Introducing the winners of PEN’s Lessons Learned Challenge Prize Contest!

Happy Endangered Species Day!  Today, PEN congratulates three educators, who have been successful in inspiring local communities to value and protect endangered primates as flagship species for entire ecosystems in Peru, Uganda, and Indonesia.

PEN is proud to announce the winners of our first-ever Challenge Prize Contest.  We commend all participants for coming forward to share their lessons learned so that fellow educators may benefit.  The winners of our contest, Yeissy Sarmiento Guevara, Denis Agaba, and Mathilde Chanvin, will be awarded $250 USD (with support from Eric Losh Illustration) for their primate education efforts.  We hope these educators’ stories and their collaborative solutions will help you solve similar challenges in primate education.

In PEN’s 2014 Global Survey, 84 percent of our respondents confirmed their greatest need is to collaborate with other educators and practitioners by sharing challenges and lessons learned. Furthermore, our survey respondents (63 percent) identified funding as their biggest challenge.  PEN’s Lessons Learned Challenge Prize Contest results showcase solutions to overcome these needs and challenges.

Yeissy, Denis, and Mathilde are leveraging funding to increase their reach, improve effectiveness, and impact behavior.  Their stories demonstrate that collaboration in education can help you achieve your conservation goals.

Three Educators. One Common Cause.
Educating Communities Through Collaboration.

© Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC)

Peru: Building relationships with campesions and municipal authorities to gain communities’ trust and maximize project funding in the Amazon rainforest

Yeissy Sarmiento Guevara and her teammates at Neotropical Primate Conservation (NPC) were met with resistance when they first tried to reach local communities (accessible by foot with no telephone coverage) in Peru’s remote and rural regions of the Amazonas and San Martin.  They were seen as outsiders not to be trusted like the foreigners and Peruvians from the city who had cheated local communities only to excavate their land for resources (i.e. mining, oil, or forest concessions).  Based on rumor and experience, some communities even feared that they would steal their children.

With limited funding and a lot of patience, Yeissy and the NPC team built strong relationships with campesinos or peasant farmer organizations that travel between the communities and larger towns where they have mobile coverage.  Through this collaboration, they were able to communicate with local communities to organize educational activities in advance, reducing costs and time to visit and coordinate efforts.  Furthermore, the support of the campesinos and municipal authorities helped build trust among local communities, who are now more welcoming of NPC.

In addition to overcoming logistical and mistrust issues, they maximize limited funding and time by organizing fewer, but longer trips (up to three continuous weeks) with wider reach (averaging 1,250 people) and greater effectiveness.

NPC has learned that patience and perseverance are essential to working with local communities deep in the rainforest.  They involve local people in their process and adapt programs to meet the needs of the community.  Additionally, they recommend returning to visit and educate communities regularly to reinforce conservation messaging.

How Yeissy Will Use Her Prize: Yeissy will deliver 10 one-hour lessons in peripheral campesino settlements of Peruvian Amazon rainforest for approximately 600 students/community members.  Our prize will support her salary, travel, and printing of masks, lesson plans, and questionnaires for her education efforts.

Learn More: Read NPC’s Profile and connect with Yeissy on PEN's Projects Directory

© Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU)

Uganda: Transforming children through film: solving overcrowding with the support of local schoolteachers

Imagine a little girl in rural Uganda watching the first movie of her life – a documentary about gorillas and the importance of protecting them.  She will find a seat among a large crowd of community members because Denis Agaba is working with local schoolteachers to manage overcrowding.

Popularity of the Wildlife Clubs of Uganda (WCU) and Great Apes Film Initiative (GAFI) Pedal Power screenings led to overcrowding.  Children quarreled and had difficulty finding a place in crowded churches and schools during the screenings until the schoolteachers got involved to support Denis.  They managed crowds together, which enabled more community members to watch the films comfortably.  With Denis’ guidance, schoolteachers direct students to other locations, such as a classroom or church.  By dividing communities into smaller groups (by age), they can accommodate more people.  When Denis shows the films to more than one group, he makes sure that everyone from the first group is out of the classroom or church before the next group comes in.  To demand attention and ensure that everyone can hear him, Denis stands in the middle of the room and speaks loudly, while teachers translate (as needed), to give instructions and delivering educational information.

Collaborating with schoolteachers allows Denis to manage larger crowds, obtain feedback by distributing more questionnaires to participants, and retain a permanent connection with the community.  Denis also trains the schoolteachers to continue the students’ education in the classroom.

Denis has observed and documented children’s attitudes about apes completely change after they watch the films.  The children have become ambassadors and spread the conservation messaging to their friends and family through music, dance, and drama.  There has also been an increase in tree planting in communities where they have been exposed to the films and Denis’ education efforts.

How Denis Will Use His Prize: Denis planned to reach three schools per week over the coming months.  With our support, he will be able to increase his reach to five schools per week.  Our prize will cover fuel for Denis' motorcycle, printing of education materials and evaluations, and per diem costs while he is in the field.

Learn More: Read WCU's Profile and connect with Denis on PEN's Projects Directory

© Tangkoko Conservation Education (TCE)

Indonesia: Leveraging students and local partnerships when there is limited time, capacity, and funding to do the job

Mathilde Chanvin founded Tangkoko Conservation Education (TCE) in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. When she got started, she didn’t have any experience in evaluation.  To overcome this challenge, Mathilde read a lot of articles and books on environmental education.  She also conducted informational interviews with organizations involved in primate education, including the Wild Chimpanzee Foundation’s Club P.A.N. working in Côte d'Ivoire.

Mathilde launched and grew her education program to reach 1,000 community members every year, with only two Indonesian educators and the support of small grants.  As her funders and regional governmental authorities sought proof of impact to continue Mathilde’s program, she realized that her team did not have the funding, time, or training to effectively evaluate their impact.

As a solution, Mathilde welcomed an international undergraduate student to include TCE’s evaluation data as part of an academic study.  She also enrolled in a research master’s course to evaluate the efficacy of the methods employed by TCE in influencing local communities’ knowledge, attitudes, and behavior.  With this new training, she is now able to accurately assess any decrease in traps, illegal logging, and the evidence of macaque hunting.  Additionally, she exchanges pre- and post-questionnaires with three other local organizations, Selamatkan Yaki, Tasikoki Wildlife & Education Center, and Macaca Nigra Project, to encourage collaborative learning and improve evaluation.

As a result of these efforts, TCE has received more funding, improved outreach, and plans to collaborate on a scientific publication to showcase the impact of all four regional education programs in influencing the behavior of local communities.

Mathilde recommends connecting with other organizations to learn from their experience.  She also advises fellow educators to find qualified people (and take the time train them) on how to enter, monitor, and evaluate data collected from questionnaires.  Furthermore, she advocates for making evaluation a part of your regular routine (i.e. don’t wait until the end of the year to enter all of your pre- and post-questionnaire data at the same time).

In her experience, involving a student to include TCE’s evaluation data as part of their academic study helped solve Mathilde’s challenge of having limited time and capacity to work on it.  She recommends projects to give talks at local and/or international universities to get students and professors interested in education programs.

How Mathilde Will Use Her Prize: Mathilde organizes an end of the year event for the students who participate in her education program, their parents, and schoolteachers.  She will use her prize to support this year's event, which will include a treasure hunt called "Tasikoki Cruise" with quizzes about Indonesian wildlife, habitats, and tree planting season.  Our prize will support six educational posters for schools.  It will also support four banners about Sulawesi wildlife for two Education Departments and two municipalities.  Additionally, Mathilde will be able to award 2o original Indonesian board games to the most participative and motivated students in TCE's education program.

Learn More: Read TCE’s Profile and connect with Mathilde on PEN's Projects Directory

Download TCE’s pre- and post-questionnaires for students, parents, and teachers in English and Indonesian.

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