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Reports from Planet Drum Staff

2002


Click on map for larger version.

Fall 2002 Ecuador volunteers included: Jeff Goddin, Kristen Ford, Chris Haaf, Sara Gomez (& Matt), Rita Higgins, Simon Winch, and others for short times (Justine and Maggie, etc.) Jeff continued to send reports, and Kristin, Chris, Sara and Matt, and Simon also sent reports. They are indexed below. Simon is still in Ecuador and continues to send reports.

Index to Simon's Reports

Index to Sara and Matt's Reports

Index to Chris' Reports

Index to Kristin's Reports

Jeff Goddin volunteered in Ecuador during Spring and Summer 2002 and will continue to work there for some time.  He has begun to send us reports.

Index to Jeff's Reports

Lisa Kundrat worked in Ecuador during Winter and Spring 2002.  She is sending reports, three so far, that take up where other volunteers left off last fall.

Index to Lisa's Reports

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Report # 1: First Impressions

Lisa Kundrat, Field Assistant
Planet Drum Foundation
March 13, 2002

Received a letter from home. Spoke of cold hail running through apple wood ash. Makes me miss Montana these days when I have been questioning my role here, in this place that is not my own, where I am only just learning the feel of the hot ocean, learning to speak.

One night after being so ill, sitting on the crowded dark sidewalk watching lightning, no light in the city. Carlos rides up, takes me on his moto to eat chicken soup. And I remember why I am here: last week, pushing wheelbarrows through Fanca, full of trees, compost, me with the maps moving us along, but all with sweat dripping off noses, shoulders, knees, as we lower plants into the ground, mixing rich black compost with the clay-like soil of the patios. José and Cesár from the Municipio always dropping their current work to help us, digging hole after hole in the hot sun. Also with us each day are Joffre and Huberto from Club Ecológico planting and working hard. Patricia kissing babies, Sara distributing compost, Barrett, a friend visiting, teaching kids how to clean their eyeballs and introducing them to the post-hole digging monster who feasts on niños.

Planted for over 50 houses in the last week, moved fast and worked hard. But also stopped, drank water and juice offered us in the shade under a bamboo house where all relaxed in hammocks amidst the heat of the day, talked about the machismo of Manabí, were invited to a party on Saturday, and went.

Drank hot pink soda, ate sweet cakes and plates of rice, later danced meringue as the guests. Barrett swinging niños (children) in the air. And of course, the parade of El Día de Las Mujeres (Women's Day) -- dancing through the streets twirling abuelitas (grandmothers) with roses to accordions and maracas played out the back of a pick-up truck. A man yelling, "¡Vive a las mujeres!" ("Long Live Women!") as Bahíans line the streets and cheer. And after, sitting on the steps of the church steps eating more ice cream, my little friend with her gift of drippy coconut landing on both our feet. Funeral music playing behind us, and the whole world is all green, thumb wars, and drippy ice cream.

We will finish planting for Fanca 3 in the next week. We will also plant with the kids and women at the school in Fanca on Friday. Then we will need to return to all sections to plant with families we missed, or who never had a chance to receive lemon or mango trees. A flurry of planting before the rain stops, and then a greater focus on creativity and education with the coming of the dry season. Many are worried about the possibility of another El Niño this year, and this will be on all our minds as we look ahead toward the next steps.

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Report #2: Fanca Produce

Lisa Kundrat, Field Assistant
Planet Drum Foundation
March 29, 2002 

A week of storms and heat, of transition, of visiting, walking, listening. Been raining nearly every night, every morning, sweat dripping hot in between. There were nights when no one slept, thunder that made us crouch in our beds, lightning we could see with our eyes closed. Tried to plant in the beginning of the week, were caught as the storm broke, rain filling and overflowing the holes we dug as we turned our backs to retrieve the plants. Finally relinquishing our tools to twirl soaked kids in the rain, teasing to toss them in the rivers of rain flowing along the road.

But amazing the way things grow through this daily rain and sun. The other day walked up to Maria Auxiladora, thought I would check on the state of the staircases I had helped Darci repair last month, see how the paja macho we had planted was doing. Amazed as I found myself pushing through the jungle; before had wondered if trail markers were really necessary, but now questioned if I was even on the trail. New brush up to my knees where before there was none, trees crossing over the trail, the limp and sparse paja macho we planted now thriving. Ran, pushing myself through, and finally emerged, branches in my hair, leaves sticking to my pants, fresh mosquito bites covering my legs. Jungle princess, I laugh and descend to the ocean, promising to be back with shovel and machete.

Growth like I have never known, but good to imagine the fruit trees we have been planting tall and bent with papayas within the next couple of years. Standing imagining this after planting at the school in Fanca with several enthusiastic girls (an enthusiasm that led to the demise of a couple of papayas, but more importantly, the planting of 24 beautiful fruit trees). The trees surround the area where Linda, the head teacher of the school, plans to start a garden with the kids next month.

But despite rain and fast rate of growth now, the future lack of water at the end of the rainy season is the definitive problem preventing vegetable gardens in Fanca. So much water at times, and yet, non-existent.

Continues to amaze me, how the details of life here amaze me less and less. A little voice in my head sometimes nudges my consciousness as I stare out at the dark waves of the ocean, sliver of a moon, and says, "This...this is where I live." But more and more, life here seems natural, the way it has always been, and now it is the people that stick out

Many afternoons we have been going to Fanca without maps and wheelbarrows, without an agenda. One night brought cards to the house where we had been given papayas, played games with the kids, ate fruits I don't know the name of; later ate rice with cheese, drank coffee as we talked, watched the sunset over bamboo roofs and papaya trees. Thought to myself how incredible I would find that night when I first arrived here, the house, the fruits, the food, the view off the balcony. But now, after these two months, the background seemed natural. It was the conversation with Paola and Soyla, with the kids that stuck out more, talking about the hours Paola works as a nurse, the difficulty of getting a visa, their farm in the country, where they lived before the earthquake and 1998's El Niño, laughing at the antics of their crazy boys, planning lunch for this Sunday.

Last night began thinking consciously about the beautiful way that food is grown, sold, eaten he re. I had been asked what I eat in the U.S. and if it is expensive or cheap, and surprised myself by launching into one of my greatest frustrations and passions. In Spanish. Hard enough to approach in English with friends who share similar experiential bases. But here, trying to explain vast fields of corn meant only for cows, chickens and cows packed into buildings for systematic production, the amount of processing that goes into so much of what people in the U.S. eat is met with furrowed brows and polite nods.

We talked a block from the market, where every morning there are local eggs, fresh milk and cheese, freshly crushed peanut butter, pineapples, papayas, watermelons, bananas and vegetables from the surrounding countryside, chickens walking around, fish and shrimp freshly caught, and flowers are sold. El Mercado, where everyone comes to buy food, where kids are sent for supplies for each day's lunch , a huge two hour meal that whole families eat together. This week we will continue to plant. For the next three days I have the privilege to be the home work for Cheo's high school students at the end of their vacation. And Friday, in the heart of Semana Santa (Holy Week), fifty high school students will be come from Quito to help with projects, but more to learn and converse while planting in order to return to their city to write and paint and spread the ideas of the people here. Overall, this week of Easter promises to be filled with papayas, palms, working teenagers and fiestas.

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Report #3: Revegetation Project Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador

Lisa Kundrat, Field Assistant
Planet Drum Foundation
April 1, 2002

Last Wednesday morning accompanied Marcelo Luque and Linsey, his volunteer, to Kilometro 8, one site where he has been working with Laura Commike on Planet Drum's reforestation project in Leonidas Plaza. Pedro met us there and gave Linsey and I tips on our machete wielding techniques as we slashed small circles in the brush along the river bank to mark where Marcelo should dig holes and students visiting from a high school in Quito would plant trees on Friday. We continued on, swinging our dull machetes with the sun beating down, the forest a green carpet rising up, heat waves almost lifting us from the ground, suffocating. In this humidity and heat my once dry skin has become melty and now peels away under the friction of the machete, until we break for water under a tree.

With two rows for trees marked, we climb up the hill under the sun, Pedro collapsing at the top, and all sitting in the shade. Once water is taken and breath caught, we look out across the valley and see a place that has been deforested, but could become a model for reforestation. At the top lies the head of the watershed, from which water gushes in the rainy season, and ran as a river during El Niño in '98. On either side of the stream banks rise two hills, trees cut away and cows milling around, and a bit farther the forest that once covered the whole area, giant distinct ceibo trees surrounded by stands of other trees and brush overlapping, with sometimes four kinds of plant life readily visible on one tree, to create a raised rolling alfombra verde (green rug). The muddy gouge of a creek bed runs down past more houses and farms, little cities of bamboo, through the inundated Kilometro 8, and into the brown and overly sedimented estuary. There is an invasión neighborhood where people moved and began building in this almost swamp-like area after their houses fell in El Niño and there was no other choice. Sitting at the top of the hill, looking out across the big picture, and also seeing the Catholic University over the hills in front of us where a corridor of reforestation will connect as more and more neighbors who have expressed interest to us become involved, we can imagine the vision of Peter, Marcelo, Laura, and more and more people for a forested strip which will heal the area and one day become a park where others can climb and see across a wooded watershed to a healthy estuary.

Friday a bus pulled into Bahía with forty high school boys spilling out. Marcelo invited them here to learn about ecological projects in progress, and we decided to concentrate on the two that contained visible meeting of destruction and creation. In the morning all of us went to Fanca, and I showed students around, introducing them to the president of Fanca 4 who answered their many challenging questions and walked with us to visit a man who has a small farm in his patio, him eager to show us around, holding up a pig by the ear and tail for us to see, pig squealing, man grinning. All of us marveling at his pigs, pigeons, rabbits, melons, papaya trees, all distinct in a mess of green weaving through laundry on the line, a house, outhouse, and chickens and turkeys walking around. Saw that for fruit to make it to the compost piles for our project, it first goes through families, dogs, chickens, pigs. (Unlike my own discarded half an old watermelon that sat on top of the pile, me staring down at fruit that could have been eaten. Later wrongly throwing the plastic I had carried it in into the organic bin because a dead cat sat on top of the non-organic bin. Two images that make me know that life and people are too complex for ideas to be simply applicable, especially here). I brought the students to my friend Soyla's house, where I helped show them her garden, platanos, grosella, papaya, tomatoes, with two small cucumbers covered with dirt to hide them from dogs and kids.

After a tour of the city and lunch, half of the students went with Marcelo and Linsey to work and learn about reforestation in Km 8, and half with Cheo and I to get a tour of Club Ecológico with Señora Flor María Duenas and some of the kids in the club who opened their doors even though it was Good Friday, and to plant papayas in the children's comedor (cafeteria). At first they didn't want to get dirty, but I insisted they stick their hands in the compost, feel the heat, and as we moved on, sun still hot in later afternoon, they dug holes and mingled hands with compost and clay, patting down soil around newly planted papayas. When they left, chanting my name as the bus pulled away, they promised to be back to help on the next project. But first, they will hold an open-house in Quito to show photos, drawings, maps, leaf samples, and stories of projects here, hoping to spread these ideas to other cities in Ecuador.

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Report #1: Looking for Resources

Jeff Goddin, Eco-Bahia Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
August 1, 2002

I sit at a table in a half-finished house as the street sounds, neighbor’s voices, and the smell of fresh baked bread waft in to distract me from writing this introduction to my Ecuador experience for the Planet Drum community.

So, you’re probably wondering who I am. I’m a 27 year old male from Ohio, with work experience in chemical engineering, pizza delivery, used camera sales, and community organizing. But why am I with Planet Drum in Ecuador? As it turns out, I went to school with the crazy idea of putting my math-and-science head to use by addressing environmental and sustainable development issues from a technical perspective in developing countries. It took me a while, but here I am.

I’ve also gotten a little political, associating with the Green Party and working for the Nader campaign in 2000, getting involved in a protest organizing as the Ohio contact for the DC anti-globalization events, and getting dirty down home putting together speaking events and conferences, speaking myself to local groups and at events, writing for local papers, putting out my own zine, community organizing with a local environmental non-profit, Ohio Citizen Action, etc…

So, I found out about Planet Drum in April and arrived May 13. I planned on staying a year, but now I’m not so sure. It may be three to five. Possibilities and potentials here are too good to leave halfway through a project. Like Planet Drum’s Fanca Produce community composting center and greenhouse.

I arrived with the intention of working on a regional environmental assessment. None has ever been done, and my chemistry skills would come in handy for water and soil testing. I imagined biodiversity surveys and establishing regular monitoring of environmental standards. But, as Peter warned me, I have readjusted my priorities a little. Planet Drum already has projects that need attention, full time, really, and I’m the only volunteer here to take on that responsibility. Also, there aren’t any resources for basic research costs. No office. No lab. No notebooks. No car. So, in addition to managing Fanca produce, I’m busily looking for resources.

I think I may have found some. New England Biolabs Foundation wants a project written up for $10,000. The Warsh-Mott Legacy Fund wants one, too. I’ve worked up a project for the Ministry of the Environment of Ecuador, along with the Municipality of Canton Sucre, to get 40 more ecological centers like Fanca started, with the goal of supporting the reforestation of 20 square kilometers. I’ve got another project in the works with the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund to get $200,000 to help Planet Drum work with other organizations, community groups, and government officials to form the Environmental Council of Manabi. The council will manage research, environmental monitoring, project development and execution, resource acquisition and distribution, policy recommendations, communication and educational materials. From a bioregional perspective. Within this project, I will receive the resources I need to conduct the much-anticipated environmental survey of Canton Sucre. So, maybe we’ll have money.

Also, I’ve been working with some of the local activists to support the formation of an environmental community association to work in Canton Sucre. There are some 50-100 people around who have a serious interest in helping address environmental issues, and once organized, will be a powerful group that can expect great results. Getting this kind of community support behind our projects will propel them forward rapidly. The Ministry of the Environment sponsored a series of workshops in Canton Sucre to help encourage community participation in the process of decentralizing environmental policy and practice formation to the Cantonal level. Many of these people attended, making this group a natural progression towards the goal of community participation in the formation of environmental policies locally and in the development and implementation of environmental projects.

I should also mention coalitioning with other groups working in Ecuador as a way of sharing resources. Ecuador boasts at least 20 great environmental organizations working on significant levels throughout the nation on issues like mangrove preservation, sustainable development, conservation landowning, environmental legal assistance, alternative community currencies and markets, organic and traditional agriculture, and environmental education. The Fundacion Progressivo y Desarollo (Development and Progress) is looking forward to working with us in the classrooms of Canton Sucre. The Coporacion de Bosques Privados (Private Forests Corporation) will be working with us on developing landowner networks in the region.

Yesterday I visited the students of the Fanca Eco Club, a separate project mainly managed by Flor-Maria Dueñas. They were working through an exercise to look at their club, their neighborhood, their schools, and make suggestions on what they would do to address problems they see with the environmental conditions of these living spaces. That’s the kind of education we can expect in high schools throughout the Canton within two years. The elements for success are all here, just waiting to be organized and reproduced.

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Report #2

Jeff Goddin, Eco-Bahia Projects Manager
Planet Drum Foundation
Monday, October 7, 2002

Planet Drum activities in the week since Peter and Judy left have included getting more seedlings ready, working with the Fanca school and Eco-Club, coordinating with the Municipio and Katty Pazmiño the responsibilities of Planet Drum and the Municipio towards Fanca and how that will evolve through the November 15th contract termination date to include more community participation, and continued improvements to the the Maria Auxiliadora Park.

Jeff worked with the students from a local high school, la Inmaculada, to prepare about 600 sacks for seedlings on Monday. Also, the Municipio provided a vehicle for general Fanca needs on Thursday and so we collected chicken manure and sawdust for compost maintenance. Meetings with Katty Pazmiño and the mayor clarified the business plan for Fanca, which will divide 60% of the produce equally among groups who labor in the patio per hours worked (including Planet Drum, the municipio, Fanca residents, school groups, and the Eco-Club), will set aside 15% for incentives for separating organic waste among Fanca residents and in the Market, and will leave 25% for sale and municipal use to cover maintenance and operating costs.

Chris continued to work with Maria Auxiliadora and has now replaced most of the steps than had been lost. Also, he has been getting signs made to help with the self-guided tour brochure produced by Darcie Luce we're using.

Kristen has been working with the Eco-Club and the Fanca Rotary school kids. They prepared another 500 sacks for seedlings last week. Also, Kristen began painting in the volunteer center.

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Report # 3

Jeff Goddin Report
Friday,  November 8, 2002

Maria Auxiliadora Park:

Steps are in and signs are going in in the eight spots on the map. Community meetings are going well, with a couple tours already given, and many people beginning to come together to talk about ideas that have been around before. This means, that people are talking about an interpretive center, t-shirts or something for tour guides, and putting together a community tour. Old video footage was found that could contribute to a video display, for instance. Maria Auxiliadora and San Roque are barrios involved, understanding that Maria Auxiliadora is actually 4 barrios, with the park area basically an old one with only the casa blanca and the one family living up there.

Fanca:

Fanca is waiting for more seedlings to be planted. Haven't had good results with the Pechiche seeds, it appears they were rotted. Unsure how community organizing is going towards forming an association or even getting a group of people together from the community to work voluntarily in the patio. Unsure about relationship to Eco-club.

(Significantly, it appears that the USAID project will add to and in some ways replace Fanca Produce. USAID will be spending $250,000 on a Canton-wide waste separation and reclycling project, with centralized composting near the current landfill and in up to 3 other places, including km 16 (with our people) and in Charapoto and San Isidro. This means market waste will probably not be collected for Fanca into the future, and that Fanca along with the rest of Canton Sucre will receive new separation containers and will be integrated into the Canton-wide waste disposal system. This is a future development, and so is unsure).

Composting piles look good and growing. I am finally getting worms this Sunday to start one bed, and then grow into the others. Roof up on shade shelter.

 Revegetation:

Los Caras people will be helping plant as I described before, 12 worker days for $100. Universidad Catolica is working with us on the greenhouse, and will be checking on seedlings, etc. Matt's fundraising will allow us to get a greenhouse up, with money left over for a sign for MA park. Have not started talking with other land owners.

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Report #1: End of Week Report

Kristen Ford and Chris Haas
Planet Drum Volunteers
Saturday, October 5, 2002

It has been one week since Peter and Judy's departure to Guayaquil. I figured that today would be a great time to send my first report.

This week has been full of successes. I spent quite a bit of time at the compost patio in Fanca getting to know the workers there better. Cesar, the older man, has tremendous enthusiasm and knowledge about the project. I marked the pichiche seeds that Judy and I planted last week with pink straws. Between Jeff, Chris and me, we did about 1000 new bags of seedlings this week. We also spent a lot of time removing seeds from there shells so they would be ready to plant.

Jeff has been bringing students from Immaculada and I brought students from Escuela Rotaria a couple different days to learn and help. I have been working with the teachers at Club Ecologico to let me bring those kids to the patio too.

I distributed about 75 Fanca Produce instructional booklets to children at Escuela Rotaria during a series of classes where they toured the patio and discussed the project. I am looking at schools, particularly Escuela Rotaria, to incorporate seed planting right into their programming. We are inviting schools in other parts of Bahia to plant seeds as part of their field trip to the patio to see how it runs.

I have been talking with community members about filling the role of stewards for Fanca Produce. We have been trying ot figure out what specific incentives to offerpeople for being stewards beyond the general benefit to the community.

I haven't had much luck with inviting people to come out while I'm there, but we are going to try advertising a  "Community Stewards Training Program" to take place next Thursday at the patio all day.

Other than Fanca work, I have been fixing up the house. The toilet in the pink bathroom is now working and I have collected ceramic tiles from the beach to do a mosaic over that dirty, outdated sink . I painted the bathroom floor (a big improvement) and painted the "office" walls. I moved the computer, table and shelves to that corner and it looks very nice. The whole space has opened up.

Now for Chris's report...

With the help of José Eduardo (who is Señor Abeja´s son) we were able to replace nearly all of the stairs in the ´Bosque en Medio de las Ruinas´. In the big staircase in the back we did all but two stairs and there are still a couple stairs in other places that are rotted and need to be replaced. The problem is all the wood is gone and I have tried to find recycled wood several places with no luck. It seems that wood may need to be bought but I don't think I am going to do anything until I find out how much the signs are going to cost.

In any event, most of the stairs are done and my project for this week is to find someone to make the signs. This week I also spent some time at Fanca with Kristen and worked on getting seeds ready with Jeff.

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Report #2

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer
Saturday, October 19, 2002

Chris and I have been working on the apartment like crazy. Now the entire main commons room's walls are painted except for right as you come up the steps. We have been continuing to collect tiles and advice to begin work on the mosaic that I was talking about.

I have been concentrating a lot of energy on generating support from the schools. Chris and I led a tour of the park at Maria Auxiliadora with Vladir's kids from Genesis School. I then proposed to him that he could bring this group out to Fanca to see the compost project and then to plant some seeds of the native trees that they saw in the park. He is interested and we will do that soon. This led me to think about doing this with all of the schools. Planet Drum volunteers could lead tours of the park to broaden awareness of the park then give a tour of the patio to describe the recycling and composting process and then plant some seeds for the revegetation project. It is also something that could bring more public awareness to our projects. There is a volunteer here for 6 months working on an eco-schools theme for the schools. She is looking for opportunities likethis to share with the teachers. I went around with her last week to each primary school in Bahia. She talked about her programming and I talked about ours with each school director. I also have been working to cultivate support from the Escuela Rotaria in Fanca. The director is very interested in playing a continued role in the development of Fanca.

In the last two weeks I planted another several hundred bags of seeds. Because I won't be in Bahia for too much longer, I am putting together a program that any Planet Drum volunteer could follow for continuing this work. It describes how to run each tour and how to get the kids to plant the maximum amount of seeds while they are there. It will also give us a space to log what schools we have worked with, what they already know and to describe which teachers and schools are more interested than others.

Rita arrived at the end of the week and then Sara and Matt right after that. I took them to Fanca right away to show them how to do the seed planting. We planted several hundred bags together. I would like to get more clear on exactly what each different type of seed needs because we have not had the greatest success with some of them, particularly the pichiche that Judy and I planted. I have been looking for a book about tropical dry forests to try to learn more about some of these species.

Many kids in Fanca are learning about the compost process, but I am still brainstorming on what is going to get the adults involved.

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Report #3

Kristin Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer
Thursday, October 31, 2002

I am here in Genesis enjoying the costumes that children are wearing tonight. I just saw Snow White walk by.

So much to say, where to begin? Well, in the last week I have gotten very involved in the up and coming vermicomposting project. Jeff, Chris and I have been in ongoing negotiations during the past month for the municipality to produce the worms. Jeff went to Portoviejo where he met someone who will have a starter population ready for us by November 15.

I will be visiting the successful vermicomposting system they have in place in Loja in 2 weeks. I have already been in good touch with the supervisor of that project. After my visit to Loja, I am going to compile everything into a information and instructional packet for Jeff and future volunteers to use as they set up and maintain the wormbeds. I have been doing a fair amount of research on vermicomposting on this scale, so I already have a lot of this info packet together.

I have to say that I am very very excited about the work that I have done in Fanca during my time here. I have brought numerous people from the Fanca community out to the patio to start to learn the compost process. Many have also helped with planting seeds at the patio. (We are on track with our seed planting. In fact, we have created a new system where we are going to sow seeds directly into what are now the worm beds. We will then transplant those seedlings into bags. So the planting should go even faster.) I have distributed nearly all of the Fanca Produce booklets throughout the community and talked with people about the process of separating wastes in Fanca.

I am going to put together info packets to leave with people and groups like the Escuela Rotaria before I leave. It will include reminding them who Planet Drum is and that I was working with Planet Drum and where to find Jeff and future volunteers, a description of the Fanca Produce project including the jobs that need to be done there and info to remind them about setting up a community association that might run Fanca Produce in the future. This will be some physical evidence for them so that the ideas we shared regarding the project will not be lost. I will also put this in the Planet Drum binder to share with future volunteers.

And that brings me to the binder. Rita has really taken charge of this project and Sara and I are helping her. We have put together a binder with sections about PD history, projects, volunteer experiences, a map and listing of useful resources in Bahia, and house rules. This will all be together by the time I leave, with my entries about my experiences here and ideas for future work.

I have also been helping out wherever I can on other projects. I went with the guys to the university this week to practice my carpentry skills- I helped to build a bed that we will use to grow seeds there. I can't believe the time has gone so fast, but I couldn't have asked for a better place and people to volunteer with.

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Report # 4 : Escuela Rotaria Story

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer
Thursday, October 31, 2002

[Soon after arriving in Bahia, Kristen returned from Fanca glowing with amazement and delight. After she told me what happened, I suggested she write up her experience for the website. Here it is….Judy Goldhaft].

This story begins with an invitation by the Director of the Escuela Rotaria (Rotary School) in Fanca to work with the natural sciences teacher in her class. The specific goal- to create abundant garden beds in front of the school. The assignment is reasonable enough. In the U.S. I have a lot of experience working with classes to set up garden spaces in schools. I have never gardened in the tropics, but at leastI have a working knowledge of steps to take and questions to ask.

As I walk to the small school on a dusty side road in Fanca, my stomach starts to turn in knots. The school noises seem different here from the school noises I am used to in the U.S. When I walk through a school in the U.S., the kids are generally in their desks and the place is usually fairly quiet. You only hear that din of noisy students when you pass the cafeteria at lunchtime or the playground at recess. When you walk by the Escuela Rotaria, you hear this noisy din all the time. Kids in their classroom are in their seats at their own discretion. Half the time they are initiating their own activities in one corner of the room.

I try to remain open minded about cultural differences that I may encounter here, but inside I can’t help but marvel at the chaos! With head held high and a deep breath, I march into the classroom to help out wherever I can. With my less than advanced Spanish speaking skills I venture to find out exactly what they want me to do. Luckily, the kids are on the ball. They run out of their classroom in a swarm as soon as they see me and set to collecting pieces of caña (bamboo) from a storage space. A boy offers to run home as he notes the need for a machete. "Ask the teacher," I say to him as he darts off down the street without another word.

The rest of the kids begin assigning themselves to a variety of tasks. Some begin to clear away rocks, while others brush away the potato chip bags, popsicles sticks and plastic bottles that had acculmulated on our proposed garden site. The boy runs back from his house, rusty machete perched over his shoulder and sets about shaping the pieces of caña. I think to myself that this project is going to be a disaster. And somebody’s going to get hurt!

The chaos continues as a girl drags an enormous post hole digger from a back room. She begins digging large holes in no apparent pattern. Others begin hammering caña into the ground. I am at a loss to find a strategy behind their actions. To me, the kids have absolutely no idea what they’re doing. I want to offer my sense of order, but I can’t seem to find the words in Spanish. And their teacher isn’t questioning a thing!

The chaos multiplies as large tree branches are clumsily hauled out of the school by a handful of kids. How poorly organized I think to myself. I struggle to bring a method to the madness. I search for any kid who seems to be doing things the way that I would be used to. I don’t find any. I try offering a little of my own organization to the folks "in charge" of the pieces of caña. They politely listen and keep on with their work. The kids certainly are focused.

I finally resign myself to sit down with the teacher and watch the kids with her. Well, I guess they just let things be chaotic here, no sense in trying to control them. Sitting on a rock in the heat of the late morning sun, I have no idea that I am about to witness an act of magic. In a moment the fence materials take on a form through the actions of the children with a life all its own. Before my eyes, a perfectly constructed fence takes shape in an instant.

What had seemed to be mindless games was actually a sophisticated pattern language, shared by all of the kids in the class. To me it had seemed that the kids knew nothing about cooperatively organizing a project. In fact, they knew how to cooperate in such a sophisticated manner that it was virtually transparent. Who knew that a bunch of unruly ten year old kids could construct a beautiful and functional fence? I have been humbled.

Intellectually I had been careful to avoid the arrogance and presumption of so many Americans who work in "developing" countries, though I couldn’t help but feel culturally superior as the class progressed. I was so sure that I was coming from the side of organization and order and that the kids had no idea what they were doing. I couldn’t have been more confused.

The language to construct a fence is culturally ingrained in these children. Their experiential levels of knowledge are so fine-tuned. They can communicate with each other to organize its construction on such an advanced level that I couldn’t begin to understand. No one, not even the people who live in Bahia live the people who live in this community much credit. How do I let these kids know just how creative they are? How do I let them know that they know how to create something that is filled with such life? I am at a loss to find an answer to these questions. Instead I will bask in the awe that I have for these children and share my story of true humility and awakened respect.

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Report # 5

Kristen Ford
Planet Drum Volunteer
Tuesday, November 5, 2002

Chris and Matt have been working on the Universidad Catolica revegetation project all the time and will surely pass on their work to Simon. Matt has secured funds to create a greenhouse and we have already started working on design plans for the structure.

Simon just arrived from Guayaquil a few minutes ago. His flight was arrived in Guayaquil instead of Quito because of the volcanic eruption that shut down the Quito airport. So Simon's here and Jeff's not because Jeff is still waiting for him in Quito. I only got to talk to Simon for a minute because I was on my way out the door.

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Report # 2

Chris Haaf
Planet Drum Volunteer
Saturday, October 19, 2002

We have been busy getting the new volunteers (Sara, Rita, and Matt) introduced to everything that is going on. i have been at fanca several days recently working on filling bags with compost to plant seeds.

The stairs have been replaced in Maria Auxiliadora. A few days after finishing the stairs, Kristen and I took some of the kids from the Genesis School with Vladir through the park and discovered that every single one of the stairs was stolen again. I asked around and no one seems to have seen anything. I think that replacing the stairs again is a bad idea and I have no better ideas to offer. The signs for the park have been made. They need to be painted now which is my project for this week.

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Report # 3

Chris Haaf
Planet Drum Volunteer
Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Good news as far as the steps go. Matt went to Cerro Seco this weekend and saw some stairs there which are built out of several smaller branches that you can find anywhere. So the stairs have been completely rebuilt, mostly by Matt with some help from me. We are working on clearing trails and general beautification of the park. 

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Report # 4

Chris Haaf
Planet Drum Volunteer
Friday, November 8, 2002

Jeff and Simon arrived here safely this week from Quito and Guayquil respectively. Simon was able to get himself onto a bus for Bahia even though he speaks zero Spanish at this point. (No small task.) Projects are coming along. Yesterday a concrete guy helped us put the first two signs in the park. We are going to give them a week or so to see if they walk off or not before the others are placed. The process is actually quite easy. So 'Place Markers and Finish' on the timeline is on schedule. Step repair is also to be finished and has been completed as best as possible. A few of the new steps Matt and I replaced with small branches have been stolen. We feel the steps are a resource abyss. Sara and Rita continue to work with community residents.

Matt and I have worked five days out at the University and have built a bed out of recycled bamboo and ceiling wood. We are going to get seeds going in the beds and then transfer them to sacks after they get going. Plans are being made to build a large greenhouse. Matt can tell you about that. Matt and I also began clearing the trail but need help figuring out where it goes as it is completely overgrown in places. Revegetation project in general is going okay. We need some guidance in how to best get seedlings growing, because in spite of the work of every volunteer here and girls from the Immaculada School and from the Rotary School the success rates are pretty low. Kristen and I are leaving this Sunday. Thanks for the opportunity to volunteer here. We have enjoyed ourselves and learned a lot.

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Report #5: Supplement to Report #4

Chris Haaf
Planet Drum Volunteer
Friday, November 8, 2002

The revegetation project does have some serious problems but I did not explain the sources of the difficulties well. We have all been planting a lot of seeds. Jeff with the girls from the Immaculada School, Kristen with kids from the Rotary School, and each of individually has been working and planting. We have tried many different methods but have had low germination success with all. We don’t know if it is the seeds themselves or our methods or what. Rita has been trying to contact Cerro Blanco and some of her former Forestry professors but has found little info. Matt has been looking for books that might help. We have talked with Marcelo. No one seems to know very much. Also there has been no dirt at the Fanca Patio for more than a week now and they keep saying someone is supposed to deliver some soon but it hasn’t arrived yet. Referring to Los Caras, Jeff is going to call them to get a quote for a revegetation crew and find out about the possibility of buying some seedlings from them.

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Report #1

Sara Gomez ( and Matt)
Planet Drum Volunteers
Thursday, October 17, 2002

Matt and I arrived in Bahia over the weekend, and have been settling in for the past few days. We have been working on the middle room of the apartment (the one with the new floor), since that's where we have been sleeping. Matt did some work with cement patching up cracks and holes in the wall, and whitewashed it in preparation for painting. We will paint the walls blue tomorrow.

Besides that I have accompanied Kristen a couple of times to Fanca, and have been helping out with the seed planting project. Today we got a good start on thatching the roof at the patio for the seedlings.

I am still getting a sense of things that need to be done, and am just helping out with various projects.

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Report # 2

Sara Gomez (and Matt)
Planet Drum Volunteers
Monday, October 28, 2002 

The first few days Matt and I were here we did some work on the room—plastering, priming, and painting the walls. We also did some work with the seed planting project at Fanca and started thatching the roof at the patio.

Since then Matt has been helping Chris with work in the park, doing maintenance and rebuilding the steps for the third time. Rita and I painted the place markers [to match the self-guided tour map] for the park (dark green background with white lettering), and Chris and Matt are going to start working on putting them into the ground with cement.

We are going to talk to the police about what has been going on in the park—stealing, drugs, etc—and see what other measures we can take to deter future vandalism.

As for the Bosque project, the timeline states that we should be continuing step repair, creating and placing place markers, maintenance and developing participation with residents. The repairs to the steps are done, place markers are ready to be placed, and I have started working on a project for local resident participation.

In the past week, I have been meeting with residents of both Maria Auxiladora and San Roque to increase awareness about the park and to try and get together a group of community members who could work as guides to the park. Just yesterday I took a group of 10 enthusiastic residents from San Roque, including consejera Graciela Moreno (one of the heads of the community), on a tour of the park. Only one of them had ever entered the park before and they were very excited to see it. Rita and I went to their community meeting on Friday night to introduce ourselves, talk a little about Planet Drum, and the park. It was the women themselves who suggested we give them a tour.

I have met with two heads of the community in Maria Auxiladora, but it has been more difficult to coordinate with them since there are four different sections of the barrio and four different committees. We went to a meeting on Saturday night but no one showed up because of a big party that was going on that night up on the hill. The president of the main committee suggested that I speak at the women’s Community Bank meeting on Tuesday so I will go to that tomorrow. I will also be attending a meeting with San Roque Residents on Wednesday to follow up after the tour, and a meeting with one of the committees of Maria Auxiladora on Friday.

My hope is that if there is more awareness of the park, it will foster respect and perhaps help to decrease instances of vandalism. If people know that the park is there to help prevent erosion and therefore protect the people who live below, they might think twice before removing trees. Also, if more people from the community start using the park, it might also deter those who are not supposed to be there. As of now it is a good place for people to hide their illegal activities because very few people go there.

The other issue that I will be discussing with residents of Maria Auxiladora, is the idea of starting a community-run tour operation—a group of residents (maybe a couple of families) who could give tours of the Mirador at La Cruz and the park. Rita and I started designing a flyer describing the tour that residents could give out to tourists. In this way the park could directly benefit the residents of the community and serve to further foster the idea that it is a resource for them also, not just tourists and other gringos. It could also be a source of money to help with maintenance of the park.

About five days ago Matt sent out an email letter to try and raise some funds to build the greenhouse. He is waiting to hear the responses, but he hopes to raise $100 to $200. In the meantime, Jeff suggested it would probably be a good idea to build a more temporary structure that we can use to house the seedlings. Matt is going to start clearing out the area and can begin building the structure very soon. It will probably be like a bin, similar to the worm bins, that can be covered in plastic, shade provided by the trees overhead.

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Report # 3

Sara Gomez (and Matt)
Planet Drum Volunteers
Saturday, November 2, 2002

Some good news, Matt has managed to raise $325 so far for the greenhouse (any money not used for that project can be used for the other projects).

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Report # 4

Sara Gomez (and Matt)
Planet Drum Volunteers
Thursday, November 14, 2002

Matt and I have been working on the greenhouse since Tuesday and it has been going up really quickly. The entire stucture is up, and today we hope to finish building tables for the inside. Then all we have to do is put up the cover for the walls and the roof.

Things are going very well with the Maria Auxiliadora project too. We finally had a very successful meeting last night, and made some concrete plans, and got a group formed. We have at least 4 people who are eager and serious about being guides, one woman who will be the coordinator (she is also vice president of the barrio and a very motivated, eager and trustworthy person), and at least 5 or 6 others who will be part of the group. We did some planning on tour logistics, will have a work party in the park with the community on Sunday, and plan on having a kind of Re-inauguration party (to put in the signs as a symbol of a re-commitment to the park)

I have been taking photos of lots of things, and will send you some writing later on when i get it together...documentation of what we have been doing and progression of the projects.

I also bought two signs for the park yesterday (signs for the outside so people know how to get to the park/where the entrance is, etc), and plan to get those painted and up by next week.

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Report # 5

Sara Gomez
Planet Drum Volunteer
Tuesday, November 19, 2002

We are still working on painting the two signs for the entrance (one for the entrance and one for halfway up the hill). We finished putting in all the little tree marker signs, and had a work party to clean up the park on Sunday (collected trash, cleaned up trails etc...). about 25 or 30 people (lots of children too) showed up to the work party, and worked for about 2 hours. We ended with fresh orange juice and cheese sandwiches for everyone.

Today Rita and I went to speak to the Municipio about other requests for assistance with park development. We asked for a large sign at the bottom of the hill near the mural, a couple of lamps for safety, a trash can at the entrance near the white apartment, and publicity for the park on the radio.

Tomorrow we are having a kind of Re-inauguration Ceremony to symbolize a recommitment to the park with cooperation from the surrounding communities.

When the next volunteers arrive I can be in touch with them about this project so they can follow up on the work that we have done. The group in Maria Auxiliadora is very motivated but also concerned with our continued involvement and support.

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Report # 6

Sara Gomez
Planet Drum Volunteer
Wednesday, December 4, 2002

Leslie did not show up yet. I do not think that a lot has been done recently with Fanca. Compost production should be continuing as before, but the worms are not there yet. Jeff went to Porto Viejo before leaving to ask about worms, and they told him they would be ready two weeks later, I believe.

Before I left most of the work was concentrated around Maria Auxiliadora and building the greenhouse.

Simon and I are going to go to Fanca today to talk to Cesar and see how things are going.

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Report # 7

Sara Gomez
Planet Drum Volunteer
Monday, December 9, 2002

Here’s an update on the park project and Maria Auxiliadora since that is what I have been working on.

We have been speaking with Patricio from the Department of Tourism at the Municipio to develop the project. He is helping us develop a powerpoint presentation so we can present the project to other people...it includes the idea of guided tours, work parties with community members, environmental education for children of the community, the creation of a museum that would commemorate and give information on the area and the phenomenon of El Nino.

Later this week, the group will have a meeting with members of the surrounding communities to update everyone on what we have been working on. We are also going to have a little work party to create steps for a second trail to enter the park.

We have been working on the large sign (2 by 4 meters) that will be put at the bottom of the hill, and will probably finish it and install it this week. Also the same artist who has painted the sign is creating silk screen t-shirts for the guides and for tourists to buy, which have the logo of the park (the one on the brochure with the hands) and the name. Those should be ready within the next two days.

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Report # 1

Simon Winch
Planet Drum Volunteer
Tuesday, November 26, 2002

Things are going well here, and I am loving it in Bahia. At the moment I am working with two short-term volunteers, Justine and Maggie, but they leave for Quito in a few hours These two volunteers, a work party of Maria Auxiliadora residents (Elba, Benito and co.) and I installed benches throughout the park, with very nice log benches at the viewpoint near number 8 sign. Also we've put up a railing for tired hikers to lean against and take in the fabulous view, and installed three swings of rope and old tires.

Jeff and I went to a village called San Jose de Minas north of Quito last weekend to view a permaculture initiative there and meet Deborah, a friend of mine and professor of forestry.

Currently I'm researching dry tropical forest fruit tree species native to the Bahia region - I've arranged to talk with Marcelo Luque and one of the American volunteers at Fanca who has a degree in forestry. Any pointers, websites or books you could tell me of would be appreciated. Marcelo is going to help me identify the seeds we have - they aren't labeled and I don't know which is which.

In the last week Chris, Kristen, Jeff, Sara, Matt and Rita have all left, so we are into the second generation of volunteers since I arrived two weeks ago. The binder that Rita and Sara started provides some continuity between volunteers past and present.

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Report # 2

Simon Winch
Planet Drum Volunteer
Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Maria Auxiliadora:

Today we collected the sign for the bottom of the Maria Auxiliadora hill and brought it to the PD house for painting. I've also paid Phil Collins to get the t-shirts for the guides. We'll try to sell the excess t-shirts to tourists and local tour companies. Any "profit" money will go to Maria Auxiliadora or be invested in more t-shirts, as they wish.

Today some of the Genesis school volunteers came over to help clean up the house. The kitchen is clean and sparkling, and the ceiling-wood has been safely stowed out of the way in the roof. The apartment is looking better than ever, and beginning to look more like a house than a workshop. We plan to make a mural on the wall by the table, and screen off the area where the computer is to store cement, etc out of view. Need to discuss the roof with Cheo.

Seedlings:

We have a few at Fanca (700 in total of 9 species). They were only planted a few days ago, haven't checked them for a couple of days but no signs of growth.

Bosque Park: 

Today I discovered a problem - in the park are a few hives of nasty bees which attack people and seriously harm them. While they are there we can't really encourage people to go into the park. I'll ask Marcelo for the Latin name of the species and research it - if it's not native to Ecuador we can kill them, if it's common we can move them, if it's endangered we're stuck, and if it's rare we can make it a tourist attraction. The MA residents are considering making the park private (a reserve) so that you can only enter with a guide. No steps or trees have gone in the past week.

Fanca Produce: 

I have no idea what's happening. I need to go there with Cheo and work out what's going on.

Uni Cath Greenhouse: 

Nearly finished - has roof but not a rainproof one - it's more of a shadehouse than a greenhouse. Large enough for 3 or 4000 seedlings per month we hope. The beds haven't been finished.

Private Landholdings for Revegetation:

No idea. Jeff was working a lot on that, I'll need to ask him and Marcelo. There's a lot of burning going on around the university right now.

Timelines: 

Bosque is on schedule. Uni Cath is on schedule. Fanca I have no clue about. New timelines need to be drawn up as we're nearly in the last stage of each one.

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Report # 3

Simon Winch
Planet Drum Volunteer
Tuesday, December 3, 2002

Current volunteers are just Sara and me. Justine and Maggie left last week, and Alexis hasn’t turned up yet. We are enjoying a lot of help from other people in the community, though - Genesis school volunteers, various friends of Cheo, and other gringos. An American living in Canoa last night offered to help us - he's a bit of a jack-of-all-trades, which is what we need. Hopefully he can help us get some new shelves up. The house is looking really great.

Maria Auxiliadora residents are planning a minga (workday) soon to build steps on the old trail to the park. It needs doing, only fit and able people can use the trail, and in the wet season it will be impassable without steps.

I haven't talked with the police about MA park security, but plan to go with Cheo to talk the possibility of making the park private (accompanied visits only) and the chances of getting it guarded by the police.

We're not losing any more trees or steps. The heightened community awareness of the park seems to have scared the thieves off. The excellent work Rita and Sara put into publicizing the park may be paying off already. Local residents are guides (currently two of them, 4 later), but don't maintain the park. PD can call mingas to clear the park, but I'll suggest to Elbita, the leader, that MA residents themselves arrange to tidy the park regularly.

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Report # 4: Planet Drum House, Bahia de Caraquez

Simon Winch
Planet Drum Volunteer
December 10, 2002

 With election fever over, calm has once more descended upon Bahia de Caraquez. The Planet Drum house too has descended into relative tranquility, with only two volunteers living in the space previously occupied by seven.

Work on community liaison has surpassed expectations with residents of Maria Auxiliadora, the community worst hit by the El Nino disasters. In a hectic week about 50 people were guided through the community park, a residents' group was set up, a steering committee for guided tours started and a re-inauguration ceremony held, to which over 100 local residents and members of the Municipio attended. Vandalism in the park hasn't been a problem in this time of heightened community awareness of the park. Local residents really seem to value this green area of the city, and respect its' history - 16 people were killed here by mudslides in March 1998.

A local artist has been painting signs for the park - two fairly small ones to mark the entrances to the park, and one enormous sign to place at the bottom of the hill the park is situated upon. He is also making t-shirts for the guides to wear. T-shirts are also being produced to sell to tourists, carrying the beautiful logo of the park. Given time we hope the t-shirt and merchandise revenue may pay for the upkeep of the park and bring money to one of the poorest parts of Bahia de Caraquez. One of the largest tour companies in Bahia de Caraquez has agreed to stock the t-shirts for us.

A group of residents have visited the Municipio to discuss how to make the guided tours fit in to the Ecuadorian legal system – the easiest way seems to be by starting a ‘non-profit enterprise’. Leonardo Maya, one of the guides, has prepared a portfolio demonstrating what has been done in the park and what there is still to do – ideas include building a museum – and presented it to the Municipio. An official of the Municipio is preparing it as a power point presentation for us to use. Hopefully the portfolio will be integral in winning Maria Auxiliadora grants for future projects in the park.

Work on a greenhouse to raise seedlings for reforestation has nearly finished - the structure and covering is complete, and once a raised bed has been built and filled with soil it will be ready for seeds. We estimate it to be able of producing 3000 plants every 2 to 3 months, which is ample for our needs. Now it only remains to collect or buy seed. At one revegetation site we are contemplating using a hand dispersal method instead of using hand-reared seedlings. The pioneering tree species we will use are frutillo, a fast-growing, hardy tree with red berries similar to redcurrants, algorobo, a very pretty tree which is in seed now, and moyuyo, which has a willow-like quality of sprouting from stakes hammered into the ground.

A lot of work has gone into improving Planet Drum’s volunteer center. The walls of the kitchen have been painted, and the entire house given a thorough ‘spring’ clean.

There is a busy time ahead. We hope to get tourists into the park before it may have to close for the duration of the rainy season, and there is a race against time to raise seedlings to plant in the January – any later and they won’t be well enough established to survive the subsequent 8 month drought.

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