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Playa de Oro received a government grant of $35,000 to build a concrete wall (or dyke) in front of the village along the river to stop the village from flooding as it did about 2 years ago. They are doing the work themselves, with the older men wiring cages together to be filled with river rock, and then later concrete is put on the outer wire of the cages to solidify the barrier wall. The rest of the village was hard at work moving rocks by boat up from the river to fill the wire cages. They also brought a big backhoe with a huge bucket in through the jungle to prepare the edges of the wall. It was working there while Grace was there, doing mass excavations along the front where the old washrooms are.

This is the rainy season in the region, causing washouts and landslides on the roads throughout Ecuador. Grace and her small tour group left Playa de Oro last week, only to find out that very afternoon the roads washed out going in/out from being able to travel towards Playa de Oro, so they left just in time. Both our main route and a longer route that we sometimes use as an alternative were both blocked. Grace got out of that area just in time, only to get trapped up in Intag Valley in the little village of Apuela for a few days because of landslides blocking the roads in and out. The rains are so bad that there was no drinkable water, it is so full of mud you can't even boil it clean. Grace seemed to take it all in stride and the group went on enjoying themselves, going fishing and things like that. Grace was staying in contact with me to let me know what was going on, she's a trooper. After a few days of being trapped there, the rains stopped for a day and Ramiro was able to get her out with his jeep. They finally made it to Otavalo, (right on schedule) where even the city water there is muddy from the tap. Grace says local people were telling her the rains were worse than anyone could remember.

That afternoon when they got back to Otavalo, Julio called Ramiro--Playa de Oro had flooded severely after Grace left and they experienced a lot of damage. A lot of the reason there was so much damage was because the backhoe had ripped the river banks up while they were working on building the dyke, and all the cages and rocks were not in place yet, and this caused the bank to be very unstable. It sounds like some of the bank on the front part of the village caved in. They lost 4 houses completely--I assume but do not know for certain yet, that these would be the 4 houses in the very front of the village--Clements's, Mercedes, Mauro's, and I forget who the 4th house is there. I think no one was killed or severely injured from the reports received so far. They lost a lot of personal things from homes, such as Julio lost his little generator and things of that nature. They lost several cows and all the crops near the village and by the river. The water went all the way up and into the church, which is near the back of the village. Julio, Carlito, and the village mayor were all in Quito at the time, and I assume that is why the boat and motor were not secured, but they lost the boat and motor we just bought less than a year ago for tourist transport. The boat motor would not have been lost if Julio had been there, he would have held onto it and floated away with it, if he had to.

This is the damage report just based on the first initial phone call from Julio about the flood, and I asked Ramiro to ask them for a more detailed list of losses and the status of things the next time he talks to him. Probably the most critical thing for the village right now is they probably do not have any clean drinking water, and the longer term problem is that they lost their crops and some of their farm animals they depend on for food, and we know they don't have enough money to go out and just buy food to feed themselves until their crops have time to regrow. Ramiro says the rains are worse than in past years, and many people are having problems like this. For now, they just have to survive the rest of the rainy season, which usually doesn't ease up until after March.

Obviously until I get more details, I have canceled any tourism reservations I had for PDO for the next month, and will not accept tourists until I get confirmation the village is in condition to accept visitors. I don't know what we are going to do about the boat yet either. I'll keep you posted when I get more details on the condition of things at the village.

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This is terrible.

I'm glad that Grace and her tour group are okay, and my heart goes out to the villagers at PDO.

I can only imagine how quickly the water rose. I remember seeing how quickly it went up after a small rain shower (I could only imagine what it must have been like- very scary),

Thanks for keeping us up to date, Tracy.
They are very resiliant people in PDO at least, they will recover, and may just need a little outside help to get back on their feet. Flooding in the village only started happening in the village about 2 years ago. At that time, they said it had been over a hundred years since their village had been flooded. After an unusual dry spell and the river had been lower than anyone could remember, they were suddenly flooded out several times over 2 weeks for the first time about 2 years ago. I do know at least for certain, Rosa had been working in the village for over 12 years by then and 2 years ago was the first time it had flooded since she had been around.

There can be a lot of rain up in the mountains, and not even be raining in PDO, and all that rain water comes gushing down the river from the mountains, and that can make the river level rise really fast without warning. Which is probably what happened this time. The village itself is set on land pretty high from the river banks, you might remember those stairs going up to the village from where the park the boats. It's at least a 20 to 25 feet drop down to the normal river level, but there was a row of houses right there at the front of the river banks which seem to have been compeltely wiped out with this flood. I don't think the lodge has ever flooded, but it is set back probably 200 yards from the river and is built up off the ground as well. All the houses in the village are built up on stilts, but that seems to not have been enough this time.

Could these recent floods have something to do with global warming, or changes in the weather patterns? Something different is going on there for sure. I know local people have told me in PDO and other villages in the region I have visited that the weather used to be very predictable and reliable. You could set your watch by the rain schedule it was so reliable. Now they say they cannot predict the weather from one day to the next anymore. They have drier dry seasons, and wetter wet seasons, and they don't know what to expect anymore. Probably all the logging in the region has changed some of the weather patterns via temperature changes, or in the very least it just simply allows all the landslides and road washouts.

I am no expert on weather patterns, but I have learned that the weather patterns El Nino and El Nina are formed over the ocean right off of the western coast of Ecuador, and the ocean temperatures can directly effect these weather patterns, and that in turn effects their weather in PDO, which causes more or less rains than usual. Then those same weather patterns move directly up to the coast of Southern California and effects there weather first, and can even effect our weather all over the US at times.

Whatever is going on, at least they have this government grant to get the concrete dyke built to better protect the village in the future.
Thats so sad.. How much is needed for a boat?

Also, how long before the dyke is finished?
I guess the priority is them finishing the dyke, and meanwhile getting another boat. Losing the boat is losing income when they need it most.

I should have the paypal thing set up by tomorrow, so we can have a donation button. It isn't exactly the way I wanted it, but they have tightened up a lot at paypal on nonprofits.

I am making an email, touchthejungle@humanewildlife.org
That way, people who donate for the TTJ program, will go through that email instead of the regular one. They will still see the National Wildlife Humane Society on the donation page (I wanted it NWHS - Touch The Jungle, but wasn't do-able), but the different email will bring the receipt to NWHS. We will be able to know what is designated for TTJ by that. I'll keep those receipts in a separate folder, and when there is enough, I'll make a drop to the corp account and fire off a check. I'll send copies of the receipts to Tracy so she can keep a record of who gave how much. Maybe send a little thank you email.

I will also make a dedicated Support page for TTJ on the NWHS website and have info on the program, how to mail checks/MO to ensure TTJ gets the funds allocated to them, and the PayPal button.
That sounds great on the paypal thing.

It's not the boat so much as the motor that is the biggest issue. They can make their own dugout boat, but motors down there are a bit more expensive than here. I think we had a yamaha 40 hp, and these run in the neighborhood of $4-5000 down there. Anything that is not made in Ecuador is really high because of duty tax and stuff like that. We looked into buying a boat motor up here and shipping it down there, but it didn't turn out any easier or cheaper to do it that way. But the last one they had lasted over 10 years, and it started getting wore out in the last few years, so in June 08 I sent them $2000 towards a boat motor and they were to pay the other half out of their community funds, and they got a new motor. And that is the one that seems to have gotten lost in the flood, so this is really a big smack for both the Earthways funds and the village fund to lose that investment so soon. Of course no one carries insurance on things like homes, cars, or boat motors down tehre, Ecuador is not an insurance crazy culture like we are in the US.

They carry the boat motor up from the river to a little building in the village to secure the motor while not in use, but I think what must have happened in the flood, is that the building and everything got destroyed and washed away. There is no telling where that motor will end up, and if it is even still salvagable after being thrown around in those raging waters and rocky river bottom.

But yes, a boat motor is their lifeline to the outside world. It is important and necessary to their survival in many ways. They cannot get to medical care, food, supplies, much less work or accept tourists into PDO without dependable boat transportation. We have joked a lot in the past about Julio, the boat driver, would probably trade one of his children for a good boat motor, or if he was ever forced to chose between his children and the motor, he would choose the motor. Which is why I said before, had Julio been in the village when the flood came, I promise when that motor washed away, Julio would have been wrapped around the motor going down the river with it. In all seriousness, this is probably true, because it is that important for the village to be able to have transportation just for basic needs.

Just take a look at this photo of Julio with the old boat motor (when it was newer) and tell me that is not LOVE! Julio is the shorter one behind the motor, and the taller one is Clemente.

So, we shall start a fundraiser. "Give a motor, help save rainforest"

They can't raise capital without income. They can't get income without a motor.

Maybe it would be less costly to ship them a motor if someone donated a good working outboard motor. Better yet, maybe we can find a manufacturer or dealer who will donate a new one. I will get the Paypal button and touchthejungle@humanewildlife.org created today. We can at least start compiling some smaller donations to get a start.

I myself have just been through a disaster here of rather large proportions, so I am quite cash strapped, but I will make the first donation myself. It won't be a very big one this week, but when I get paid I will make a better one to add to it.

Meanwhile, I will call some national distributors and/or manufacturers of outboard motors to see if they have an interest in helping.

Let's get a news article written to add to the NWHS News page, and I will make a more complete and interesting page concerning TTJ and PDO today. I can put the Earthway address for mailing checks along with a new PayPal button.
When I checked into shipping a motor before, it turns out to be a logistical nightmare, without getting into the details here. But it is nearly impossible to do. And just as costly to ship, as motors are very heavy, and then there is customs duty to pay...it does not end up being cheaper to do it that way, unfortunately. The only way to get items down there cheaper is in our luggage when we fly. We used to be able to carry small or medium sized equipment and stuff like that to them as luggage, but now the safety and weight restrictions have stopped even that. I have a small propane fridge that was donated for the PDO lodge a few years ago to be able to store medications in at the lodge, but I have not been able to get it down there yet because of "safety restrictions" by airlines. At any rate, it would be better to buy a boat motor either new or a nice used one in Ecuador. If we buy a new one from a dealer there, then we also get a warranty and maintenance with it as well, which is important.

I am still waiting on a list of detailed damages and more info on the condition of the village, and what they need help with to recover, before I write up a detailed news article. I just don't have enough facts yet to have a good grasp on what they need and exactly what has been lost. And it is possible they may be flooded more than once before the river recedes, so there may be more damages yet to be reported. Julio usually travels out on the weekends and calls out to my point of contact and leaves messages for me. If he has no boat, he can walk down to another village, and from there can catch a ride on someone else's boat. So I am hoping I may hear something by this weekend, however, it will not surprise me with the condition of things if it is not possible for anyone to be able to travel out to a phone to get a message to me. I just got the last message this past Saturday, so, I wouldn't expect another message before this weekend.

Another important and urgent issue is that some of their crops have been destroyed, I don't know if all, or most, or just a few. But if it was most, then they have no food source for at least 6 months and they don't have the money to buy food for the entire village for 6 months until their food crops are producing again. What I need to do in that case, is to wire money to a person working for me in Ecuador, have him go buy the food, and then take it to them. They'll need basics staples, like rice, salt, and those basic sorts of things. I am really just waiting on them to let me know what they need at this point. And if the situation is dire, they will find a way to get a message to me for help. I just have to try to be patient and wait for the message and not pull my hair out in the meantime!
"If we buy a new one from a dealer there, then we also get a warranty and maintenance with it as well, which is important."

Excellent point. Maybe a manufacturer has an outlet they ship outboards to, through their distributor there. It's a long shot, but maybe they can add an extra on, for some really positive PR.

In the interim, let's get an article together for the NWHS News (which will show in the new NWHS News Feed widget, everywhere it's placed). I should have the updated NWHS - TTJ web page finished today, with a way for people to immediately help out.

Food for the villagers is a big priority. The last thing we want them to do, is look at mining companies and/or timber companies as a solution to a dire problem.
What about a general press release document that each of us can download, print & distribute to each of our local newspapers.
We are preparing a news release article, that will soon appear on the NWHS News page, and consequently will appear in the new NWHS News Feed widget. You will be able to distribute the article from there. Tracy is awaiting complete details of what all has been lost, and where we should direct our efforts as priority. No doubt funds are needed, as always.

These people have turned their backs on the big timbering and mining companies to seek a sustainable living from preserving rainforest rather than destroying it. Timbering and mining companies will only provide them income until the timber and minerals run out. Then those companies will leave and that section of rainforest will be destroyed. We seek to assist these people, not to just preserve the jungle they inhabit and the wildlife there, we also want to help them preserve their way of life. They watch over that piece of jungle, and we can help watch over them.

I realize people get hit up a lot to "help preserve rainforest". Most orgs doing the asking, do so for advocacy only (just talk). Chipping in a bit, are funds that go right to these people so they can continue this program of caring for their jungle and sharing it with visitors.

Here is the NWHS page, newly redesigned, to help others help Playa de Oro and the villagers in need there.
http://www.humanewildlife.org/playadeoro.html
Check that page out, help financially if you can. There is a mailing address and a PayPal button. If you are unable to donate, but want to help in other ways, we are putting together some ideas. If you have an idea yourself, toss it out there.

We will be starting another thread soon when we have all the details of this big flood, and will offer ways for anyone to help, financially or otherwise. You can be a part of what we are doing. You can be part of the team that makes this work.

You will be able to say "I help save rainforest" and it will be real. Not just advocacy,,,, real jungle rainforest.

Charity Harris said:
What about a general press release document that each of us can download, print & distribute to each of our local newspapers.
Yes, aside from donations, there are other ways to help support the project right from home. I can always use regular vounteers who are willing to help by just putting some time in on simple things like spreading the word about the project, publicity, fundraising/fundraisers, promoting the tourism, anything like that. But I would say those are the 3 most important avenues that need ongoing support to help the project grow strong and remain strong: Publicity, Fundraising, and Tourism Promotion. As the project gains more financial support, we can expand to other communities and land, increasing the total size of rainforest tracts that the project helps protect. It would be amazing in the future to be able to offer reforestation programs to neighboring communities near Playa de Oro to help restore their logged lands to secondary rainforest, creating a better buffer zone around Playa de Oro's primary virgin rainforest. But getting to that point takes time, support, and money.

Volunteer efforts could be anything as simple as submitting the Playa de Oro Lodge to tourism websites (general tourism, eco-travel, adventure travel, any number of travel categories) , or submitting the project itself to conservation websites, submitting link trades with other websites (which increases web traffic to the website), Puttign a link up to the project webiste on your own websites and community pages, helping write press releases, all the way to more time consuming activities such as searching for grants and writing grant applications. Anyone with fundraising experience would be a great help to come up with fundraising ideas and conducting fundraising events, etc. Or how about a journalism major who knows how to write attention grabbing press releases or articles? Publicity experts?

I really need a strong team of volunteers to help in so many aspects to help this project grow and gain more support, publicity, and recognition. A lot of supporters have come up with good ideas to help the project in the past, but I am just one person and can't do everything that is needed alone. What I am saying are there are many simple, easy things that can be done to help the project, but I just don't have time to do all of it myself. I need a good team of helpers and this project can really grow into something that makes a lot of difference for the good of the world. So anyone that is interested in helping out somehow from home, just ask me how you can help out. We can talk and find something for you to do that suits you and will help the project too.

Or you might have special skills that you can offer to help the project some way, then just let me know what you can do to help out. Maybe you are a member of a group/club/church that would like to do something special to help the project like a fundraiser. Maybe you are a school teacher and you would like to help out the Playa de Oro school by putting together a project your students can be invovled in and learn about rainforest conservation and other cultures at the same time. Maybe you are a university student and would like to get your professor or university involved in the project. Maybe you have contacts at a zoo or with researchers who might take an interest in Playa de Oro. There are unlimited ways you can help out and get invovled from home.

And of course, there are other ways to help the project that I haven't mentioned or may not have thought of before myself, so do let me know your ideas and how you would like to help out!

I do have to thank Grace Lush for all her help, she is always promoting the tours and fundraising for the project, she is the best helper ever! I have not been able to travel as often for the last year or so, and Grace has been leading all the tours lately in my place, and I really appreciate her doing that, so that tours didn't have to suffer while I couldn't go myself. And I also want to thank Pat and NWHS for stepping up and offering support by helping promote and fundraise for the project as well.
I could add a page to my website, both for NWHS & for the Rain Forest project, www.HarrisFamilyFarms.com -- if you think that would help.

I do my own webmastering and If I cut-n-paste from things you guys have posted then I could have it up tomorrow, or as soon as your news feed is ready. I don't yet know how to add a RSS so if someone wanted to tell me how, I can do that as well. (I'm pretty computer savvy but not an expert).

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