Last week I was invited to help out with CONAPAC’s annual community evaluations. CONAPAC serves over 70 communities and every year in December they visit each one to see how they are doing and if they are taking advantage of the support that CONAPAC has provided. Last week we visited 40 communities along the Napo River. In order to visit so many communities in so little time, CONAPAC puts together a team of volunteers to help out. All of the volunteers work in the education field in various agencies, (except me of course). We broke off into 8 teams each day, and each team visited a different community. We stayed at Explornapo Lodge which is always a treat! Tomorrow we leave to evaluate the rest of the communities along the Amazon River. We will be staying at Explorama Lodge for 3 nights and Ceiba Tops Lodge for 2 nights, one of the many benefits of volunteering!
|Students from Llachapa welcoming the evaluation team!|
During the community visits we go to all of the schools in the community, observing the students in a typical class, as well as asking them a few questions ourselves. We talk to the teachers and school administrators to see how they are doing, if they are receiving support from their students’ parents, and to hear what they have done to promote environmental education in the school and community. We also take a look at their school supplies to see how they have used the supplies donated by the Adopt A School program.
|Students from San Pedro|
|High School students in Isla Tamanco|
After checking out the schools we have a meeting with parents and other members of the community to see if they are happy with their teacher(s) and to hear what they have done to support CONAPAC’s goals. CONAPAC encourages the communities to elaborate projects for the benefit of the entire community, in the areas of environment, production, and service. Some communities had beautiful medicinal plant gardens, school vegetable gardens, and reforestation projects. A few were growing plantains and corn as a community, and others were working on projects like building bridges. CONAPAC has also built water treatment plants in some communities so we followed up with community members to make sure there are no problems with the system and to find out if everyone in the community is actually using the treated water.
|The Community of Isla Tamanco|
Finally we gathered information about the community as a whole, writing down the names of all of the authorities of the community and collecting census forms that were passed out earlier. We also asked some questions for the organization Amazon Cares to see if the communities would be interested in a clinic to sterilize their cats and dogs. In one community when explaining that this would help control the cat and dog population, everyone got a sort of horrified look on their faces- they thought I was talking about killing their pets!!
|Esther, a baby agouti pet in the community Primero de Enero|
I had a wonderful time visiting all of the communities. Of the five I visited, I had only been to one of them before. It was a very different experience from visiting communities with school groups, very eye opening. Some communities were outstanding, while others were struggling for various reasons. Many communities have problems with their teachers. Most teachers are from Iquitos and are assigned to these communities. Some love working in the rural villages, others don’t so they just don’t come. The community members might file complaints in Iquitos, but they don’t have the resources to keep coming back to the city to follow up on their complaint, so nothing happens. We filled out paperwork to report all of these cases when we return to Iquitos, but it sounds like little will change. It was pretty heartbreaking to meet children who couldn’t even write their own names, their teachers had abandoned them. On the other hand we visited a high school where students were writing beautiful poetry! All of the communities that I visited were very clean and very happy that CONAPAC is working there, although some communities had done absolutely zero community projects! I’m excited to continue the evaluations next week; I learned a lot this week! The evaluation team was great, they were a lot of fun and very dedicated to education.
|The CONAPAC Evaluation Team|
When we got back to Iquitos yesterday I headed home, anxious to take a shower after a long day visiting a community and traveling back to the city. When I got to the house I quickly learned that there was no water. We only have water until about 6:30 at my house, but for whatever reason it went out early yesterday. I thought I might cry! Instead I called Cynthia, and took a shower at her house! It was wonderful- she has HOT WATER! I've been here two months now, that was my first hot shower! Speaking of water, check out the river! It's on the rise again, it's risen quite a bit since I was there in November (see earlier post)!
|Napo dock in December|