We asking for contributions in order to fund vital sustainability initiatives already under way in Puerto Rico. Sustainable, not just in their ecological outputs, but sustainable in understanding that justice, innovation and conservation must walk hand in hand. We have identified three partners that are vigorously pursuing objectives that are in line with this philosophy.
Our campaign aims to support the material and logistical concerns of their efforts. The continuity of our project will be in the replication of each of these models across the island in similar conditions and the connection of these various domains through cooperatives and collaborations between entities.
CEPPA Co-op For the past 15 years, Tamara has lived and served in different communities around Puerto Rico. Through environmental and birth work leadership and advocacy, she has been instrumental in bridging communications with various community leaders, connecting to marginalized communities, midwives, permaculture farms and other agro-ecological projects around the island. Tamara co-founded the CEPPA CO-OP, a permaculture, and ecologic cooperative, whose mission is to promote ecological and sustainable practices across Puerto Rico through education, agro-ecology and communitarian work. The co-op is currently made up of eight farms spread out in different regions across the island. The farms are all built on the principles of permaculture and shared resources, agricultural outputs, and information. They are self-organizing, self-determining, and self-sustaining.
Our goal, through this grant, is to provide one-third of the funds to the CEPPA Co-op. This funding will go to support one of the eight farms which make up the cooperative, and which were decimated by Hurricane Maria. The focus is on rebuilding it to be even more functional and efficient than it was before the storm By supporting one farm in realizing the full vision of its charter we will be able to present donors and students with data and outcomes that will in turn support more awareness and further funding. The co-op will select the farm according to the policies of their own governance, which we respect to the utmost. We will connect the selected efarm with our network of volunteers, who will live on the property. While helping to rebuild the farm house the volunteers will, and at the same time, learn vital concepts in permaculture design and social economics.
To achieve this goal, we will outfit the land with a compost toilet, a rain catchment system, a communal kitchen, solar energy, and a shower for the volunteers. Further resources would then be dedicated to buying materials for the new home and other sustainable systems they intend to implement.
Outcomes: These farms aim to create cooperative networks with neighbors in the surrounding communities. After rebuilding and resuming food production on the land we will continue to supply volunteers that will go on to learn vital skills in community organizing and key principles of social economics. This program will create a model system for just recovery in Puerto Rico while training leaders in the field of sustainability from other parts of the world.
Future implementation: Once this project has been established we will to replicate this model with similar projects throughout the island. This has the potential to create a cooperative network that could radically shift the way people in communities understand food production and nutrition. There will be outreach to schools in urban areas so that communities from diverse socio-economic backgrounds will have equal access to this educational opportunity.
MAM (Mujeres Ayudando Madres – translates as Woman Helping Mothers)
A woman-focused center that supports dignity and agency in the birthing process for families in Puerto Rico. Since Maria, MAM has been operating as a free center. They offer partum and post-partum care with doula and midwife services as well as offering educational programming that supports positive health outcomes across generations.
Founded by Vanessa Caldari in 2007, MAM is currently led by Michelle Pérez Chiqués. Both women are Certified Professional Midwifes and have worked extensively serving their community. After her midwife certification, Michelle received further training in traditional midwifery in Guatemala and then went onto Haiti to serve communities in need. In addition to her midwifery certification, Vanessa holds degrees in nursing and public health. She has proven herself by translating community need into policy and innovation by founding the first and only midwife-led community health and educational center on the island.
Other proceeds will go toward making MAM a model of sustainable design for maternal health care and education. We will engage our partners to equip the center with solar energy and a rain catchment system. Additional funding will go to sustain the staff as they offer free services to the community and support the programming they are already offering. Finally, we will begin a food initiative that includes a community garden and educational programs for children and adults in nutrition and sustainability.
Outcomes: MAM will be a self-sufficient enterprise and a model for positive child, maternal, and ecological impact in an urban center. The families that receive care from the staff are empowered to make their own choices regarding their birth and the sustained health of their family. Education initiatives ensure a broadened awareness of our ecological impact as well as impart dignity and agency to communities so that they may make choices in their own best interest.
Future implementation: Replicating this model in similar centers across the island will create a basis for many urban communities to witness the benefits of sustainability while normalizing its practices. Education outreach will, again, be a major step in this effort. We will be inviting school-aged children to participate in the community garden and receive education around nutrition and food cultivation at the centers.
A first responder to the ravages of Hurricane Maria, Lisandra has created a brigade of concerned citizens working within the neighborhood, going house by house to restore homes and get families back in their residences. They are systematically identifying homes that have not become eligible for FEMA relief and putting in the time and effort to get people back home. These houses are in flood zones and were decimated by hurricane Maria. Many families lost nearly all of their possessions. In many cases there is still standing water in the houses and often sewage. These local heroes also identify key material provisions that can aid in getting families out of an immediate-crisis cycle. While many on the island are on their way to resuming normal lives, there are significant numbers of those that are still in crisis.
Another portion of the proceeds will go to support these local leaders, enabling them to step up the scale of this initiative, which continues to restore homes that were destroyed by the hurricane and which have not become eligible for FEMA aid for a host of reasons. Funding for this component of the mission will be used for the repairs of homes, the purchase of cleaning materials and the creation of a pipeline of skilled volunteers to assist in the work.
While this effort may not have the sparkle of popular sustainability themes, we believe that the cultural ecosystem of communities is the front line of creating radical shifts in values. This initiative differs from the typical “relief” model. We do not wish to enter the community pretending to know better. Instead we meet the community at its need. Supporting community determinism and agency is central to our ideas about ‘Place’ and ‘Justice’. By responding with support and collaboration we set the stage for more ambitious initiatives in outreach, education, and innovation.
Outcomes: Through Lisandra we aim to create relationships with communities which will allow us to create dialogue, education and outreach around sustainability and conservation. We believe that this model is ONLY complete by including urban areas in this effort and inviting those residents to be key contributors to the conversation.
Future implementation: The long-term strategy of this entire campaign is to unite all of these fronts in dialogue and work projects. Members from urban communities will be invited to the farms to take part in workshops. The centers in the cites will be co-learning spaces where local leaders can collaborate and innovate in sustainable design and practices.
We firmly believe in the people’s right and ability to self-organize and develop stewardship of their own land. It is our mission to provide the tools to empower them and send a message to the whole world. Out of this horrific tragedy comes an opportunity to affect massive shifts in the way we relate to our water, food sources, energy, and to one another.