Welcome to the ChockaLife podcast. Today my guest is Douglas McMeekin who started a nonprofit as well as a for profit combined business in the Amazon of Ecuador. Welcome Douglas.
Douglas: Thank you very much.
So I went to visit you and was incredibly impressed by what you’re doing down in Ecuador. I found out about you from a friend who had been down in the Amazon and asked him to tell me about lodges that were doing amazing things and he said, “you’ve got to meet Douglas, he is the real deal.” That was for certain!
When I went to Ecuador in 2006, you had started a high school in the Amazon, the first of its kind. Tell me a little bit about how you started Yachana and what it took to get this going because you have an incredible story. You moved from the US originally, worked in the oil industry, and then started this amazing foundation.
Douglas: Yeah, in 1986, as a result of the recession in the US, I went bankrupt. For me, it was an opportunity to start all over again in my forties. So, I went in ’84 to visit friends in Ecuador, didn’t speak Spanish, went back to study Spanish for part of ’84 and ’85 and then I moved to Ecuador in 1986.
I worked for an oil company as an environmental and cultural consultant. Being an entrepreneur by nature, after a couple of months another oil company called and asked me if I would help them, and then another, and so I decided to set up a business as a consulting company to work with ultimately, eight different companies in environmental and cultural issues. I did that for six years and it was really an opportunity to get to know the Amazon, because virtually all the oil exploration in Ecuador is in the Amazon region and also to get to know the people.
I became frustrated with how the companies were dealing with the people. For that reason, I decided to leave that work and set up the foundation, which I did in 1991. Our first contract was in 1992, building schools and doing teacher training with the Ministry of Education on the Upper Napo region, which is where you visited, when you were there. From 1992 to today, I’ve been living in this, when I first moved, very remote region of the Amazon on the Napo River– although it’s not as remote today.
When you say remote, just to explain how you get to Yachana, you go from Quito at 9,200 feet above sea level, over the Andes in a thirty minute flight that takes you down to the Amazon – and it’s a roller coaster. You land in the town of Coca, which is a little bit like the wild west, and then you get into a jeep which will take you to the Napo River and then it’s a two and a half hour motorized canoe ride to the lodge. It’s a beautiful, amazing adventure to get there.
So back to your story – it’s a little more complicated almost because you came from working for the oil companies to realizing that you needed to move into helping the people more. Did you start your foundation as a nonprofit or did you start it as a consulting business on your own?
Douglas: No, the consulting business was a for profit business. I started the foundation as a foundation to work in education. That was the idea from the very beginning when I set up the foundation in ’91. That’s the main work that we’ve done. We’ve taken side tracks in helping income generation, working with cacao, we built a clinic, we built a number of schools, we’ve done a lot of different things but the central focus has been in education and that is what ultimately led me to start a high school in 2005. It was a boarding school because it was so remote kids couldn’t come and go daily. It was for kids from the Amazon.
My whole philosophy is learning by doing, practical experience and we had incredible, incredible success. The students loved it, they learned English, they learned practical things but they didn’t meet every single letter of the curriculum of the government and at the end – the government offered to help fund teacher’s salaries, which they never did and secondly they wanted us to conform to their curriculum to the letter – so it didn’t make any sense to us to try and continue to struggle to raise the funds to keep the school going. So, in July of 2013, we graduated our last class.
But I hadn’t gotten out of the education field. We have built a training center that is designed for providing shorter courses. In the high school we had to provide three consecutive years, so it was a much more complex system. In our new school, the training center is for short courses and adults from fifteen years and up. Now, we have a lot more flexibility and things we can offer to the students, so that’s what we’re doing now.
Right. Just to go back a little bit to the high school, was that the first of its kind where you actually had a boarding school and you were offering a curriculum that provided sustainable development courses…English – to these kids that were from really remote parts of the Amazon?
Douglas: Yes, very remote and very poor. If our school had been built in the city and the clientele were kids of rich parents it wouldn’t have been any problem but that’s not what we were trying to do. The results we had were incredible but we just had to face reality (financial). However, we still wanted to offer training, so we stepped back from one way and went in a different direction and that’s what we’re doing now.
I’m sure you’ve had to be incredibly flexible working and living in a place like the Amazon in Ecuador. So, just to get back to funding, how did you raise the money to even start the foundation in ’91?
Douglas: I came to Ecuador bankrupt with nothing and as I said, I worked for eight different oil companies. I had a successful business in my work with them and made money. That’s where I raised the initial capital to build and start the foundation.
When you started the foundation, did you start the lodge at the same time?
Douglas: Not exactly the same time, a couple years later. I started working in the region in ’92. In ’95, I built and opened Yachana Lodge as a way of helping to guarantee the sustainability of the foundation. I’ve seen too many foundations come and go for lack of any kind of sustainable income.
So that was a for profit business that was helping to sustain your nonprofit foundation.
How has it been starting a foundation and a business in another country? Especially a country like Ecuador without a lot of infrastructure – I was stunned at how little infrastructure there was for almost anything while I was there – although I’m sure it has improved a bit.
Douglas: It’s improved a lot. This President has done a lot. A lot more roads have been built. The roads that are built – many of them are paved now, so there’s a lot more infrastructure. But still, everything’s relative – there’s a lot more infrastructure but we’re still hours from the nearest town. We built a new lodge that just opened in January of this year (2014) – still called Yachana Lodge but they’re new facilities within our two thousand five hundred acre reserve and it’s accessible both by river and by road. It’s different from what we had before.
Right, before it was basically by power canoe up the river.
Douglas: Yes, just by river. Starting a business or a foundation in this country is…you just do it. There are rules and regulations and things you have to do and if you get stressed out by those things you better not live here. You fill in the blocks and you go ahead and do it!
Did it take you having any particular connections or special connections with the government to get this going? Did you have to be a trusted member of society? Could you have done it just by moving down there and starting immediately?
Douglas: Well, no, I didn’t have any special connections. As long as you’re willing to jump through the hoops and the stuff that you have to do, it’s not overly daunting. I’ve been living here already a long time and at the beginning of the foundation, I’d been running a consulting company so I pretty well knew how you get things done. You get professionals to help you – legal, accounting, whatever – and you just make it happen.
Right, I think some people forget that sometimes. They look at the entire task and they think, ugh – well it’s fine for you but I could never do it. What you’re saying is basically; you just do it. You find out what you need to do and you do it.
Through the years of the foundation, has your working relationship with the government changed? It sounds like they were more involved before and not as much now or is that not the case?
Douglas: We work very closely with the government, with different ministries, the Ministry of Education, Tourism and we have very good relationships. It’s very positive. We have contracts working with the government in training now and it’s a very good relationship.
Tell me a bit about your different programs you have on the nonprofit side of your foundation.
Douglas: Ok, let me briefly explain some of the changes that have taken place in the last year and a half. The lodge that you visited in 2006 was on the south side of the river and accessible only by canoe. A year and a half ago an organization out of Canada agreed to buy the infrastructure but not the name, and the land that that infrastructure was sitting on. I took this as an opportunity to basically start over again because we were already facing the closure of the high school and a lot of changes were taking place.
The foundation that bought the infrastructure is called, “Free the Children.” It’s a very good foundation. They also made a major donation to our foundation to allow us to finish building all the infrastructure that we now have for our training facility. Part of that infrastructure is the new lodge – but it is a hotel school. In this country there aren’t even any universities that have their own hotel. So this allows for these kids in the jungle that don’t have a lot of resources to have a world-class eco-tourism hotel that is used as a training facility.
Just as an example, at this moment, a number of young people are coming through in a program we’re doing with the Ministry of Education and we’re taking them to the lodge and into the rooms. We show them the details of how we fold the towels so they look like swans or turtles or whatever. The students were fascinated and then they had a chance to practice and do these things. They remarked that what owner would open the door and allow them to come in and be a part of what we’re doing?
We built a new beautiful lodge and its whole focus is as a hotel school. We’ve also built our training center which is focused this moment on gastronomy and food management, computers – we’ve got an incredible computer lab, English instruction – a lot of different things that we’re offering in shorter courses. We’re no longer locked into a government curriculum for three years as we were with the high school.
Are your students still from all over the Amazon? Do they have room and board when they come to take the training courses?
Douglas: Yes, that’s correct.
And how do you find your students?
Douglas: Well, they’re finding us. There’s a huge demand because unfortunately, the public education is built too much on theory and rote memory where a student listens – doesn’t matter if what he listens to is correct or not – and regurgitates it and gets a good grade. We’re giving them practical things that are fun and different and help open their eyes.
The thing that we’re trying to do – what I keep saying – is we want the kids to ask, why? If you can get a young person to ask why then you can go into some of the theory and explain and show all of that – but all too often, the public schools don’t get to the why, they just tell them the theory and draw on a blackboard and that’s it. A young person doesn’t learn that way.
So essentially you’re teaching them how to think for themselves and how to question, which is the most important skill you can have.
Douglas: Right, critical thinking – which is lacking in the education system here. Just as a very brief example, we were working with a bunch of kids about ninety five percent were indigenous from communities that were way, way in the jungle – they all have flashlights and batteries – batteries are everywhere – but what’s a battery? How does a battery work? We took two fine wires and soldered them to an LED bulb and we put the wire to a penny (because Ecuador uses the US currency) so we used US pennies, which are copper. You have a wire, then you put a penny on it, then a piece of paper that’s been soaked in vinegar, then another penny and you stack them up until you get seven or eight cents high and you have three volts and the light comes on. You cannot imagine the pleasure, the feeling that these young people had when they did this and some of the pennies fell over – it was not easy – but then, darn – the light comes on!
The science of discovery. (laughs)
Douglas: It just simplified – what’s a battery? The battery’s a hocus pocus thing you buy, stick it in whatever and it works but what is a battery? And now, they can begin to understand just what is a battery. That’s just a very basic example.
Do all of them speak Spanish when they come from these remote areas?
Douglas: Yes, they all speak Spanish but that’s their second language. That’s also a challenge because many of them have limited vocabulary. A lot of them didn’t know what vinegar was, they’d never bought a bottle of vinegar, so we had to show them a bottle of vinegar and you can go and buy it.
That gives a concrete example of the sort of level of what you’re dealing with to kind of open up their whole world. I mean- there’s so much you can share just by having them there. Where do they tend to go after they attend your training courses?
Douglas: At this moment they’re going back to their communities. We’ve already conducted one training course of native guides and we’ve got another one coming up shortly. Through that course they get a license from the Ministry of Tourism and a certification from us so they can get a job to guide. We’ve got other courses in the pipeline. Some of these courses are to allow people to get work or to better prepare them – others are just for general information. Computers, you know, everyone needs to know how to use computers today.
Right. Can you tell me where some of your high school graduates ended up going because you did have a ten year run. What are some of your graduates doing now?
Douglas: Virtually all of them have work. Many of them are in the best positions in different places whether it is in ecotourism lodges, our competition. The owner of another major lodge said that the finest guides and employees have all come from Yachana. We’ve got two who are in probably one of the finest universities in Quito. One’s in a school in Texas for a year and will return here. What people are looking for is young people who know how to do something, and, as you said a moment ago, who can think for themselves.
Do you still have the Spanish school?
Douglas: No, we’re not doing that now because there’s so much competition. Everyone is offering Spanish and that’s not our focus at the moment.
What about having people come down there to work or teach?
Douglas: That is very much a possibility and in some cases even more so now than before. We need volunteers. One of the things that we’re hoping to start and we’re working on the planning right now is an English immersion program this summer where students would come and be able to spend two weeks in the boarding facility and just be immersed in English. We do need English speaking volunteers for that program. It does help if they speak some Spanish. Unfortunately, that’s one of the limitations that we have. A lot of people want to come and help but they don’t speak a word of Spanish and it’s harder for us. As you know, everything here is in Spanish.
How do you go about getting money for your school? Where do your donors come from and how have you been able to sustain the funding through the years?
Douglas: We rely in part on donations. We have a nonprofit, a 501c3 in the US, which is a tremendous help. The change in the program we have now in comparison to the high school – the kids were so poor they couldn’t afford to pay for anything but now we’re looking for funding to do some of the programs we’re doing now. We’re not out to make money but we have to cover our expenses. We’re getting some support. The program we’ve got now, with these kids, is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, and that’s up through the end of June. We’re looking for other funding and for donations.
Do you write grants and that type of thing?
Douglas: Yeah, I spend a lot of time writing grants.
Every nonprofit does, don’t they?
Douglas: You get a few but you don’t get a lot.
I’m curious, obviously you started out as an American going down to Ecuador, tell me a bit about what were the true inspirations for starting this? As you said, when you first went to Ecuador, you were starting out all over again – but what started the idea that you were going to stay there for years and start this foundation. Because nobody starts something like this in another country without the idea that they’re going to do it for awhile…
Douglas: Well, it didn’t start out that way. I had a contract for six months. I moved down here, left my car in my mother’s garage, you know I came for six months. This is how life is – we don’t always plan for how things are going to go. After two or three months, as I said, I started seeing opportunities. Being an entrepreneur and liking challenges, I said, “What the hell, I’ll stay a little longer.” A little longer now is twenty-eight years.
Douglas: This is home. I have no plans or desire to go back to the United States. So it was not – I came for a long time, to make this happen, it evolved.
One of the things, I’d like to mention, I’m seventy-one. I find a lot of people in my generation have retired and they’re saying, ”well, now what do I do?” for any of the listeners who are in the retirement bracket, I just want to say that I’m going as hard as I’ve ever gone and there are incredible opportunities to do the same work. One of the markets I’m looking at are finding retired people who do speak Spanish, and there are many, who have different skills and are interested in coming down and spending time here – it’s an opportunity where they can give back. You would be surprised how many people say to me in my generation, “boy, you’re lucky!” because I’m certainly not sitting around wondering what to do, I’m going full bore.
Douglas: I mention that because it’s an opportunity if people meet that profile.
I love that because I think that so many people think this is too crazy an idea when they’re of your age and when I went down there you were working as hard as anyone and I would think it gives you more energy, more passion and why wouldn’t you?
Douglas: Yes, it does. I’ve got better health and everything. I’ve got stress; I’m not going to say that I don’t have stress.
Douglas: It’s mostly financial related but you know, if you don’t want stress, die.
That’s life (laughs)
Douglas: Yeah, that’s life (laughs) – it comes with it.
Well, honestly, I think that’s the most important thing to take away. If you have a passion, go for it; don’t think about your age. I talked to someone else who did the Peace Corps; she said retired people are doing that as well. You don’t have to just go move next to the golf course. You’re doing amazing things that are reverberating across the country of Ecuador. I was amazed when I saw what you were doing. One person – you just started this alone, didn’t you?
Douglas: Yeah, still pretty much alone (laughs) but that’s another challenge. We won’t go into that right now.
Right (laughs). Well Douglas, I just have to say, you give me inspiration, thanks for what you’re doing for Ecuador and the people there and please continue to keep that up. For our listeners, there are opportunities to volunteer if you speak Spanish, help Douglas out. I can’t say enough about what he’s doing down there for the people of the Amazon.
Douglas: Ingrid, thank you very much, if anyone wants to get in touch with me, my email is Douglas@Yachana.org.ec which stands for Ecuador.
Perfect, thank you Douglas.
Douglas: Thank you.
MORE INFORMATION ON YACHANA FOUNDATION:
YACHANA FOUNDATION HISTORY
YACHANA, a Kichwa indigenous language word that means “a place for learning”
1986 Douglas McMeekin, founder of the Yachana Foundation, moved to live in Ecuador.
1986 – 1992 Douglas McMeekin worked for six years in the Amazon as an environmental and cultural consultant for eight different oil companies. As a result of this experience he realized that something more sustainable had to be done to help the people living in the Amazon region.
1991With this realization Douglas founded the Yachana Foundation at the end of 1991. His mission for the foundation was to contribute to community-based solutions to poverty and environmental conservation in the rainforest through training to create opportunities of employment, health and entrepreneurism with a focus on social, economic and environmental sustainability.
1992The new foundation began to work in the upper Napo River area building six schools and training teachers in 27 communities. At that time, the only access to the area was three hours by motorized dugout canoe from the nearest road up river. The foundation chose the small indigenous community of Mondaña for its base of operations.
1994The foundation started a 13 year process to buy rainforest. Today this protected forest encompasses 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of primary and secondary rainforest. It is used for conservation, tourism and education.
1995The foundation started Yachana Lodge, a world class eco-tourism lodge on the banks of the Napo River to help generate funds to support the foundation. This “window” into the lives of the people and the rainforest has proven an invaluable link for generating interest in the work of the foundation and as a training opportunity for students studying hotel management.
1995 The foundation formed the community organization Amanacer Campesino representing 27 communities. This organization started out working in health but branched into coffee and cacao to help the farmers get a fair trade price for their crops.
1997The Mondaña medical clinic was built by the foundation and began to operate. This was the only clinic in the region serving a population of 8,000 people. In 2005 the clinic was turned over to the Ministry of Health to ensure its sustainability and continued operation. It is still in operation.
1998 The fall of coffee prices, the primary agricultural product in the region at that time, was a tremendous economic blow to the local farmers. As a result, the foundation started a program to promote the cultivation of cacao as an alternative agricultural crop. Over several years of work by the foundation in two provinces approximately 3,400 hectares (8,500 acres) of cacao was planted by 2,400 farmers. Ten agricultural collection centers were built to ensure the farmers could get a fair trade price for their crops in two provinces and a second farmer’s organization was created, Aroma Amazonica.
1999Six schools and three medical clinics were built in the Shuar territory in the southern part of the Amazon.
2000 Five more schools and three community pharmacies were built in the province of Sucumbios.
2005 The Yachana Technical High School was started serving low income youth from throughout the Amazon. This private boarding school operated for seven years with incredible results. Due to a number of factors beyond the control of the foundation it was necessary to close the school but it has left a legacy of youth trained as leaders, concerned about the conservation of their environment and willing to serve their communities.
2010A project was begun with the Inter-American Development Bank for the creation of the Yachana Training Center on foundation land in the community of Agua Santa.
2012An opportunity presented itself so the foundation sold the Lodge facilities to a Canadian foundation, Free The Children, but Yachana kept the name and began the construction of a new Yachana Lodge within the foundation’s reserve. Through a generous donation from Free The Children, it has allowed Yachana to significantly advance the construction of the training center and hotel school.
2013In October the foundation opened the new Yachana Lodge. The facilities are more beautiful than before and it is located in a spectacular site overlooking the Napo River and the Andes mountains in the distance; within the reserve. The new lodge has been built to serve as a Hotel School for the training center.
2013Two community micro-credit banks were created in the communities of Pacto Sumaco and Babahoyo. Yachana, with the Kaya Foundation, its partner organization in the US for this project, has begun a totally new concept of micro finance. It is called a “forest bank”. We are asking members of the communities to make a signed commitment to their other members to protect a portion of their rainforest in return to having access to credit. To date, there are 48 members in the two banks with 1,020 hectares (2,550 acres) of rainforest protected.
2014February the Yachana Training Center was opened providing short courses to help people get certifications to enable them to get better jobs and to provide supplemental instruction for high school students.
Over these 23 years the Foundation has created many opportunities through its work in education, conservation, ecotourism and health care along with its countless community development initiatives.
HISTORY OF THE FOUNDER DOUGLAS McMEEKIN
Douglas McMeekin was born in Lexington, Kentucky in 1942. He had undiagnosed dyslexia and was a very poor student all of the way through school. Basically he was considered a “dumb kid” because he never got good grades. If a teacher had not given him a grade in his senior year he never would have graduated from high school. This aspect of his history is important because it has been a driving force in his development of the Yachana Foundation. The young people in the Amazon may not have a reading disability, but because they are poor, rural, indigenous or mixed race and from a family with little or no education, there is a tremendous prejudice against them. There is work available in the region, but if a young person does not have the basic skills they will not be considered. If they are not encouraged to use their critical thinking and take risks they will never become entrepreneurs. The foundation’s efforts in education and encouragement have given youth from the region an opportunity to bloom; to get good jobs, travel to the exterior to study or go to some of the best universities in the country. Douglas’s work subverts traditional classroom learning which is often disconnected from student’s experience. Everything Yachana does is truly as a “place for learning”. Douglas, through the Yachana Foundation, has created a sustainable family all working toward its core mission of practical, hands-on education and conservation. In 2008, the Ashoka Foundation, an organization that recognizes true change makers for their accomplishments as social entrepreneurs, honored Douglas by making him an Ashoka Fellow. Most recently, in late 2009, Douglas was honored yet again by the same organization when he was named an Ashoka-Lemelson Fellow, high recognition for his development and use of technology to help raise the standard of living for people living at the base of the economic pyramid. Douglas has spent most of his productive years living in the Amazon and has gotten to know the people and their cultures as few outsiders could. This deep understanding allows him to identify the needs of the people and look for ways to meet those needs.
OUR UNITED STATES FOUNDATION
Yachana Foundation USA is a legally recognized 501 C 3 not for profit foundation created to help fund the work of the Ecuadorian foundation. If you are interested in supporting our efforts, please write for more information.
OUR HYBRID OF A NON-PROFIT FOUNDATION AND FOR-PROFIT COMPANY
We have structured an interesting way to manage our operation and guarantee the sustainability of the Ecuadorian Yachana Foundation. The foundation was created in 1991 but the founder, Douglas McMeekin, was looking for a way to guarantee the continued sustainability of the foundation, which led him to build the eco-tourism facility, Yachana Lodge, in 1995. Over the years Yachana Lodge has received many awards for its work in conservation and community development in conjunction with the work of the foundation. This hybrid arrangement has been hugely successful, allowing the foundation to operate and grow for over 20 years and offering a window into the world and lives of the people from the rainforest for the visitors to the lodge. This is the advantage that Yachana has; offering many unique programs for our visitors that no other jungle lodge can offer.
YACHANA FOUNDATION’S TECHNOLOGY, INNOVATION AND INVENTIONS
Yachana is constantly striving to apply technology or inventions designed for those living at the Base of the Economic Pyramid in its operations. The following are a few examples plus there are new ideas in the pipeline:
Ozone drinking water treatment:
The drinking water for the lodge and the training center are both treated with ozone for purification. Ozone is over 200 times more affective in the purification of drinking water than chlorine (DEL ozone company data). The water tastes better, has no chemicals in it (ozone is a gas), helps to eliminate bacteria on foods that are washed in ozonized water and reduces the need for hot water for washing dishes and clothes. It also affords major financial savings to the laundry operation of the lodge and training center.
Ozone for the laundry:
Ozonated water eliminates the need for hot water resulting in up to an 85% energy saving. Ozone actually works better in cold water.
Salt crystals left by the residual alkali in soaps are completely removed with water treated with ozone therefore there is no longer a need for fabric softener in wash formula; a saving of 10%. Shorter drying times and removal of the sale crystals left by the residual soap alkali results in a 20% extended linen life. Normally these salt crystals are actually “cutting” the fabric during drying producing the lint that one finds in their dryer.
Waste water treatment at the Yachana Lodge:
The sewage from the lodge is treated in a bio-digester, an anaerobic rubber tube that collects all the sewage and allows it to decompose. There are two bi-products: methane gas and contaminated effluent. The methane gas is being collected and pumped to a pressurization system where it is providing gas for cooking at the lodge. The effluent is highly contaminated but the foundation has developed a new invention to treat this liquid. The effluent leaves the bio-digester and goes to a covered pit that has a manifold drainage system that provides the liquid for the production of banana trees. A banana tree sucks up around 400 liters of water a day. This is completely eliminating any runoff and is producing stalks of bananas that can be eaten.
Solar hot water:
In our effort to reduce energy costs through innovation, we have installed solar hot water heating. This is nothing new, but looking for a way to be able to offer a hot water system to people living at the Base of the Economic Pyramid, we have developed a new form of collecting panels. Normally, solar collection panels are made from copper tubes but copper is very expensive and more complicated to install with all the soldered joints. We have used sheets of polycarbonate, a plastic that is commonly used as roofing material over entrances or decks and not very expensive. The polycarbonate is 1 centimeter thick (approximately 1/3rd inch) with separations that run long way down the sheets. We paint the upper surface flat black to collect heat and the underside aluminum to reflect the heat back to the channels. A pipe is installed on both sides of the sheets where cold water flows through the channels to a pipe that collects the hot water at the top of the sheet. This hot water then goes into a collection tank and supplies all of the rooms. A second innovation that we have incorporated is to put the ¾ inch plastic pipe that is the supply line for the hot water inside of a 2 inch PVC pipe that is the return line. This eliminates the need to insulate one of the lines and ensures that the water is constantly hot and reduces the amount of heating that the panels have to perform.
Solar powered walkway lights:
We use LED lights for the walkways that are solar powered.
All compostable material is put in our compost system that is mixed with coffee or rice husks to reduce the moisture content and produce a better fertilizer that is used on the gardens. All leftover food will shortly be used to feed pigs in our own pig production (under construction). All plastic, metal or paper is taken to a sanitary land fill in the city of Coca. We ask that you take any spent batteries back to the city with you and not leave them with us.
Thin-client computers for the computer laboratory:
The foundation has 25 computers in its computer laboratory. Applying the latest technology, instead of having 25 individual CPU’s or servers which is the conventional type of installation for a PC, we have just one mega server that is running all of the computers. A regular CPU consumes around 130 watts of energy per hour in addition to the screen. Our program is using LED screens that use only 11 watts plus a small modem located on the back of each screen that uses 5 watts. By using this system we have reduced our energy consumption by 3,120 watts thus requiring only 514 watts total energy consumption for the system! By using just the one terabyte server we have also reduced the heat that would have normally been generated by so many individual CPU’s; a big plus working in a tropical environment.
YACHANA’S MICRO-CREDIT PROGRAM
The Yachana Foundation has helped start two village micro lending programs, and is in the process of establishing additional ones. These micro-credit programs are unique in their major conservation component and are an outgrowth of the frustration of the foundation director and founder seeing hundreds of millions of dollars moving around the world for carbon credits or mega projects for rainforest protection but not seeing any of this money actually getting on the ground to the individual farmers who own the tropical rainforest. It is not a person in Chicago or London who decides if a rainforest tree is cut down or not, it is a poor farmer trying to subsist in the tropical environment. The farmers are not commercial loggers but instead they cut trees to sell for small amounts of cash for agriculture, health, education or other productive projects. Working with the Kaya Foundation, our partner entity in the US for this project, the Forest Village Micro-Credit program was created. When a village decides to be a part of this program, the members have to sign a commitment that they will leave part of their forest intact and not cut it in order to have access to credit through their micro-credit program. To date, there are two micro-credit programs created with tremendous success with 48 members and 1,020 hectares (2,550 acres) protected. The tremendous interest in the program has lead us to start additional banks because the residents of these communities do not have access to other sources of credit.
THE YACHANA TRAINING CENTER CAMPUS
On the edge of foundation land, where there is easy road access, is where we have built our campus for the training center. It is a beautiful setting spread around a forested area and on both sides of a lovely stream. We believe the best way for our students to learn is through “doing”, not just passively sitting in a classroom. So the idea of much of the infrastructure is to provide real life, practical, hands-on experiences for students. This center is growing, but at the moment we have a very large building that houses a state of the art kitchen for preparation of food for the students studying in the center but at the same time where they will be able to practice culinary arts. A separate training kitchen is also included which allows students to practice and learn without interfering when meals are being prepared. Storage rooms and a walk-in freezer and walk-in cooler are also in the building. Other buildings consist of storage facilities, woodworking shop for training, dormitories for 32 students, a computer laboratory and classrooms. One of our aims is to have multiple examples of both physical and natural science exhibits as discovery teaching tools. With these we are trying to open young peoples’ minds and get them to ask “why”. We are starting with the practical and then moving to the theoretical, the reverse of most education. All of the visitors to Yachana Lodge will have the opportunity to visit the campus and see what we are doing and interact with the students, if classes are in session. Students who are more advanced in studying hotel management have the opportunity to work and learn in the Yachana Lodge hotel school facilities. These students are involved with tourists all of the time as they are learning the skills of tourism.
Want to make a difference and be a part of our work? Why not volunteer? The Yachana Foundation Volunteer and Internship Programs were designed to provide people from all walks of life the unique opportunity to make a meaningful contribution toward the conservation of the Ecuadorian rainforest and the sustainable development of its indigenous and mestizo communities. Through this one of a kind experience, Yachana volunteers embark on a journey of self-discovery that gives them an insider’s view of the Amazon rainforest and a chance to contribute toward creating a world that works for everyone.
Medical student volunteer opportunity
Students in a least their third year of medical or nursing school can become a volunteer at the community Porto Rico Medical Clinic. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or download the Clinical Rotation Program Application.
YACHANA RESERVE SPECIES LIST
The Yachana Foundation has 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres) of rainforest that is designated as a protected forest. For six years we provided a biological field station to an organization called Global Vision International (GVI) and had a very close working relationship with them. In 2012 they left for various reasons, but they left us with an extensive species list collected over six years of the wildlife within the forest.