What barriers might hinder the success of your project and how do you plan to overcome them?
Funding is the biggest challenge. We continue to grow rapidly and funding frequently lags behind. We are using a number of funding avenues plus creating new, innovative ways to support our education program. Some of these programs will generate funds through charging fees for services like our new initiative for students from throughout the region to come and participate in our science and technology field camp. This new program is totally authorized by the Ministry of Education. Donations from individuals and government support are helping a lot and continue to grow. Plus we place a major emphasis on our micro enterprises, primarily the sale of water filters. The newly formed Kaya Foundation will start generating funds through a program of conservation of the rainforest.
Political instability is a challenge. Our current president has been in office for 4 years, but prior to him, we had 10 presidents in 11 years. This instability can affect tourism the quickest. Therefore, we are developing alternative avenues of funding.
Staffing is a constant challenge. It is very hard to find good teachers who want to live and work in the remote rainforest region. We are overcoming this by offering an opportunity to be a part of a social movement and through incentives to staff.
Logistics is another barrier since we are located completely off the grid, only accessible by motorized canoe. Through innovation and alternative energy we are addressing this need.
Tell us about your partnerships
We rely heavily on our partnerships. We are asking potential employers of students what they want in a graduate, and working to provide that through the institute. The Inter-American Development Bank has provided the funding to start construction of the Institute. The Avina Foundation with support from Skoll has helped in funding to develop our financial sustainability. Rotary Clubs and Rotary International provide funding for equipment and supplies. The Isora Foundation annually supports equipment purchases. The Yachana Lodge covers the overhead of the Yachana Foundation; office rent, utilities, etc. The Lodge company also provides additional financial support. The lodge has over 3000 visitors annually who frequently provide small donations. UK schools buy handicrafts made by our students as a micro enterprise. We have created the Kaya Foundation to provide support for the conservation of the rainforest. Part of this funding will support education. The national government pays part of the teacher’s salaries. The provincial government has provided the heavy equipment to build the parking lot and other areas of construction for the Institute. Global Vision International helps in conservation education and data collection.
Explain your selections
We are receiving support from 7 of the above categories. 1 - Individuals support us through our not for profit 501 C 3 in the US and the soon to be established UK Charity. 2 - We receive support from a number of foundations, mostly US. 3 - We work with NGO’s who provide funding usually for specific equipment or supplies. 4 - We are working with corporations and their corporate social responsibility to provide them trained employees but also looking for support to fill the needs we have in infrastructure for the Institute. 5 - The provincial government provided equipment for construction needs. 6 - The national government is partially supporting paying teacher’s salaries. 7 - Our Yachana Lodge has over 3000 visitors annually and many of them are supporting us through small donations.
How do you plan to strengthen your project in the next three years?
I feel that we have passed the “tipping point” toward our goal of social impact and sustainability, though we are still way under financed. We have so much already developed to offer that it is easier to “plug in” a new project. This facility will allow us to continue to expand what we can offer but with a lower capital investment per project. Our focus will continue to be education but expanding this to include many more schools and ultimately replicating our program in other parts of the country. This increased social impact and visibility will help us attract more volunteers, foundation funding and funds generated by our micro enterprises. We are constantly looking for new innovations to expand our impact, but also to help finance our operations. We are improving internal operations and controls to help in our fast growth process. Management capability and professionalism continues to improve which will guarantee continuity of the institution if the founder is not here. All of these forces will continue to grow, improve and become more integrated to secure the long term social services the foundation is known for.