Building Blocks of Opportunity

The wooden block is probably one of the simplest and most played with toys.  However, this iconic block did something unexpected: it has been promoted amongst the complex toys of this generation and sure to last for many generations.  With a little entrepreneurial conservation, Tegu has created a block that surpasses most expectations of a toy.  It is educational and stimulates children’s creativity and unscripted play (as I mentioned in one of my previous posts), is heirloom quality, helps the planet and its citizens, and is so much fun that adults sneak off and play with them.

Tegu’s magnetic blocks are built to leave a legacy.  They are complex, yet they don’t require any batteries or instruction manuals, just an imagination.  The uniqueness of this toy is not just the functional (and inaccessible to children) magnet, but the series of events that follow each block purchase, called the Tegu Effect.  Tegu gives every buyer the choice to either donate dozens of trees or donate schooldays for Honduran children.  But it is not only the environment and children that benefit; as Tegu grows, the company creates living wage jobs for the Honduran factory workers, and with 65% of the population living currently below the poverty line Tegu offers the people a great opportunity. Continue reading

Sustainable School Sponsoring

Last week, teachers from schools supported by Morgan’s Rock Hacienda & Ecolodge, Cafetalera Nicafrance, S.A., and Exportadora Atlantic S.A. met at finca La Cumplida to celebrate Teachers’ Day a little late and discuss the importance of education to Nicaragua’s future.

Morgan’s Rock sponsors six schools in the San Juan del Sur area; Cafetalera Nicafrance (essentially La Cumplida) helps eight in the Matagalpa area; and Exportadora Atlantic (EA) just recently picked up a school. In Spanish, the sponsoring is known as “godfathering/godmothering” depending on the name of the school (they are named after national heroes, martyrs, etc.). Each seat at the long tables was supplied with a folder, notepad, pen, and calendar provided by EA , as well as a schedule of the day’s activities and suggested readings printed by José Tomás Gómez Valdivia, who is in charge of the whole school sponsoring program under the Nicafrance Foundation, which all the previously mentioned companies are associated with.

Gift presentation to schoolteachers


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An Introduction

Before I post again about things of substance, I wanted to take a moment to introduce myself to our readership, to share my interests and goals, and to spell out more clearly the reason to the madness of my earlier posts. If I’m not mistaken, my fellow contributors will be doing the same over the next few days.

I am, nominally, Michael Muller. In the fall, I’ll be a senior at Amherst College, where I study, among other liberal arts ‘disciplines,’ Political Science, in particular political theory and the history of political thought. I have a peculiar fascination with how different groups’ and individuals’ concepts and philosophies affect and create attitudes, and how these attitudes influence action. If this all sounds highfalutin or like pseduo-psychology, you’re on the right track.

Self-deprecation aside, however, I also have a passion for interpreting and, if possible, correcting injustice. Thanks in large part to my upbringing, I tend to identify with the cause of protecting the less-protected, whether it’s a social group, eco-system or idea. Of course this tendency is all well and good in theory, but its tendance requires greater sedulity in practice. When Crist offered me the opportunity to come work and write for Raxa Collective this summer, to identify problems with and solutions for conservation initiatives in Kerala, I immediately snagged the opportunity, understanding it not only as one that would allow me to effect change, but also one that would test, probe, relax and strengthen my still-developing convictions.

In my posts over the next four weeks, besides providing personal insight into the wonders of the Periyar, Kumily, etc., I hope also to problematize and contextualize my own experiences, to illuminate some of the complexities inherent to preservation and conservation in a rapidly developing nation (and world), and offer possibilities for readers and travelers to get involved in the conversation.

With that in mind, I will try to offer non-political entry points into political questions, while not neglecting or forgetting the reason I’m here, or, for that matter, why anyone from outside Kerala would come here: the impossible rarity of its natural and cultural riches.

Thanks for reading, and I look forward to comments. Let’s have a conservation conversation*!