“Run for the Rainforest” to Support Indigenous Conservation and Literacy

May 1,  2010 in Tower Grove Park, a 5K run and Kids Fun Run & Scavenger Hunt with prizes from the Missouri Botanical Garden will benefit two partner nonprofit organizations, one based in St. Louis and the other in an indigenous village in Guyana, South America.

Guyana is a small country, about the size of Idaho. The former British Colony in South America has the largest alligator, anteater, armadillo, eagle, rodent, spider and snake in the world. There, the flood plains of several rivers merge, creating one of the most diverse fish habitats on earth.  In this small place that is the Land of Giants, there’s also much to protect.  In this lush land, there’s 75 percent of the country’s bird species, 86 percent of its mammals and 72 percent of its fish. Here, the indigenous Guyanese have legal land titles. With the help of Rupununi Learners, www.rupununilearners.org we are working toward educating and empowering the future protectors of this land. Together, in the last four years, Rupununi Learners in St. Louis and Guyana has won funding from the UN for wildlife research managed by villagers; tied the research to an ecotourism enterprise that saw 400 visitors in 2009; built an Internet-enabled, computer equipped public library; put school libraries in seven villages; helped raise the pass rate on the high school entrance exam from 0 to 58% in the pilot village, and won the Skandalaris Prize for Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation conferred by Olin School of Business at Washington University in St. Louis.

Like everything in the Rupununi, our focus is both big and small. To begin with, the small: We focus on literacy and conservation, emphasizing science, technology and English. That gets us to the big: This early learning is critical for developing the villagers to manage their own natural resources. Rupununi Learners strengthens local capacity for research, education and prospects for the future by creating jobs through ecotourism.

Plan to come run with us on May 1 to support a people in representing their interests — and the world’s — in a sustainable common future that matters on every level.