As a frequent visitor to a small town near Quepos, Costa Rica, Jenise Bermudez has seen villagers struggle to reach their jobs or obtain clean drinking water when an important side road washes out in heavy rain. The experience struck her more than the average tourist: her family owns a small eco-reserve there and would like to transport water from the natural springs there to people who need it. They’d also like to create jobs for villagers. But they need a passable road.
Last fall, Jenise approached New Resource Bank client Groundwork Opportunities (GO) for help. As a New Resource banking officer, she’d interacted with the nonprofit organization many times and knew that her mission dovetailed perfectly with theirs: ending poverty by helping people help themselves.
Restoring a tropical rainforest
Jenise’s family has been visiting Costa Rica for years. In 2003, impressed by the country’s conservation ethos, they purchased a former hillside cattle ranch, intending to return the land to tropical rainforest. One of their first projects was a nursery, where they grow exotic and endangered species of hardwood trees. The trees protect the property’s natural springs, which provide clean drinking water, and serve as safe havens for native animals and birds.
When it’s raining, however, no one can get in and out of the reserve. So in late 2013, Jenise began raising funds to purchase gravel for the road. “It’s important not just for the eco-reserve, but also for the people who live above it,” says Jenise. “When it’s raining really hard, they can’t get to or from their homes without four-wheel drive, and even then, they can’t always make it.”
With GO’s help, Jenise has created a web page and is planning a food-and-wine fundraising event for April. So far, she’s raised $1,800.
“Her project was a good fit with our values and mission,” says Thomas Preston, community manager for GO. “When the road is maintained, it will be a gateway to other opportunities for this coastal community.”
Opening a road toward the future
Once there’s year-round access to the reserve, Jenise’s family plans to pursue larger goals. They hope to develop an ongoing source of funding that will allow them to provide sustainability education to the area’s school children, hire villagers to serve in roles such as community garden manager and well caretaker, and build and operate a community center that offers education in skilled trades. “Our big vision for the future is to create jobs,” says Jenise. “We’re working on a solid plan for that, but nothing can happen without the road. That’s the first step.”
To find out more and donate to Jenise’s Costa Rica project, watch the video below and visit: http://groundworkopportunities.org/champions/jbermudez/