News for July, 2015

Corazones Contentos Plants New Seeds

By Elliot Blumberg 28 July, 2015

Pablo and Rachel prepare to bring the donated food down in Centro Mamoní’s workshop. Talks with Isabel, El Valle’s teacher, were productive and positive. Pablo unwraps the food donations for the town. The students enthusiastically participate in storing food donations. Soon, this town will be nutritionally independent! Marcelino explains the success and productivity of his garden to Rachel and Pablo.

Today, in the ongoing effort to promote food security in the Mamoní Valley, co-directors of food production and community management - Pablo Tocalini and Rachel Worthington - ventured out to El Valle to start talks with the local teacher about building community gardens there in the future. The plan is to replicate the success of San José’s community gardens in every community. They also spoke to locals about their own agricultural ventures and to get the town buzzing about the prospect of a public garden. Finally, the duo distributed food donated from the International School of Panama. We hope to find contented hearts in El Valle soon enough!

GRIT Graduation

By Elliot Blumberg 23 July, 2015

Greetings from GRIT! The participants for GRIT’s pilot program graduated to the city this evening after a four-day, three-night hiking and kayaking adventure that took them through the rainforest, into Guna Yala and out onto the region’s islands.

The journey commenced with a four-hour hike from Centro Mamoní to the Mamoní River. After practicing for a bit, GRIT dove in and spent the rest of the day on the river paddling to the campsite, where we got our tarps, hammocks and tents set up.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast of oats and peanut butter, the GRIT squad stepped back onto the ultra lightweight kayaks and set off for Cangandí. After a light lunch at Cangandí Falls, the group surged on to the town, where the village kids met them to play in the river. The playing and dancing laster long into the night.

The final day and night were spent on the Guna Islands, where GRIT got an insider’s look into one of the Guna traditions of communal creation and imbibing of chicha fuerte - or fermented sugarcane (sorry, no photos were allowed!). And finally, the crew snorkeled, showered, relaxed and bedded down on Isla Aroma.

Contented Hearts on Children's Day

By Elliot Blumberg 22 July, 2015

Shoutout to all the moms that make Children’s Day possible! Thanks for all the hard work! Devon and Kirsten color with the kids of San José The boys coloring on the comedor floor Pablo, co-director of food production and community outreach, premieres Tarzan to an excited crowd of young ones Rachel, co-director of food production and community outreach, helps prepare the day’s lunch Pool party! We inflated the kayaks and brought out the wind-surfer for everyone to enjoy And to top off the day, breaking the piñata

Despite an enormous rainstorm that made complicated transport, Children’s Day at Centro Mamoní went off without a hitch. We picked up the students, parents and teacher from San José and returned for a day of coloring, cartoons, piñatas, food and playing in the pool.

Kael, Rachel and our awesome volunteers - Bonnie, Devon and Kirsten - colored with the kids while the parents prepped lunch. Afterwards, Pablo premiered the animated film Tarzan for the kids - a visual delicacy for people in the valley, many of whom don’t have access to TV or the internet. Everyone took special care while playing in the pool, but that didn’t stop us having fun, which continued with breaking the piñata.

Overall, it was a positive day and we can’t wait for the next excuse to bring up San José’s students!

Corazones Contentos Meet the GRIT-lings

By Elliot Blumberg 19 July, 2015

Setting out for the day: GRIT-lings become adept at truck-bed riding. No man, woman or child alive can wear that hat as well as our own Mark Knetsch. Many hands make light work! The team gets digging on four new raised beds. The team earned a midday break after hours of hard work. Notice the many bowls next to Kael. Eat up! Yet another day of character-building labor - thanks to the hours of work put in by Pablo and Rachel.

Another synergistic energy between Earth Train programs has descended upon San José! Corazones Contentos has teamed up with GRIT to build four more raised beds to provide future food security in San José and alleviate the town’s dependence on food donations. This (and all other work on the garden) are the product of hours of work from Earth Train’s co-directors of food production systems and community management, Rachel Worthington and Pablo Tocalini. Way to go, team!

Corazones Contentos hopes to replicate this technique in all four villages of the valley, bringing food security and a big boost in quality of life to everyone in Mamoní.

Happy Children's Day!

By Elliot Blumberg 16 July, 2015

Here in Panama, Dia Del Niño(a) is celebrated with gifts, food and a community gathering. Rainforest Capital, Earth Train’s closest partner, celebrated it with the students in El Valle. Our crew provided the piñata, food and gifts, but the children brought the spirit!

Emerging Enviromental Leaders Are in the City for Part Two of Our Urban+Environment Summer Program

By Elliot Blumberg 13 July, 2015

Photo of EEL Group at BioMuseo

The EEL students stand beneath an enormous fig tree at Panama's Biomuseo

Foto: Elliot Blumberg

Salutations from Casco Viejo! To update all the parents and loved ones, our intrepid EELs conquered their adventures in the Mamoní Valley and Linton Island, and are now back in the city ready for their last day in Panama. We’ll be heading out to the Miraflores locks on the Panama Canal today, so watch out for tonight’s update and the ensuing album jam-packed with EEL adventures.

Back in the City

By Elliot Blumberg 13 July, 2015

The group find’s Earth Train’s place in the history of conservation in Panama Everyone listens to the audio tour at the beginning of the museum The group is entranced by Panamarama Devon and Maya see an exhibit up close A frog stands still long enough to photograph at STRI The ladies point out frogs in the STRI exhibit Devon photographs a green turtle in captivity Margaret takes in her surroundings as she walks through the culture market The food market is a hustle and bustling place Careful hands cut sugarcane to length for transport We’re served fresh ceviche in Panama City’s fish market Mark points out an interesting tidbit in the market The Panama Canal has an extensive museum dedicated to its construction

After the exhausting (but fun!) days spent at Centro Mamoní and Linton Island, you would think that the EELs would earn a relaxing break in Panama City upon their return, right? Wrong!

For the last two days, EEL visited three museums, three markets and Panama’s own interoceanic canal. It was a packed 48 hours.

The Biodiversity Museum - or Biomuseo - was our first stop, where students learned about the geological history of Panama’s emergence as an isthmus and the biological and environmental impact that the tiny country has on a global scale. Later on we checked out the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI), where they keep and study amphibians susceptible to a deadly fungus. And to top off the day, we checked out a market with all sorts of indigenous and traditional crafts and artwork.

EEL spent the final day (::sniff sniff::) walking through a fruit and vegetable market, receiving a tour of Casco Viejo from the architect Patrick Dillon, eating fresh ceviche in the fish market, and (finally!) visiting the famed Panama Canal.

We’re so sad to see this group leave, but ecstatic that a few are sticking around to experience more in Centro Mamoní! Good on you, guys!

Linton Island and the Colon Coast

By Elliot Blumberg 11 July, 2015

A red spider monkey surveys his surroundings Mark poses for the camera in front of tent city We finally have an answer to the ancient, burning question: do monkeys like peanut butter? Definitely. Michael, Kennedy and Margaret prep food for the animals at Safarick’s Zoo Jackson preps a food puzzle for tamarin monkeys A peacock looks quizzically at the camera Kennedy feeds a toucan

“MONKEYS!” Would be the main headline following Linton Island.

After the packed days at Centro Mamoní, the EELs headed out to Hinton Island, where a failed scientific effort to reintroduce spider monkeys (who were bred in captivity) to the wild has left the remaining critically endangered primates to fend for themselves - and steal food from visitors. We roughed it in the tents under a couple of tarp roofs and tried not to bother our fellow primate friends.

The next day, we packed up and napped on our way to Safarick’s Zoo, where the EELs, through help from our own Halit Khoshen, made enrichment meals for various species. Thanks so much, Halit!

The Days Are Just Packed - EELs Out of Water Meet Corazones Contentos

By Elliot Blumberg 9 July, 2015

Before the ascent to the falls, EEL walked through the adjacent pastures. What a juxtaposition! Mark helps the group over some tricky boulders Baby birds wait for their mother in the nest Gabriel decides whether or not to jump over the falls... He didn’t take the leap Students in San José work side-by-side with EELs on the community garden Abhijai leads the team in fence-fixing Devon shovels manure to bring back to the garden The locals work together making a raised bed A synergistic relationship between Corazones Contentos and EEL provided San José with four raised beds! Maya passes a bamboo beam across the pool to measure its length Up until the teacher, Josh, there were no problems passing over the bridge... Though neither of the groups succeeded, spirits remained high Lider gives a thorough explanation of the continental divide - from directly on top of it A fiery caterpillar on a leaf Mark and Katie jump simultaneously over the falls

An eventful three days have passed us by!

On Tuesday, we embarked on my personal favorite hike to La Bonita Falls, where the group took a dip in the pool at the base of the cascade. This particular hike juxtaposes barren pastureland with thriving secondary forest, illustrating the differences in biodiversity, watershed health and even personal comfort. The canopy not only gives birds and monkeys fruit to eat and a home, but provides us with shade, making the forested portion of the hike infinitely more enjoyable.

Wednesday was filled with community service and team-building. In the culmination of weeks’ of hard work and community building by our directors of food production, systems and community management - Rachel and Pablo. The synergy of EEL and Corazones Contentos (Contented Hearts) provided the groundwork and grunt-work to build four raised beds for a community garden in San José. The goal of Corazones Contentos is to provide food security for every resident of the Mamoní Valley, so this was a very productive day in reaching that goal! Some EELs improved the perimeter fence, some ventured out and returned with manure, and the rest got to work with shovels and pickaxes.

After a sweaty morning, the EELs split into two groups for a team-building exercise and challenge. Their mission, should they choose to accept it (they did): to build a bridge across Centro Mamoní’s pool using nothing but bamboo, twine, and their wits. While both teams failed to build a bridge that could support everyones’ passing, their spirit and stick-to-it-ness impressed our staff immensely. Shout-out to the team captains! (We should mention that the allotted time and materials make the task near impossible).

Always a joy and never a chore is the hike to La Zahina Falls. After the platinum-standard tour of the continental divide from Lider Sucre, we ventured across the Mamoní Valley to the jump-friendliest cascade in the area. Jumping in the cool water was a welcome treat!

Into the Woods!

By Elliot Blumberg 6 July, 2015

Maya films as Nathan explains the significance of the continental divide to her fellow EELs The trek down to Junglewood Falls Climbing over boulders at Junglewood Falls The group bakes in the sun Abhijai shows everyone his yoga skills Michael poses with a righteous staff Welcome!

And so it begins! Today, we drove from Casco Viejo to Las Margaritas. From there, our trucks climbed up to the lip of the Mamoní Valley, where Co-Executive Director Nathan Gray discussed the global impact of the isthmus of Panama and the significance of the continental divide.

After a refreshing dip in Junglewood Falls (one of our favorite spots), the EELs were welcomed to Centro Mamoní with a dinner of grilled cheese and tomato soup plus a slideshow of the day’s events.

EEL Arrival

By Elliot Blumberg 5 July, 2015

The view from the hostel: Panama City’s growing skyline

Foto: Elliot Blumberg

Twelve emerging environmental leaders (EELs) touched down in Tocumen airport today to commence an Earth Train program dedicated to juxtaposing the intricate systems and beauty of the rainforest with the hustle and bustle of Panama City; all the while introducing the participants to our country’s thriving cultural landscape. Tonight we broke the ice and discussed the program’s goals before catching some shut eye in Panama’s historic Casco Viejo.

Stay tuned for more updates on the visit!

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