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Published by the American Botanical Council
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ACEER's Amigos Environmental Education Program
11-15-2005

I have just returned from the ACEER/ABC sponsored ethnobotanical tour to Peru. While I hope in future issues to share more about the trip, I wanted to let you know about a program that ACEER (Amazon Center for Environmental Education and Research) sponsors named Amigos. Through Amigos, ACEER helps educate children about the ethnobotany of their region. They also provide educational opportunities for teachers and support teachers and parents as they struggle in less than conducive conditions to provide better prospects for their students. We visited a rural school at Rolin where seven students, ages 5 through 12, performed a dance for us and told us their plans for the future. The children attend school in rather adverse conditions no electricity or plumbing, the youngest child walks a mile and half on jungle paths to and from school each day. Parents are not always disposed to send their children to school. The distance to the school for some families is very far and parents feel that the children can be more useful to them at home and in the fields.

However, with the advent of ecotourism, more educational and employment opportunities are opening up for these children. Many of the children expressed an interest in becoming tour guides, biologists, and botanists. The tour guides from Inkaterra, who have gone through extensive training themselves, are teaching the children English and the ethnobotanical use of herbs. The teacher and parents are in the process of building a dormitory structure so that they can house students during the week who live too far away to walk to school everyday. When this structure is built, the teacher will serve as the "dorm mother" as well as the primary educator.

The children I saw going to school in the city of Cusco were a stark contrast in their gray and white uniforms. Yet the rural school children have the benefit of nature as their classroom. For such a young age, they are committed to their learning and they are fortunate to have the dedication of students, parents, and volunteers.

If you would like to learn more about the Amigos program and how you can help, please visit http://www.greentreks.org/aceeramigos/about.asp.

Lori Glenn, Coordinator