Know Your Cause: The Natives in the Amazonian RainforestsThe Amazonian Center for Environmental Resources (ACEER) is a nonprofit organization focused preserving the Peruvian and Amazonian rainforests. With climate change and deforestation at the forefront of global issues at the moment, the organization does its part by educating on rainforest preservation. ACEER’s contributions don’t just help the environment, its work also strives to reduce global poverty by helping the natives in the Amazonian rainforests and Peruvian regions.

ACEER’s work to decrease deforestation helps the natives in the Amazonian rainforests keep their homes. Deforestation destroys the habitats of many animal and plant species which also destroys indigenous peoples’ home as the forests serve as their main source of food and shelter.

The organization’s AMIGOS! program strives to give the children in Amazonian areas a quality education. The AMIGOS! program does a lot to help the Peruvian schools in cities such as Puerto Maldonado and Iquitos and rural areas. The program has been around since 1995, teaching hundreds of children about rainforest ecology, history and conservation every year. AMIGOS! uses creative ways to teach those subjects, such as their Puppet House which feature characters like Yoqui the Brave Pirate who teaches children about protecting the rainforest’s ecosystems.

There is also a school-village partnership program to participate in community service projects such as installing solar pasteurization systems for clean drinking water and offering workshops for medicinal plant gardening. Since these Peruvian schools are one-roomed schools with almost no textbooks and few supplies, teachers lack resources to give children a quality education. American schools provide supplies such as pencils, chalkboards, and exercise books to these schools in need.

The organization also provides programs to study the water quality in the rainforests to ensure there is drinking water for the natives in the Amazonian rainforests as well as the wildlife. One such program is the Leaf Pack Program which has a network of teachers, students, and others studying the water quality in streams by using an experimental kit. The Leaf Pack experimental kit collects samples from a local stream and shares the data to determine if the water is safe enough to drink.

In 2012, ACEER received a major grant from the Blue Moon Fund to conduct ecosystem assessment along the Transoceanic Highway in Peru to make sure the water is drinkable. This organization has also worked with TriVita Inc. to bring safe drinking water to the Amazonian village by installing new surface water systems in 2014.

ACEER’s work does a lot to save the rainforest, but helping the environment has also helped the locals who live there. After all, global poverty and environmental issues are closely linked, so the efforts of this organization work with both issues to make the world better.

Emma Majewski

Photo: Flickr

Amigos de Las Américas
Amigos de Las Américas (AMIGOS) was founded by youth pastor Guy Bevil in 1965 when he and a small group of young adults landed in Honduras to administer polio vaccines in isolated, rural communities.

He knew that people lived off the beaten path, and wanted to provide health services for those who would not normally have access to them. Nearly 50 years later, his philosophy is strongly upheld in the organization.

Amigos de Las Américas has a mission: to make young people leaders and improve underdeveloped communities while doing so. Volunteers are high school or college aged. Summer programs are generally four to nine weeks in length, though college students can take a gap semester or year. All must have a base level of Spanish and an interest in changing the world.

Over 700 volunteers received training in leadership and specific community development projects annually. Volunteers are placed with host families, which gives them a chance to improve their Spanish, learn about the host culture, share their own culture and further integrate into the community.

Accepted applicants to the program must pay a program fee; 80 percent of this goes to cover travel, additional housing and meals. The remaining 20 percent is used for the organization’s administrative expenses.

AMIGOS operates in nine different countries: Paraguay, Panama, Nicaragua, Peru, Mexico, Ecuador, The Dominican Republic, Colombia and Costa Rica. Community development projects cover a wide range of services, but are largely dependent on AMIGOS partners.

AMIGOS partners with locally based organizations, often nonprofit, to ensure that its volunteers are doing effective and needed work within a community. There are 25 partners in total.

Organizations like Servicios de Salud de Oaxaca in Mexico and Prodia of Peru, work mainly in health services, sanitation and nutrition awareness. Fundación Paraguaya and Panama’s Ministereo de Deasarollo Social provide investment services in local projects and individual enterprises. Fútbol con Corazón provides workshops on nutrition and life skills to more than 2,000 children in Columbia. This is in addition, of course, to soccer training.

Some might ask why AMIGOS focuses its efforts on Latin America when there is poverty still in the United States. The organization says it builds leaders, and that the compassion and leadership skills learned while on programs abroad are brought back to the U.S.

— Olivia Kostreva

Sources: AMIGOS, Go Overseas , US Gap Year Fairs
Photo: Vimeo