La Reserva Forest Foundation (LRFF), in our collaborative work with the Local Council of Lake Arenal – Tenorio Biological Corridor (CBLAT), began a donation box project.
Last November CBLAT received a grant via the United Nations Small Grants Program. The young council, although founded in 2008, lacked the funding to become a legally registered non-profit organization. They were able to receive this grant by LRFF acting as their “umbrella”.
Our two-year work plan includes many worthwhile projects i.e., reforestation projects with all of the schools in the biological corridor area, registration of the council as a legal non-profit, Two-toed Sloth research project, exchange programs with other biological corridor councils throughout the country, a computer, GPS and other digital supplies and monkey bridges in collaboration with LRFF and ICE (Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad). When we reviewed the work plan at the beginning of the year we realized there were enough surplus funds for a couple more projects we hadn’t planned on.
Around that time while in the bank doing business I noticed large food cans with a plastic lid and a slot cut into it. Each can had a simple label asking for a donation to help street children and was sitting conveniently at each teller window. I lifted one up and it was completely full. This was one of those light bulb ideas again. I always dig into my purse to put some coins in a can at the bank. Why not have some very beautiful wooden boxes made that CBLAT could distribute to hotels and restaurants in the Lake Arenal area? The area IS a big tourist attraction.
At the next monthly meeting we presented our proposal. Our friend Luis Dominguez, the Maleku artist, would build the boxes, paint them with beautiful animal motifs and the names of each in the Maleku language, and put locks on them for safety. The council voted unanimously in favor of this project.
On May 13th, 2010 Daniel and I started in Tilaran and continued around Lake Arenal to the Arenal Observatory Lodge, past the dam, asking permission at all hotels and restaurants to install a donation box in their locale for CBLAT. At the end of the day we had 36 places for the boxes. We contracted Luis to build 40, to have a few extras.
Luis had never built a box before, much less put a lock in each. He tried to find a way to have only one master key but couldn’t accomplish that in Guatuso. Luis is a carver and painter of Maleku masks, the most exquisite I have ever seen.
Luis delivered the first 15 leaving 25 more. While he finished those we composed some text, and sent some photos and the CBLAT logo to the local silkscreen guys. They designed a little sign (above) to be printed on PVC and attached to each box. Luis delivered the rest of the boxes at the end of August. When we received the signs Dan and I attached them to each box outdoors in the middle of a big rainstorm. We had to create two wire key chains, one for each set of keys. Remember we have 80 keys, 2 for each box, and each key had to be coordinated with its box. Thank goodness Luis put a number on each box and key.
We began delivery of the boxes on September 10th at Soda La Macha in Rio Piedras. Look at the photos and you will see, everywhere we went the boxes made the people smile.
On September 17th Luis went with us to deliver some of the boxes on the eastern end of the lake. He brought a few of his masks, just in case. See how all the people love the boxes. Everyone acted like they were receiving a piece of art, which they were. Francisco Chamberlain (above), owner of the Arenal Lodge near the dam, wanted to see more of Luis’s artwork. Luis began removing his painted masks from his backpack and Francisco wanted them all. He said he would like to make a Maleku corner in the hotel. We all proceeded to arrange the “corner” with masks. When it looked good Francisco took a photo and bought all the masks, over $100 for Luis that day. Luis mentioned to Francisco that he has over 100 different mask designs. Francisco mentioned that he has 50 rooms in his hotel lacking decoration, would Luis be interested in creating masks for all of the rooms?
We will return at the beginning of November to collect donations from all of the locales. We will keep you posted how this project shapes up. I have a feeling, from the great start we have, it is going to be a winner. With some of those donations……….
LET’S GET PLANTING!!