Volunteering

Frequently Asked Questions Concerning the Philosophy, Politics and Historical Problems of Volunteering

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This is a general and quick post in response to Frequently Asked Questions about the problems of choosing where to invest one’s time and labour when volunteering in foreign places with good intent. It started as a reply to a comment – part of a long thread about a conservation project in the Amazon – then expanded slightly to become this first draft of a short reply to questions concerning volunteering.

Where and what is good agency put into which structures? It is an endless journey through the soul and the corridors of political thinking, philosophical reflection, historical recognition and ethical considerations – and it is also that first single step of your journey. It begins in the mind, unfolds in the imagination and will have a material impact on the place you go to.

Over the years we have spend a lot of time and energy helping people finding their ways in Ecuador and Peru, we have spend a lot of time suggesting projects, providing contacts and so on. However, in the end, people mostly go and do their own thing anyway. However, if you have only 4-6 months time and want to connect sooner, and should you really want to do something in or around Tena, Napo, in the Ecuadorian Amazon, or in San Francisco in Peru, and if working on a small scale and community level with people outside of NGO structures, doing down-to-the-ground, bottom-up work, with lovely families, if that is your thing, then do get in touch.

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Jatun Sacha once again – or how to volunteer for the greater good, not for profit.

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WordPress offers statistics about who visits your blog – and I just checked an incoming link which someone followed from that anti-social networking commerce site called Fakebook. The latest two postings in the Fakebook group featuring the link to the colonos blog suggest that our commentary on Jatun Sacha’s involvement with Big Pharma (which is no big secret, just google for a while and you will see for yourself) is “interesting read at any rate“, although, “I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look” – good job that criticism is taken, sort of, seriously:

Nick wrote at 11:11pm on May 31st, 2008
I found that too after I googled Jatun Sacha.. quite a few previous volunteers have come across it… interesting read at any rate.
Alistair wrote at 9:27am on April 5th, 2008
I found this website which makes some pretty dire claims against Jatun Sacha, to do with biopiracy and corporations. I’m not saying you have to believe it but i recommend having a look.

http://colonos.wordpress.com/2007/05/03/jatun-sacha-the-long-sneaky-arm-of-pfizer-et-al/

So should you find yourself in the lucky position that you can make it to Ecuador (or Peru) for the purpose of volunteering, then do yourself and the world a favour: do your research well: who is who – and what do they (really!) do?

Can you not find the right kind of thing – that fits your social, cultural and political principles, then get in touch.

Colonos has worked and continues to work with people in the Napo-Ucayali corridor on a grassroots level. For instance we have sown the seeds for a network of community based botanical gardens in the region – and idea that emerged in the Napo (Ecuador) and Pucallpa (Peru) regions independently (thousands of kilometers apart) and the practitioners of which we are merely bringing together and helping them do what they want to do.

The work includes working with Kichwa and Shipibo people and offers great opportunities to get soil under your nails, doing research and analytical work (ecological, political, cultural etc.), talking to plants and animals, drinking ayahuasca and work with shamans and other traditional healers, such as midwives. Whatever tickles your fancy! The work is coordinated from England and by the “Grupo Sabio”, which meets regularly in Tena, Napo, Ecuador.

One of the people we work with used to work for Jatun Sacha (who consistently “forgot” to pay him) until he realised what was going on and what the Peace Corps, whose army of volunteers occupy large parts of the socalled developing world, has become (that is: a Pentagon outfit; see below for more) and what it always was: a forefront of capitalism and Euro-American developmentalism, culturally imposing itself through the manual labour of unwitting volunteers in good faith that they are making a difference for the better, not worse.

Make up your own mind – but do your home work!

More on Pentagon Peace Corps (..talk about an oxymoron..):

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The Warped Mind of the Ecofascism Conspiracy Theorist

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Colonos recently referred to David Suzuki in the context of DiCaprio’s documentary about climate chaos and change, the appropriately titled “11th Hour” (link should be generated automagically below) – and doing a bit of googling for that purpose led me to some presumptuous nonsense? about Suzuki being an “ecofascist”:

Eco fascism, can be used in two different ways:

  1. For specific elements of radical environmentalism which are openly affiliated with neo-fascism, or which share conceptual similarities with fascist theories. It is used critically from an external source, and somewhat less commonly used from within as a self label, to refer to various white nationalist and third positionist groups who incorporate environmentalist positions into their ideology.
  2. The term is also used as a political epithet by political conservatives to discredit deep ecology, mainstream environmentalism, and other left and non-left ecological positions, and less frequently by political leftists to discredit environmental movements they see as non-left such as deep ecology.”

So who do the conspiracy theorists think are behind this socalled ecofascism? None others than the very same kind of people that actual, radical environmentalists – anyone that I have ever met, and it is quite a few anyway – would call the greenwashers:

Greenwashing is the unjustified appropriation of environmental virtue by a company, an industry, a government, a politician or even a non-government organization to create a pro-environmental image, sell a product or a policy, or to try and rehabilitate their standing with the public and decision makers after being embroiled in controversy. Read the rest of this entry »

Volunteering in the Amazon?

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If you want to do voluntary work in the Amazon, working with indigenous peoples, whether you’re interested in biodiversity, medicinal plants, shamanism,  music, planting trees or (authoring) teaching (material), – as long as you’re committed to social change on a grassroots level for at least a period of three months Colonos through its many connections in the Ecuadorian and Peruvian Amazon region can help you create an independent volunteer programme. No fees, no institution, no nonsense….

Esperanza Martinez on Yasuni and the ITT proposal.

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This article by CarbonWeb.org deserves to be reproduced in full:

Yasuni – Our Future in Their Hands?

Ecuador proposes to claim compensation in exchange for leaving crude oil in the ground. Esperanza Martinez examines what this means for resource sovereignty.

Oil, for countries that possess it, is often centre stage when it comes to issues of sovereignty. Invasions have been launched to access it and military and political interventions pushed through to control it, leaving the door wide open for corruption.

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Home Sweet Home: Reflections on the Amazon – Part One of ?

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Seeking refuge in Europe, to breathe and to reflect, the long, light evenings and the friendliness of the forest (that is the absence of the eternal threat of creatures out to get you) have besieged our imaginations.

The loved ones, the long-time friendships and the new friends are the medium of reflection – telling stories, observing reactions and thinking about it all at a distance ….we get high on our own anecdotal supply with a little help from our friends.

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Jatun Sacha – the long, sneaky arm of Pfizer et al.

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Jatun Sacha is a lovely place. Comprising 2500 hectares of easily accessible primary rainforest, it is one of the last little paradises around Tena.

Jatun Sacha Research Station

Or so it seems…

Promoting the conservation of ecosystems through technical training, scientific research, environmental education, natural resource management, and community development involving local peoples surely can’t be all that bad, even if it meant privatizing many square metres of ancestral indigenous territories. After all this was government policy in the 1970s anyway, and better the land goes to an eco- humanitarian project than some overweight cattle farmer. ¿No?

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