Sunday, November 19, 2017

Back in Nicaragua for 2017/2018

A blog by Jeff:
That's not Nicaragua, it's Denali National Park.

We're at it once again. The seasonal park jobs are over, and we're back to working full time with Guias Unidos. At least as full time as we can. It's been a challenging year--professionally the timing has been good, but personally the timing has been a tough. Because of family needs, Kate had to decline her job in Denali this summer and is living in Seattle permanently. I had to rove Alaskan Range by myself. Well, maybe not by myself, but without Kate.
Ranger Jeff leads a "Discovery Hike," an off-trail wilderness trek in Denali

Not tied to the intense ranger schedule, Kate has been involved with the National Association of Interpretation, NAI. She went to their international conference in Mexico (boondoggle, baby!) and she just returned from their national conference in Spokane (must be legit if it's in Spokane?). When I came back to Seattle in October, we were just in time to take NAI's Certified Interpretive Guide Trainer course to become certified trainers. That means we'll be official soon!
The CIT class of 2017, at Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park in Seattle

Timing has been good to not migrate back to Florida for the winter, even though we will miss our alligator-infused river of grass. The National Park Service (NPS) was never designed for the oxymoron of the "permanent seasonal" employees that we used to be. They are cracking down on rehire if you work more than 6 months per year. That means this is the right year to do something different for the winter, both for me and potential volunteers.

I am working with lots of partners in Nicaragua to get new activities up and running, and Kate is running administrative support from the gray chill of the Pacific Northwest. And speaking of chill, after having spent a summer in Alaska, Nicaragua feels very hot to me right now! But the cool trade winds blow over Lake Nicaragua and between the volcanoes at night, making it livable. Let's not discuss the bugs right now, though.
This is the view of the farm from my bedroom. That's Volcan Concepcion in the background.

Guias Unidos has a lot of new things planned in Nicaragua this year. New England Biolabs Foundation awarded us a grant to set up a resource center and pay some guides to help with our programs. We've also gotten some generous donations from friends, family, and a few strangers to help with all the expenses. We've also hand some generous equipment donations from a network of people. Amy Simso Dean and some generous birders from Minnesota donated a suitcase full of binoculars to us. Kate's cousin, Leah Schedin, transported them to Seattle, from where I took them to Nicaragua. So even though our budget is tight, we think we can get a lot done with it. We're planning on having a few volunteers/students join from the USA, so that will help out.

Well, that's the news from Lake Nicaragua, where all the bull sharks are strong, all the birds are good looking, and all the volcanoes are higher than average.
The twin volcanoes of Ometepe Island.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Recruiting volunteers!

We've been quiet lately, but we've been plugging away in the background, we promise! We have some big news about a grant coming up soon, but first, please check out our new recruitment video for volunteers:



We'd really appreciate what help we can get from skilled folks. One major project coming up (more in the blog about the grant) is starting a guide-ranger program to help compensate guides for work in the Maderas Protected Area that in a US National Park would be done by rangers - trail design, search and rescue, and understanding the use patterns in the Protected Area to prioritize what should be done. There will still be guide training opportunities, as well as many others. A big change is that Kate may not be able to go to Nicaragua for a long period of time due to family commitments in the US, so Jeff will really need any help he can get down there!

If any of this is of interest to you, check out http://www.guiasunidos.org/get-involved.html. If you think someone you know might be interested, please pass this on! We appreciate your help.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Donations are now tax deductible!

Due to our new status as a project of a non-profit (501 c3) organization, we can offer tax deductible status for donations. You can donate at our new Acceptiva page by clicking here. All information about tax deductions comes to your email once you put your information into that site.

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Earth Island Institute

We have big news! Guias Unidos has been accepted as a project of Earth Island Institute (EII). EII is a "fiscal sponsor," which is a less-than-clear name for an umbrella organization that helps small projects like ours with the administrative parts of being a non-profit organization. So now we can officially get tax-free donations and apply to grants that are only for non-profit organizations, but we don't have to go through all the complicated business and law messiness to become a non-profit ourselves.

This also means that we have been "vetted" by an organization, EII, that has a more than 30 years of experience in what they do. They currently have about 75 projects under their watch, and some past projects have spun off to become their own major players. EII was started in 1980 by the first president of the Sierra Club, David Brower, and is to this day run by a group of people with lots of experience in social and environmental work.

We spent a couple days with the EII team in Berkeley, CA getting aquainted to their resources and work, and we're pretty excited to be working with them. If you'd like to see what they do, check them out at http://www.earthisland.org/index.php/support/, and especially the Earth Island Journal at www.earthisland.org/journal/.

Speaking of journals, Jeff got an article published in Ranger Magazine, the journal of the Association of National Park Rangers. You can read it on pages 15 and 16 (pdf pages 17 and 18) at https://aonpr29.wildapricot.org/resources/Documents/Ranger/2016Ranger_Fall_4C.pdf. We're hoping to get more word out there about our project soon.

For now, we're still applying for funding for the next steps. Some ideas include to create a resource library in one or two locations on the island (an office, basically, with computer training and guide books, etc.), and paying guides to be like rangers on the trails, keeping track of who is there, what is being done, and helping out where necessary. Likely, we won't have enough funding (the goal being $15,000) to go in June, so we're also applying to summer park jobs in the US. Not a bad backup... We'll likely be going back to Ometepe in October, and staying through March or early April.

And, of course, we're still having fun. We took the opportunity of being in the Bay Area to spend a weekend in San Francisco. So beautiful!