Amazon Pueblo- Gaining Clarity

This page is taken in-part from a post written by one of our board members, Crystal Angulo, after her February 2017 visit to the village. It is one one the best written explanations of our project to date.

As some of you know, I am on the Board of Directors for “The Amazon Pueblo”, which is an organization that was started by my brother seven years ago in the village of La Libertad, Amazonas, Colombia, which has about 350 residents. 


The Decision to Visit the Village

I visited the village 2 years ago, after going through a tough year following my divorce.

It was a life changing trip for me. From putting my first-world problems into perspective and getting a small, yet true glimpse into what it is like to live without clean water, consistent access to food, or education. But the villagers continue to persist and survive in conditions that most of us are unaware of or lack the knowledge to truly empathize because we have not exposed ourselves to places such as these.

 
Gustavo and his wife starting the process of making handicrafts


My Confusion About What "Amazon Pueblo" Was

To be completely honest, during the time I have been a director, I have struggled to figure out exactly what “Amazon Pueblo” does. I knew the ultimate goal was to help the villagers become a self-sustainable community and I’ve always been on-board with supporting it because I have met the people and heard their stories and knew they needed assistance.  However I always felt like the method of getting the people to to become sustainable was changing or didn’t make sense to me as an outsider because there were so many moving parts or, what seemed like, side projects.

That may seem naïve of me to not truly know and understand the ways of an organization of a board I am on, but to be fair, I knew my brother was doing great work and that the money raised was going directly to the village (unlike many corrupt non-profits) and any manual labor was being done by actual villagers who would earn a wage).  I’ve seen the benefits to the village, and coming from a world of non-profits, the first several years of any new non-profit can be a bit wobbly with changes until it can finds its grounding or  ‘tipping point.’


Growing Its Legs

With my current trip to La Libertad, one of my main goals was to understand what the is exact mission of ‘Amazon Pueblo’ and how it is going to achieve that mission. Ben and I obviously had a lot of time to talk about it, being with limited electricity, so I think I truly understand where our organization is now. In my opinion, I believe it’s fair to say that ‘Amazon Pueblo’ now has its’ legs.

 
The volunteer house in La Libertad

The project now has a clear vision, which I don’t think it had before, because it couldn’t.  

The vision: For the indigenous people of the Amazon to prosper through sustainable business.

The project had to find a way to be effective, in a manner in which it could help.  Things are different here.  The people of the village live their live day-to-day.  To plan for the future is not normal.

It took about 2 years for many of the village people to trust that the project was not trying to take advantage of the community. And it took this long for the project to undestand the village and to piece together from different sources  where the true issues laid and still lay- was it access to clean water? Education? Lack of leadership? Lack of access to real health care? Lack of jobs? Well, the answer is, it is ALL of these things, and more.

The soluton to these problems?  Have a model of deveopment structured on sustainable business.


So What Does Amazon Pueblo Actually Do?

 
Ben talking to the village at a meeting about
working together to improve their lives and the importance of 'being on board'.

Amazon Pueblo wants to educate and provide the villagers with the skills needed to function together, create a profitable village of production, and for that business to be sustainable.  We do this through a network of volunteers.

The Amazon Pueblo project does not (and has not) want to raise money for ‘x’ and then walk away.

We want the people of La Libertad to look into their future and be excited that they can control it and have a future without constant parasites and sickness. Shifting the mindset alone of the people to being able to use the rich resources in their own backyard to create a profitable and sustainable business has taken the last 5 years- with many meetings, time spent with the villagers to build trust, to have them truly believe in and help create the solutions for authentic buy-in. Amazon Pueblo is the facilitator of this- a real grass-roots organization.  We promote sustainability through socially-conscious business.  One day we hope  to be able turn everything over and walk away, knowing that the village has the skills to continue running their business for years and generations to come. Their success is our success.