on some trails his making in hopes of guiding tours for bird-watchers. Las Tolas is in a cloud forest well-stocked with notable birds, including quetzals.
• Day three, we spent the morning at an event at a nearby village, a joint effort of all the surrounding pueblos to come together. To our delight, the culminating activity was a contest to see who made the best outfit from trash. In the afternoon, we got work with a local artisan who collects, processes (milling, coloring, polishing, etc) her own seeds for beads. We made our moms souvenirs.
• On Saturday morning, we followed Edgar, the paterfamilias, down to the community vegetable patch where we—Edgar, the children, Emma, and I—tilled up a steep hillside of earth, sorting through seeds and ultimately planting a row of potatoes and a bed of mixed salad vegetables. When we asked about who would get to eat it all, we learned the garden was to feed future volunteers.

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Cultural Connect: For some reason, I always imagine the life of a Latin American campesino to be one of endless toil and struggle, a no rest for the weary existence, but on Saturday afternoon, Edgar set of to play an extremely odd game called National Ball with a regular group of friends. That night, our last, we shared a couple of beers with Cecilia. Edgar came home a little loopy from after-game festivities and delighted in the fact that we could all sleep in the next day—until 8:00. We woke up to plantain empanadas for breakfast.

Friends Forever

Facebook gets a bad rap, and I have to say it is probably sometimes deserved. Friendships have become a little more passé, reduced to status updates and Likes of encouragement. However, as a traveler, the site has been an amazing bridge for maintaining passé friendships that would otherwise likely dwindle away. I’d heard Facebook mentioned around town a few times in our week at Las Tolas.

As we waited for the bus—keep in mind, there is only one a day to keep the town connected to the world—Cecilia gave us a card thanking us for visiting. She included her Facebook contact. And, on the bus, on his way to some other tiny town nearby, Luis sat across the aisle, finally inquiring: “Tiene Facebook?” And, I guess that’s how life is rural Ecuador these days: Physically cut off but newly plugged in.

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Posted by jonathonengels 14:43 Archived in Ecuador Tagged people children travel farm backpacking environment ngo expat Comments (1)

Debating & Creating The NGO List

A Venture for Adventure

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Most of you, readers of Jonathon Engels and patrons of Jonathon Engels: A Life Abroad, are now very aware of the new project—The NGO List—my wife Emma and I have begun. Even so, I thought instead of writing another NGO profile this week (The NGO List has taken over this duty), I would direct your attention to our new website. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though, what kind of blogger/writer would I be if I didn’t ramble out a few lines first.

This year I wanted to do a little something new with my blogging. Up until January, I’d spent the better part of a year writing a lot about work and life in general as an expat, but I decided to strive for a little more: more variety, more of a challenge, and mostly something more meaningful. So, I came up with four monthly topics: an NGO profile, book reviews, Guatemala (my current expat home), and an expat anecdote. It seemed to go pretty well. This year’s blog has attracted over 20,000 unique visits so far and is gaining more and more readers each month.

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In July, I discovered a few interesting articles about making money via blogging. Feeling a little annoyed with my inability to earn a living freelance writing, and armed with a new wealth of info, I decided to give it a go. In the past, Emma and I had tried to find places to volunteer a few times, but unless we opted for “volutourism” companies, it was much more difficult than expected. After some consideration, soul searching, noticing that my NGO write-ups did pretty well (my number one blog post is about Las Manos de Christine, an NGO I worked for a couple of years ago), I settled on making a website about NGOs.

In the next couple of weeks, I followed the instructions of a website about making moneymaking websites: Smart Passive Income. I researched good SEO names, purchased a domain, and promptly failed to understand Word Press, which apparently is the simplest blog creator ever. So, now a couple hundred dollars into the project (about 25% of what I’d made writing this year), I began to moan, whine, and fuss to my wife and visiting mother-in-law in the evening. Eventually, I had to ditch Word Press, despite Smart Passive’s instructions, and I used the same blog creator my personal website is on, which I highly recommend (Weebly.com).

Then, the List got rolling. Evenings started becoming exciting, with notebooks and ideas spread all over the table. I decided, rather than writing a bunch of articles and copy for friends and family to wade through, I’d compile a massive, OCD-organized list of NGOs for people interested in volunteering when they traveled. I started with Guatemala, and by the time the other Central American countries were getting their rightful pages, Emma had joined the project and took over researching, allowing me to handle design and website building.

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By the end of September, with the Central American list complete (over 70 NGOs), we did our first promotion. The response was incredible. The NGO List outdid my personal website that weekend, and by mid-October, had come to draw over 100 visitors a day. In less than a month of being up and about, we were pulling nearly a 1000 people a week to the site, more than Jonathon Engels: A Life Abroad has ever enticed. Energized, Emma and I increased our efforts to get the South America list together (over 80 NGOs). Now, we are on to Southeast Asia (over 20 already, in Cambodia alone).

The NGO List has come to occupy the bulk of my freelance work time these days. The site has me so excited, and incredibly, Emma and I have found ourselves referencing our own site to plan our upcoming trip to South America. That more or less did for me: The NGO List, I know, has amazing potential to help people, grow into something bigger, do some good in the world, and possibly yield a more promising income than freelancing online.

To date, the site has earned us exactly nada. I’ve monetized it using affiliate links—Better World Books, Lonely Planet, HostelWorld, and Vayama International Airfares if anyone's interested—that pay us a commission when visitors use the links on our site to access their services and buy something. It doesn’t seem to be working, but I have hope (and plans to explore other income avenues). Regardless, we’ve gotten so into the project that the money side of things would be gravy. This NGO List has me jumping around the world, daydreaming about trips to come, new projects to discover. It’s just exciting.

So, without further gushing, you are all officially invited to explore The NGO List. Join us on Twitter, on Facebook, on Pinterest (the albums for this site are awesome), and on Google+. Don’t be shy. We’d love the support. We’d love to know what you—friend, family, or stranger—think of it. We’d love to hear about your favorite NGOs. We’d love to know what else you might want on the site. We’d love to see our project continue to grow and branch out and morph. Ladies and gentleman, gnomes of all sizes…

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Posted by jonathonengels 05:39 Archived in Guatemala Tagged travel profile ngo Comments (1)

Traveling with Purpose & Panache

Lessons from the Greasy Rider & via Getting Stoned with Savages

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Visit The NGO List, my new labor of love, built to connect international volunteers and grassroots NGOs from around the world:
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Make no mistake, I like to tell myself in fits of reflection, one learns lots from books but just as much from experience, from going out into the world and doing, grabbing the good of what there is to be grabbed. This month’s contributions to the blogs de book reviews are two fine providers of both of these lessons, and not just that, these are two divinely entertaining specimens.

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Inspired (as I can relate) by a very conscientious wife and perhaps a sense of mischief (also, relatable), Greg Melville sets off on an innovative and groundbreaking adventure across the continental US: He and his sidekick, an old college buddy called Iggy, are going to be the first men ever to traverse the country by car without buying gasoline. It’s not exactly On the Road. It’s not exactly Travels with Charley. But, it’s a hell of an interesting adventure.

Unlike other road trip memoirs, Melville’s is unique in that, more than a search for the nostalgic American identity, he and Iggy are getting there as fast as possible, hoping to avoid dive diners with that much-beloved small-town charm, and driving towards the future. The two characters play off each other so well, just like buddies will do, rather tirelessly annoying and challenging one another but stepping up when the time is right.

The result: Iggy challenges Greg to go beyond just the symbolic French fry car trip and investigate several green-themed items, which provide some fantastic detours from the main narrative, including trips to Al Gore’s house (in search for the greenest house in the US) and a visit to Arkansas and Texas to find out about Wal-Mart’s green initiative.

As for me, I moved through this one quickly. I love the idea, the mix of travel and social conscientiousness with Greg and Iggy’s somewhat opposed personalities but shared background. I was reminded how important the trip is, and I was reminded why the trip isn’t enough. Like the Greasy Rider, we as people, as travelers, and as writers must accept the challenge to investigate beyond point a to point b, to move ourselves mentally as well as physically. And, keeping a sense of humor about the whole thing isn’t a bad idea, either.

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J. Maarten Troost becomes the first author to appear in this blog twice. A follow up to his very funny (and different) bestseller, The Sex Lives of Cannibals, this book starts with Troost bored of the D.C. corporate life, missing the simplicity, even the diet of rotten fish and threat of lurking sharks, of living on an isolated atoll in the South Pacific. His wife, Sylvia (the girlfriend he’d followed to Kiribati in his first book), who works with development organizations, finds the solution: Another new job in the South Pacific.

This time Troost knows exactly what he’s getting into: a land where cannibalism has been practiced for centuries, where volcanoes are gurgling molten lava and burping ash, where cyclones decimate cities, where young boys chew the root of pepper shrub to produce a saliva-based intoxicating drink called kava, where life is different and maybe easier than on Kiribati but is still filled with all the things that go along with a life abroad.

For me, from a writing perspective, this book is much better than the first. Troost feels in control of his rants and language, his observations still ring hilariously true but more like an investigation on which we are invited along. And, it’s fun. Knowing that this trip was supposed to produce adventures for a new book, he goes out of his way to pursue whatever seems interesting, things we all (or, at least me) want to do but sometimes just don’t manage to.

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I dig these books, and I’m excited about the idea of traveling with purpose and panache, especially knowing that my own trip is coming up soon. In support of The NGO List and our own seemingly unquenchable sense of adventure, Emma and I will be setting off this November, from Guatemala to Patagonia by May, with plans to volunteer and check out cool projects doing good things in the world and linger in places that suit us. I can only hope for the wherewithal and drive (literally and figuratively) these two authors had. Some great writing coming from it would just be gravy.

For more writing and ramblings, visit Jonathon Engels: A Life Abroad--more blogs, articles, and more:
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Posted by jonathonengels 08:06 Archived in Guatemala Tagged me travel books living ngo writing expat Comments (0)

Shamelessly Seeking Devotion & Love

8 More Ways to Help Your Friend, the Writer

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It wasn’t until I started writing semi-professionally that I realized how important it is to have people gush over you. Not only does my fragile ego need it, as there are still more rejections than victories, but my writing—from the first words on the screen to the articles on the sites—needs it as well. It’s nice to be reminded what you are laboring over matters to someone other than you and that, in the end, people will be reading it, if all goes well, voluntarily.

The support I’ve received over the last two years has been incredible. Old friends have come back into my life to Like & Share & +1. New friends have rallied to the cause and helped me promote my writing. I honestly couldn’t ask for more, and what is incredible is that people still often ask me what more they could do. So, as a service both to myself and to those other writers still nickel-and-diming their way into a living, I’ve compiled a list of things that might honestly help me…us. (But, if you’re reading this, mostly me.)

1. Drop a line letting us know you’ve liked or simply read something. To be honest about being shamefully self-involved, I become consumed with everything I put out there, revisiting sites to see how many people have “liked” it. I’m giddy every time somebody bothers to leave a little comment on Facebook or at the bottom of an article or blog post. For me, it means someone actually read it, possibly even from top to bottom, and that is just awesome. I was never a particularly needy writer before being published, but after a little recognition, it seemed my need for more grew insatiable: Did they like this one, too?

2. Share what you like. It’s amazing what happens when people start to share on Facebook (and like—but sharing reaches more people), retweet, and/or +1 an article. More often than not, my articles settle in somewhere between twenty and fifty likes, but a few times, I’ve watched the good stuff skyrocket: 100+ Likes, a dozen Tweets, etc. I don’t know how it used to be, but these days writers spend a lot of time promoting their publications on social media. To see something get this sort of visible applause is so reassuring, both that the writing is okay and that the incessant posting isn’t annoying the hell out of people.

3. Join in on all the social media outlets you use. When I promote an article, I put it up on no less than five different outlets at a time. These outlets have become so important to writers. The number of followers, friends, connections, and links we acquire means a tremendous amount in terms of the likelihood our latest article will be read by as many people as possible and, in turn, of our writing being a viable commodity for publishers. Writing now must compete with YouTube!, Vimeo, and the like, so it’s becoming unprofitable for sites to buy anything but bulleted lists and Miley Cyrus stunts.

4. Let us know what you want to know. I started off as a poet, and one that expected readers to recognize genius (whatever I decided to write). Now, I realize that what I really want to write is what people are interested in reading. Fortunately for me, the expat life is one that yields a lot of material, and unfortunately, a lot of that material becomes a little too typical after a while. Sometimes it’s a struggle to weed through what’s too basic and what’s too specific. Publications, especially, want those articles people (you) will click on, which might not be “Four Awesome Multi-Purpose Tree Projects in Guatemala”.

5. Actually visit our website from time to time. The cyber world keeps track. The same way an article that receives a lot of attention will benefit its publisher, a website that gets a lot of traffic will benefit its creator. One of the first things I do every morning is check how many people visited my site the day before (usually between 50 and 150 a day). When the site’s traffic gets to a certain point, I’ll be able to monetize the site selling ad space, using affiliate programs (where I’m paid a commission), and garnering more attention from paying publishers. It’s a more stable income than selling article freelance.

6. Set our websites as your homepage, if only for a week or month. This is crazy devotion and beyond any realistic expectation, but essentially, it would mean that you visit the website daily, possibly distracting yourself with an article before getting down to business. In my case, I update my website Welcome page about once a week, which would mean opening up to the same thing so often it might drive some friends into an intense hatred of me and all things associated. I wouldn’t want that, but…
My mom asks me a lot about how she can help. Like moms tend to be, she’s really proud I’ve managed to get my name up in luminous places, glamorous websites like Transitions Abroad, BucketTripper, and BootsnAll, and she wants to show me. I know she has likely shared my every publication with my aunts and uncles, her friends and colleagues, probably a few people down at Friday happy hour. She’s never been bashful (though I may have been) about talking me up. This sort of devotion…she’ll love me no matter what, no matter how many times she sees my stupid website when she logs on.

7. Paying attention to certain monetization efforts, and when possible (not costing you any extra) use them. Namely, affiliate programs. This week I’ll be launching a new website www.thengolist.com, which I’ve monetized through affiliate links. These links are sort of like ads (that I’ve personally selected), only I’m paid by commission rather than for the ad space. The idea would be that, if you are going to buy a book from Better World Books anyway, knowing that my site has a link to it, visiting my site to get to the Better World Books website would mean the same cost for you and little money for me.

8. Include links on your pages and personal websites. Similar to sharing through social media, including hyperlinks or quick routes to articles you like or a website in general is an amazing way of promoting us. Many websites these days don’t even offer meager sums for articles (I’ve been paid as low $10 or, sometimes, nothing), but they offer to promote your website or blog as compensation. And, truth told, the more avenues that lead to a writer, the more likely that writer will find a fan. The fan means one more person to possible do the aforementioned things.

So, for those hundreds who have supported me and sought to support me more, I hope I’ve not overstepped my boundaries with these suggestions. Typing up the end of this blog entry, it seems a bit presumptuous to compile a wish list to tell others what it is exactly you can do to help me. But, it’s a question I’ve fielded often, a genuine interest from some, about things that genuinely make a big difference in my sometimes reclusive, overly obsessed life.

My wife, who has suffered neglectful evenings and my head-scratching frustration more than I’d like to admit, has been incredibly supportive. She’s listened to me read manuscripts aloud, offered ill-received criticism when I needed it, and always believed I could do it, whatever “it” was. She’s endured a new growing obsession with SEO-related stuff and the onset of social media fixation. She’s always asked how she could help, and she’s now partnered with me in the creation of our new, truly useful site: The NGO List.

We are doing our first big promotion of The NGO List this weekend. It’s a website that is meant to link travelers who would like to spend some time volunteering with organizations that would like to have volunteers. So, if this latest blog has you at all inspired, spend a little time on the site, maybe like the page on Facebook, follow on Twitter, and help us build a big audience on our first weekend. Like always, thanks so much for your interest.

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Posted by jonathonengels 12:53 Archived in Guatemala Tagged travel ngo writing expat Comments (2)

Saving Sea Turtles in Hawaii—Guatemala

& Another Attempt at a Blue-Green World for Akazul

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To those of you who enjoy my blog, you are cordially invited to befriend me on Facebook, include me in your Twitter feed, Link up, Pin me, and/or encircle me with your Google-y world. It's a great way to let us lowly bloggers know we are doing something worthwhile.

Hawaii, the city not the state, is located on the Pacific coast of Guatemala, a mere stone’s throw from the border of El Salvador. It’s a place famous for sea turtles, particularly the endangered leatherback and the olive ridley, and in the same breath, it is known for being one of the last commercial distributors of sea turtle eggs. Herein lies the inspiration for another great NGO working in Guatemala: ARCAS.

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ARCAS, a non-profit formed by concerned Guatemalan citizens in the late-80s, has centers throughout Guatemala: in Peten, where monkeys and jaguars are; in Guatemala City, where environmental education takes precedence; and in Hawaii, home of the ARCAS sea turtle hatchery. However, today, perhaps because I’ll soon be visiting the Pacific coast and the hatchery, I’ve come to talk turtles.

While much of the southwest region’s volcanically fertile land has given way to agriculture, the brackish mangroves along the shoreline have remained a healthy contrast and are still rich with life. ARCAS has been working here since 1993 when, alarmed by the depletion of leatherback turtles in the world, the NGO settled in Hawaii to try to prevent the over-harvesting of turtle eggs by the local communities. (Not to be left unnoticed, adult turtles are often victims of the tuna and swordfish industry.)

As it seems is often the case with over-harvested things, the big draw to turtle eggs was not the makings of a really wicked omelet but the belief that it was an aphrodisiac, a la tiger penis and bear bile. (How the world does fall into the whims of impotent men!) Sadly, there are reportedly only around 2000 leatherbacks—the second largest reptile in the world—left in the Pacific, and eggs are pretty important to repopulation. In its hatcheries in Hawaii and El Rosario, ARCAS manages to collect 50,000-plus eggs a year.

But, ARCAS hasn’t stopped at turtle eggs. The NGO also has programs for community development and conservation in the area, with opportunities to volunteer. They are petitioning the Guatemalan government to create 4000-hectare protected park centered on the important mangroves around Hawaii, and ARCAS has even gone so far as to purchase Finca El Salado to start the project off and buffer the mangroves from the encroaching sugar cane farms, as well as monitor the factories effects on the coast. The Hawaiian ARCAS branch also does a lot of work with local iguanas and caiman, two indigenous species, like turtles, in need of population recovery.

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Another of the many great turtle projects in the area is Akazul, a UK-born NGO located in La Barrona, not far from Hawaii. In 2010, Akazul was formed by members of a program, Project Parlama (the local word for the olive ridley), that was begun by ARCAS and another UK-based NGO, Ambios. Akazul, derived from the Mayan word “ak” (great cosmic turtle) and the Spanish “azul” (blue, as in the ocean), is also working hard to make sure these turtle stick around a while longer.

Akazul is trying to connect all the turtle hatcheries along the coast in order to build up and standardize the conservation efforts here in Guatemala. As well, they do a lot to educate local communities, preserve the environment, and monitor how all the various projects are going. Like ARCAS, Akazul offers volunteer opportunities, or for those interested in helping from afar, the NGO accepts outright donations, membership fees (which includes a subscription to an e-zine about the project), or nest sponsorships.

Both of these organizations are worth exploring online. I can’t wait to check them out in the flesh in a couple of weeks.

Interested in more awesome Guatemalan NGOs? Check out my NGO page with fresh profiles on some of the great projects to be discovered in Central America's do-goodery capital.

Posted by jonathonengels 08:55 Archived in Guatemala Tagged animals guatemala profile ngo Comments (0)

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