Wise Words on Community Development Work from One of Our Own!

As part of our close work with Ugandan communities to develop sustainable, locally managed economies, MAPLE also focuses on making access to clean water sustainable for the communities we serve.  Grace Burleson, a graduate student of mechanical engineering and anthropology at Oregon State University, has served as a field intern for MAPLE in Uganda on three different occasions.  In this article, Grace offers sage advice to all organizations and communities working on this important issue.  We are grateful for her work and for her guidance.    https://www.engineeringforchange.org/long-term-project-planning/


Engaging Financial Self-Management Processes in a Mapuche Context

Many indigenous and rural communities around the world find themselves excluded from the direct benefits of national economic growth and run the risk of becoming ever more marginalized, with their culture and environment at risk of becoming devastated.  Yet, these communities are resilient, often prefer autonomy, and tend to have the resources and capacities to establish sustainable microeconomies

August-September 2016: Important steps for Replicating the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo!

By Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell

2016 is coming to an end, and so much has happened for MAPLE Microdevelopment in Mapuche ancestral territory.

Three years ago today, in 2013, the first Mapuche Mutual Support Group began to take shape, as a collaborative between MAPLE Microdevelopment Chile and  the  small Indigenous (Mapuche-Lafkenche) community of Llaguepulli, located in the Lake Budi basin in coastal Araucanía Region, northern Patagonia, Chile.

Now in its third cycle of collective saving, this community-powered financing tool for indigenous self-determination is up and running, is composed of 40 members, has a life and identity of its own, and a mission to safeguard one of the world's remaining ancient linkages between culture, environment, and economies. The goal of linking the financing tool to a community self-sustainable business is being accomplished as we speak: linking income to family agriculture and traditional wool textiles.


Since early 2015, the MAPLE/Llaguepulli collaborative has expanded its aims towards community-driven multidimensional benchmarks linked to social, cultural, environmental and economic goals of the community. In the process, we expanded to working with two more neighboring communities of the Lago Budi basin.

So, we´d like to fill you in a bit on some of this work:

  • As of October 2016, we are providing participatory design and investment in appropriate technologies to strengthening family foods and livelihoods by gaining both food resilience and access to new markets through designing culturally-appropriate tools for sustainable intensification, recuperating native seeds and chicken, and re-capitalizing environmental assets and rebuilding organic soils. We are working closely with the women of the community due to their role in caring their household greenhouses and gardens.
  • We are developing community-led methods for environmental management, with a focus in gradual recuperation of forests, soils and waters, through propagation of native forests through tree nursing and control of erosion and runoff through infiltration lines and multi-purpose agroforestry (Only this past winter we planted more than 2000 native trees both in Llaguepulli and the neighboring community of Allipén!) while strengthening gardens and soils with a traditional resource: algae exchanged with a neighboring coastal Lafkenche community of Nigue. 140 sacks of Algae were distributed to 30 families in Llaguepulli to begin the learning process for making algae-based compost and fertilizers.  

In the cultural and educational management area, we are working with the community school to establish a strong basis for income generation, and with two different groups of artisan women, in Llaguepulli and Allipén, to whom we are supporting in planning and leveraging key investment for innovation and value adding in the production of Mapuche arts and textiles and improving their management of supplies and sales through an artisan fund.



MAPLE Chile will be launching its second collaborative with a Mapuche community to create a community-powered finance tool servicing indigenous economic self-determination!

After careful dialogues and agreements, we are honored to have been invited by Malalwe-Chanko (also as Llaguepulli and Allipén, one of the lake Budi’s basin 110 Mapuche-Lafkenche communities or lof that form the  ancestral territory Ayllarewe Fudilewfü) to begin a replication process with their community, that builds on what has been learned in neighboring Llaguepulli.

As we speak with elders and leaders of the community, we are finding that the lof’s families have had a long-standing struggle for community cultural and land rights –a cause shared with many communities in Mapuche ancestral lands in Northern Patagonia, both in Chile and in Argentina. But we are also learning that despite these imposed disadvantages, they have been able to accomplish many things: In the last few decades Malalwe-Chanko’s families have pursued environmentally sustainable agriculture, empowered the youth, revitalized Traditional Authorities, and begun a successful Mapuche textiles and arts production.

In addition, through their strong links with First Nations of Quebec and a team based in Montreal that work on indigenous community development, Malalwe-Chanko has been able to launch a community-led communications project, giving opportunities and tools for youth to launch 5 micro-documentaries from within. You can watch their work here! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ScYi60o_eow


Inspired by their neighbor Llaguepulli’s first experience, now they are eyeing the creation of their own community-powered finance tool servicing Mapuche self-determination, and we at MAPLE Microdevelopment, are honored to be working with them.

Since September 2016, a team has come together, made of MAPLE practitioners Alison Guzman and Ignacio Krell, and two young filmmakers of Malalwe-Chanko, Mariana Hualme and Liwen Raín –who, with assistance by MAPLE Microdevelopment and under the guidance of the lof’s families and traditional authorities, will be in charge with leading the creation of the second Mapuche Mutual Support Group in the region. With them, a preparatory 4-step process has been agreed upon::

  1. Initial  Dialogues with Community Members and Traditional Authorities
  2. Mutual learning through 10 collaborative sessions
  3. Community-led needs and capacities assessment
  4. Consensus Building towards adapting the GAM Model to Malalwe-Chanko’s unique priorities and strengths.

 On a separate, but related note, MAPLE Microdevelopment is formalizing its non-profit status in Chile, and preparing a publication and a new website for this country branch. We hope to keep you updated on our progress in the next few months. Stay tuned for more!



By Ron Severson

As director of MAPLE Microdevelopment, I recently returned from a one-month visit to MAPLE’s field offices in Uganda.  This was my seventh visit since MAPLE started operations in Uganda eight years ago, so being there with Ugandan colleagues and friends is beginning to feel like a second home.   While much happened during my visit, this blog entry focuses on MAPLE’s growing partnership with TERREWODE.  A Ugandan NGO founded by Alice Emasu, TERREWODE focuses on preventing obstetric fistula, identifying and treating girls and women who have suffered fistula, and restoring survivors to lives of dignity (Check it out! http://terrewodeug.org/). MAPLE is partnering with TERREWODE to help fistula survivors develop sustainable income generating opportunities.  We are starting by building a business, together, to export handmade, all-natural goat milk soap made by fistula survivors in the Teso sub-Region of Uganda to Italy.  More on that later in this blog entry!

Fistula is a birthing injury that occurs when a hole forms between a women’s birth canal and rectum or bladder, often leaving her incontinent of urine and feces.  In wealthier nations obstetric fistula has nearly been eradicated.  Yet over 200,000 women in Uganda currently suffer from this condition, and those who do are often ostracized due to misunderstandings about the causes and treatability of the condition. The causes of obstetric fistula are many and include inadequate access to medical care and illegal practices of child marriage still occurring in some villages, but these and other causes mostly arise from realities associated with living in poverty.

TERREWODE is the leading organization in Uganda dedicated to eradicating obstetric fistula.  Together with other organizations, TERREWODE is transforming the lives of girls and women, not only through prevention, treatment, and rehabilitation but also through advancement and increased enforcement of the rights of girls and women—the right to avoid childhood marriage, the right to attend school, the right to medical care, the right to own land, the right to make a livelihood.

MAPLE Microdevelopment is devoted to assisting families and communities achieve financial self-sufficiency through education and entrepreneurship.  We are not a health services organization.  Yet, anyone from a family or community that struggles economically knows how difficult it is to separate issues of health and well-being from economic empowerment.  Entrepreneurial businesses often fail if a person or a family member becomes ill.  At the same time, strengthening the capacity to generate income and to support others can also strengthen one’s dignity.  This is particularly true for fistula survivors in Uganda, which makes TERREWODE Uganda and MAPLE Microdevelopment Uganda strong partners.  In its core areas of expertise, MAPLE can assist the women served by TERREWODE to build and manage sustainable sources of income.

For almost a year, now, TERREWODE and fistula survivors who live in rural areas in the Teso sub-Region of Eastern Uganda have been working to start a goat milk soap project.  When Joni Kabana, a photographer from Oregon, visited TERREWODE and gave Alice Emasu, TERREWODE’s founder and director, a gift of goat milk soap from a ranch near Spray, Oregon, Alice immediately said, “We could do this ourselves!”  

Since then, much has happened, and this blog entry will not do justice to the full story.  Let it suffice to say that TERREWODE received an initial grant to obtain and raise milk goats, that fistula survivors are now rearing and milking those goats, that Dardi Troen, a designer and soap-maker from Portland, Oregon, helped train fistula survivors to make beautiful, all-natural soap with goat milk and local shea butter, that students from Oregon State University’s Humanitarian Engineering Program tested the soap under various conditions and production processes, and that MAPLE Microdevelopment is now working closely with TERREWODE to design and implement a viable business plan to empower fistula survivors and their communities.

I experienced some pretty amazing things in relation to this project during the month of July.  Together with Rogers Muduku, our country director, Hyacinth Walimbwa, MAPLE field officer, and Chris Kuhn a UO grad and intern, I visited TERREWODE in Soroti, Uganda, twice for several days.  It’s an ever-inspiring place with ever-inspiring leaders, management team members, trainers--and particularly the fistula survivors themselves.  During our first visit, TERREWODE was conducting a two-week rehabilitation program for fistula survivors whose surgeries had not yet succeeded.  While the first surgery for women who suffer this condition often succeeds, TERREWODE is expanding their outreach to serve women whose surgery has so far been unsuccessful.

It would be difficult to imagine a more resilient group of people anywhere in the world than the women involved in this session.  Some of them had received no treatment or support for 20 years or more; others were still teenagers.  Most had lost a child during birth; others had a child with them.  The women were sharing their stories, supporting one another, learning to manage the physical, social, and psychological dimensions of living with fistula, crying and laughing together, gaining skills in income generation such as baking, weaving, tailoring, and making soap, and participating in drama and song as a way to express themselves and raise awareness in their own villages when they return.  All were emerging from isolation into a community made strong through shared experience and a shared commitment to end fistula, forever.

We also visited a village, where fistula survivors and solidarity groups sang, danced, and performed a drama for women attending the two-week rehabilitation session.  While the women connect strongly with each other at TERREWODE’s Reintegration Center in Soroti, it means a lot to them to meet other women who have returned to their villages and have been able to reestablish strong, dignified livelihoods.  At the end of the performances, the two groups of women met and embraced.  After that, everybody danced.  (Yeah, even me.  That’s what you do, and no one judges you on style points.  Good thing in my case.)  These outreach and introduction sessions constitute one of the many ways TERREWODE forms a network of supporters dedicated to eradicating obstetric fistula and respecting, even celebrating survivors of this condition all across Uganda.

Also during this first visit, our MAPLE team engaged in several dialogues about the soap making project to map out the principles guiding this new business as well as the direct and indirect costs of producing soap, locally, and establishing a distribution channel, internationally.  We also took inventory of all materials currently used in the soap making project.  Of course, some of the soap will be sold or gifted locally, within and across villages, yet selling among neighbors does not produce the returns necessary to break long-standing cycles of poverty.  The same characteristics that make local soap ordinary and low-priced in Uganda also make it uniquely valuable in regions of the world where many people wish to use soap that is not mass produced, that is free of artificial additives, and that benefits others and the environment.

Visiting one of the villages where rearing and milking the goats is occurring was a highlight.  Partly the visit was made to understand the costs associated with raising goats, a necessary step to design a viable financial model and to understand issues related to scaling the business over time.  Yet, meeting the fistula survivors locally in charge of the project and seeing the fistula solidarity group members tend to the gardens, feed and milk the goats, and build onto the goat sheds to make room for new goats gave me a much stronger sense of the community-nature and potential of this project.  Children loved the goats, too, of course, and the kid goats (as the original goats are now reproducing at a fine pace!) love to sneak out of their pens if they can, frolic around with children from the village chasing after them, and play king of the hill on any nearby anthill.  

This particular village had four goats, two female goats, a male goat, and one kid goat.  The other female goat was pregnant with what must be twin goats!  The two female goats produce about five liters of goat milk a day.  That’s enough goat milk to make 800 1.2 ounce bars of soap, the unit size of soap needed for the current international market opportunity.  Some other issues also became more apparent during the visit to the village.  As the village has no access to electricity, the milk cannot be preserved very long.  When soap is being made centrally at the TERREWODE Reintegration Center in Soroti, it needs to be transported immediately.  We hope to resolve this issue by investing in solar refrigerators for each village involved, but have yet to test this part of the process.

On the day before leaving Uganda, I met with Alice Emasu and TERREWODE’s financial directors, Lillian Awizia and Amudu David, at TERREWODE’s Kampala office.  The purpose of the meeting was to further develop the business plan, particularly the pricing model, the logistics of the pilot phase, and the long-term revenue projections.  While it is difficult to project future revenues prior to conducting the pilot, we all agreed that this is a social business.  Any decisions made must include the fistula survivors and must improve their health and well-being, strengthen their communities, raise awareness about fistula, and advance the rights of girls and women in Uganda—while also producing high quality soap.  We also discussed several possible ways that members of village solidarity groups for fistula survivors could participate in income generating activities as part of scaling the business over time.  Shea nuts grow naturally in the area.  Some community members could process the nuts into shea butter, thereby replacing the current cost of purchasing shea butter.

Other members could be in charge of printing, packaging, and messaging for end users of the soap and for transport.  Still others could engage in complementary businesses: buying and selling of milk goats; selling surplus milk; bee keeping and honey harvesting (as bees’ wax can be used as a substitute for lye in the making of soap); building goat sheds; planting and harvesting of multiuse plants like ground nuts (the goats eat the greens while people eat and sell the nuts); buying and selling of veterinary supplies in hard-to-reach villages; training of fistula survivors and solidarity groups in other villages as the business scales.  Furthermore, we agreed that some of the revenues produced from this social business should go directly into the savings and loan funds managed by fistula survivors and solidarity groups to support new income generating activities, help pay school fees to keep youth (especially girls) in school past primary level, and cover transport to hospitals for women who experience complications in their pregnancy.  In short and in so many ways, this project can become much more than a cottage industry!

I will close with the most recent update on this project.  Currently, women in five villages continue to raise and milk the goats, the goats continue to reproduce, and some fistula survivors know how to make beautiful goat milk and shea butter soap.  Alice Emasu and TERREWODE would like to ensure that women from all five participating villages can participate in the soap making process and earn sustainable incomes from this business as it grows, so TERREWODE is preparing to train new soap makers in the next test run of soap-making in Soroti.  This next test run is also necessary for making all process improvements to have the soap approved by the Ugandan Bureau of Standards for sales.  Dardi Troen is designing the packaging and Joni Kabana is drafting the messaging for the soap—as the messaging about eradicating fistula in this case is as important as the product itself.   This may include small weavings in a particular design made by the women themselves in their villages in combination with printing.  MAPLE has found an initial buyer for the pilot phase of international soap distribution—one of MAPLE’s own board members!  Cliff Johnson, co-founder with Eric Breon of Vacasa, a rapidly growing, worldwide vacation rental business (check it out https://www.vacasa.com/) manages the international markets for Vacasa.  He is interested in doing what he can, within Vacasa’s business model, to ensure that Vacasa has a positive social and environmental impact on communities.  He has agreed to purchase the pilot shipment of soap for testing in Vacasa’s Italian market.  Conducting this pilot will enable MAPLE and TERREWODE to establish an international distribution channel and will provide us all with the necessary customer feedback and data necessary for predicting demand and planning for growth over time.  Also, the MAPLE Uganda team continues their financial and market analyses to build and implement a viable business model, and we at MAPLE headquarters in Eugene, Oregon, have nearly completed the initial business plan based on field research in Uganda and international market research.

Lastly, another MAPLE board member, Emily Myers, has developed a crowdfunding site through which anyone, from anywhere in the world, using any currency, can donate to support the pilot phase of this amazing project.  The site will be up from today, August 25, 2016, through October 23, 2016.  50% of the $3,000 target amount will go to TERREWODE and 50% will go to MAPLE, in both cases to help cover the costs of making this pilot successful.

So, if you do nothing else, please check out this crowdfunding site right now!  https://pozible.com/project/uganda-soap-by-fistula-survivors

Let’s help fistula survivors make beautiful soap, tell their stories to the world to help women everywhere, and earn income to support themselves, their families, and communities!


Ron Severson, Executive Director, MAPLE Microdevelopment

Photographs provided by Joni Kabana

Check it out http://jonikabana.com/ !

My Experience in Lago Budi by Molly Frazier

My name is Molly Frazier and I am a MAPLE volunteer and Board Member. I recently graduated from the University of Oregon with a major in Business and a minor in Spanish. After graduation I had the opportunity to travel throughout South America. My travels took me many places, one being Llaguepulli, Chile where MAPLE Microdevelopment has been working since 2012. 

For one week in July I had the pleasure of staying in LlaguepulliI was hosted by three incredible families who, along with the rest of the community, welcomed me with open arms. During this week I got to see MAPLE’s role in the community and how it has impacted the Mapuche families living there. As a board member of MAPLE I was eager to experience first hand the difference MAPLE has made and continues to make in the Llaguepulli Community.  

MAPLE’s main program in the community is the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo Llaguepulli's Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo, based on the Mapuche context of mutual support (rekulluwun-keyuwun) began its first pilot stage in 2014, thanks to MAPLE and in collaboration with the Llaguepulli community. It started with 24 members, but now consists of a steady 35-40 members from the Llaguepulli community and is in its third cycle. The uniqueness of this model is what makes it so special, since it caters to Mapuche everyday life and cultural contextGrupo de Apoyo Mutuo works by using group savings to fund initiative and emergency loans. In short, it is providing people with security and access to capital; both of which make a profound impact for the individuals and families involved.  

I had the opportunity to observe one of Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo’s meetings during my stay. This particular meeting was for initiative loans. A record number of members presented their proposals for a range of initiatives ranging from purchasing materials for a garden and chicken coops, to supporting artisans in the community. Listening to the members make their proposals, I could tell these were matters that were very important to them. The communal desire to see everyone in the group succeed was made evident when all the initiative proposals were granted.

Another way I experienced MAPLE’s impact in the community was through talking with the local staff. Two of the women on MAPLE’s team hosted me during my stay at Lago Budi. We had several rich conversations, many of which centered on MAPLE. Silvia, who changed professions by joining the MAPLE team, explained to me that working for MAPLE does not feel like “work” because she is doing something she loves. Nadia, who has been with the MAPLE team since it began working with the community, relayed to me how important it is to her that MAPLE operates the way it does. That is, working with the community and understanding their wants and needs in order to build a program the people can take ownership of and support.

Finally, I saw how strong of a bond MAPLE has made with the community. As Alison and Ignacio introduced me to members of the community I could tell they are regarded as dear friends and highly respected for the work they have been doing with MAPLE.

My stay not only opened my eyes to MAPLE’s impact but also to the beauty and wonders of LlaguepulliIn the community one can see farmland, native forests, Mapuche Rukas, an array of animals, and of course Lake Budi. The lake is beautiful from every angle but my favorite was experiencing its vastness through a paddleboat across its shores. On my last day in the community I was invited to a Mapuche Ceremony. It was truly an amazing experience to participate in the ceremony and be further welcomed into the community.   

I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to stay in Lago Budi and experience the kindness of the community, the beauty of the area, and the positive impact MAPLE is making.

The video below shows an interview in chile of Molly with MAPLE's staff member Alison Guzman

(Click Here to play Video in another window) 

A First Step - The Mapuche of Chile and the Maori of New Zealand

By MAPLE Microdevelopment - Chile

The Llaguepulli Community and its allies, including the MAPLE Chile team, wrote to invite the New Zealand Ambassador to Llaguepulli. On January 28 and 29, 2016, representatives of the New Zealand Embassy in Chile, including Ambassador Jacqui Caine, and Policy Advisor Maria Jesus Prieto, visited The Llaguepulli Community, for activities associated with The Community’s Kompu Lof School and The Lago Budi Tourism Committee.

The New Zealand delegation started their visit with a lunch at the Lago Budi Mapuche Gastronomy Center, with the hospitality of local entrepreneur, Don Mauricio Painefil, and his family. There, the Ambassador received a warm welcome from the Longko of Llaguepulli, don Jorge Calfuqueo. She also visited the School where she learned more of MAPLE’s contribution towards the tree nursery and new organic gardens.

Ambassador Caine learned through two days of community dialogue and activities, at both the Longko’s ruka and the MapuLawen Medicinal Garden, about the School’s projection, as well as of best practices and challenges in tourism. Community members heard from Ambassador Caine of her Maori tribal community, and New Zealand experiences in Maori-Government relations and Maori development. Topics included developing Maori-Mapuche relations for promoting community-managed education for language revitalization initiatives and sustainable development. Cultural insights in traditional medicine, education and history were shared.

To make things more exciting, the New Zealand Ambassador personally delivered a letter confirming a grant under the Fondo Embajada de Nueva Zelandia, to a project, supported by MAPLE’s team, to refurbish the Schools’s furniture and gym supplies.    This will be a key contribution to the School and its students and teachers –providing a boost for the new school year which will begin in March 2016.

During the Embassy’s visit, facilitated by MAPLE Microdevelopment practitioners Ignacio Krell and Alison Guzman, and hosted by Fresia Painefil and Nadia Painefil, two of the Grupo de Apoyo Mutuo community managers, Ambassador Caine and Ms. Prieto learned more of MAPLE’s work in the region and its role in helping the Community attain self-sustainable asset management strategies.

The Llaguepulli Community considered the New Zealand Embassy’s visit to be a symbolic representation of a continuing dialogue between Mapuche and Maori First Nations, strengthening each other’s’ efforts and supporting these long-lasting relations.

una semana con... a week with... La comunidad mapuche de llaguepulli

By Delaney Swink

I recently spent a week living with three separate Mapuche families, in the Araucanía region of southern Chile. In just one week, I was able to participate in the day-to-day lives of these families, scraping the surface of understanding some of the issues they face, and observing firsthand how MAPLE is becoming an integral factor in helping Mapuche families revive their culture and develop their community in ways that fit their community goals. 

(A Mapuche Mural, Alison Guzman and Delaney Swink, Horses Grazing by the Lake)

The discrimination and injustice that the Mapuche people face dates all the way back to the abuse that took place during European colonization of the country, along with the forced evangelization that still exists and caused forfeiture of traditional beliefs and practices. Still more oppression took place under the Pinochet dictatorship – a patent lack of respect for the Mapuche’s right to their own land and territory as Pinochet endeavored to forcibly homogenize the country and cease traditional practices in attempt to modernize and "westernize” Chile. Everything from the seizing of native land, forced evangelization, banishment of the native language of Mapudungun, to current day Chilean textbooks that unjustly portray Mapuche as lazy drunks (and go on to win national awards for their accurate cultural depictions), the discrimination that the Mapuche face is a prevalent part of their history and current daily lives. 

Speaking to la Señora Virginia and her husband Geronimo brings light to current day struggles of the Mapuche people in their desire for autonomy amid limitations imposed by the Chilean government. The Mapuche are given minimal assistance from the government - limited social services, poor infrastructure of unpaved roads and faulty pipes that carry a water supply that runs brown in many homes - yet they are forced to pay taxes that don't serve them. They are further forced to answer to Chilean authorities for everything from building code regulations for tourist lodgings to being fined by the Chilean carabineros (police) who pass through the community for the purpose of regulations but seemingly not to actually serve or protect the community. 

As I stood in Señora Graciela Chela’s grassy field, watching her recently broken horse feed on the weeds and listening to her speak about when Llaguepulli first got water, she spoke about how all the men would get up early in the morning to walk to the water source to start building the canals and laying the pipes. She laughed remembering that a skeptic neighbor said he would cut off his ear if water actually sprang from the tap once they had finished connecting the pipes. Luckily he still has his ear, Señora Chela chuckled, but not because the venture was unsuccessful. She notes that the water runs brown in many homes, carrying sediment and minerals, but it's better than gathering the children as the sun rose each morning to walk to the water source and collect it in buckets, as Señora Chela did with her ten siblings as a child. Nevertheless, this anecdote illustrates just one example of how the Chilean government has disregarded the Mapuche communities. It was not the resolve of the Chilean government to provide pipelines to their people that allowed water to flow into the homes of Llaguepulli. Instead it was the efforts of Llaguepulli community members rising early every morning to dig the canals and place the pipes that met this basic need – and even then, decades after the rest of Chile enjoyed the luxury of running water.

Rinsing Organic Potatoes

Soon after running water came the luxury of light - electricity installed in most of the houses. It was a revolutionary change, but not one that electricity companies would overlook as an opportunity to take advantage of the native people. Señora Chela pointed out that, as another form of discrimination, the electricity companies continued to raise prices on the Mapuche people without telling them. Soon community members were crushed by electricity bills without adequate notification that the costs were rising.

Now many Mapuche people are trying to take back what is rightfully theirs. They hope to revive their culture that has been systematically suppressed. The struggle for most is to find a balance between cultural autonomy while still gaining rights due to them as citizens of the state - rights that were revoked throughout history since the start of colonization. The Mapuche people hope to reintroduce the Mapudungun language into schools (since it was banned during the dictatorship), and to continue other cultural and spiritual traditions. To achieve this goal, they must build a financial system that shields them from outside sources or large loans that trap people in the treacherous cycle of debt that many banks do, and the way that many nonprofits end up doing in their attempts to help people fund projects.

As a micro-development NGO that strives to build resources within the already self-sufficient Mapuche community, MAPLE can help the Mapuche reach their self-defined goals. There are many factors that set MAPLE apart and make them successful – one key factor being the community with which they work. Many NGOs focus on the suffering and poor, importing western tactics and ideologies to "fix the problem," often causing more harm than good - often further proliferating the white savior complex. MAPLE, on the other hand, works with the Mapuche community.  The Mapuche community actually invited MAPLE to come and assist in creating a self-managed micro financing plan that works with the demands of the community - only after approval of the assembly, led by the president and Lonco of the community (the main leaders of the community). 

Delaney Swink and Ignacio Krell

Sylvia (sister of the Llaguepulli Lonco -elected spiritual leader of the community) is one of four women working on the MAPLE Apoyo Mutuo team, and she made it clear that "MAPLE es nuestra herramienta - no somos una herramienta de MAPLE." (MAPLE is our tool, we are not MAPLE's tool.) This statement is key to the mission of MAPLE. MAPLE follows the needs of the people, working on a case-to-case basis to help set up micro finance programs that help community members lend amongst themselves, or set up a system that will allow them to achieve their goals of community or personal development - everything from helping groups of families split the cost of a pig in order to all benefit from its profits, to providing a monetary loan system for families building cabañas (cabins) to generate revenue from tourists, to improving home gardens from which many families sustain their diets. Sylvia explained to me how society dictates that, in order to be a working professional, one must go to the city and get a job and start a life there. Instead, Sylvia points out, many Mapuche of Llaguepulli have returned or stayed in the community to be professionals in their field in their own community, and to her this is a form of rebellion against the constraints Chilean society puts on the indigenous people. There is an expectation to conform to Chilean life, when in reality many Mapuche people don’t actually identify as Chilean at all – but MAPLE does not require Mapuche people to work within this expectation of conformity.

Sylvia says that active but peaceful activism also exists within the school in Llaguepulli, aptly named Kom Pu Lof Ni Kimeltuwe in the Mapudungun language. This school is the only school in all of Chile that teaches Mapudungun to all students as part of the curriculum. To the community, this curriculum is also a form of peaceful rebellion against the constraints society puts on the Mapuche. 

Outside of the cultural sphere of the Mapuche people, the environmental sphere of Mapuche territory has been all but destroyed by logging companies that take their land, and plant eucalyptus and pine that encroach on the Mapuche’s livelihood and destroy the native plants and trees. This is another important fight of the Mapuche people. For this reason, MAPLE (along with some of the Mapuche communities in the area of lake Budi) is making an effort to reforest the areas with plants that belong there - not trees just intended to be felled for the timber industry.  I was personally able to get my hands dirty with this newer project, a reforestation plan that focuses on self-sustaining native plants and trees, by helping MAPLE directors Alison and Ignacio manage part of the area that is being replanted. Throughout all of my experiences within the community, it became clear to me that land is something hugely valuable to the Mapuche; not just spiritually, but also practically as a means of survival.

Preparing the land

In the few days I spent with Patchi's family, I got to experience the importance of their family "huertas" (gardens) and other crops. Her family has two long greenhouses full of vegetables and herbs, fields of potatoes and quinoa, all that they use to sustain their own diets and feed the tourist groups that visit the eatery her family runs. Most families have gardens and a crop like Pachi’s family has, gardens that they rely on for their own sustenance. For this reason, gardening practices are hugely important. Another one of the projects I had the pleasure of working on during my stay was to help with an experimental garden organized by Matt Mariola, a professor currently on his research sabbatical in Llaguepulli. Mariola has connected with MAPLE to work on solutions for more efficient, organic gardening practices - since almost all families are nearly self-sustaining with their own gardens, these new practices will produce immediate returns.  

Organic greenhouses for the community

During my ten days in Llaguepulli I began to understand the importance of indigenous preservation - preservation of cultures that have existed for thousands of years and whose existence has been tested on multiple occasions throughout history. A culture whose kindness, warmness, and openness I experienced firsthand. Their value of family is more than I have ever witnessed - even after living in Valparaiso with a host family for five months. The affection between siblings, the time spent all together, the random visits to the tio's house just to say hi (that result in returning home with a bucket full of "papas buna" - fermented potatoes to be boiled in water with sugar and eaten as a traditional dessert) all have deeper ties than meet the eye. Even going to the field to pick potatoes was a family affair, which with Pachi’s family even included 18-month-old Alonso in his padded onesie. 

With the Llaguepulli community, I experienced first-hand how the families truly do live off the land, making very few trips into town for groceries, generally consuming what their crops produce - something I can't help but compare to the completely unsustainable food industry that I buy into back in the US. Señora Chela's husband said he has never even been into Temuco, the nearest big city two hours away, where many people from the community go to visit big name brand stores and buy a lot of their clothes and other goods. Their connection to the earth is apparent – such as rejecting capitalistic celebrations like Christmas and remaining with their traditional ones, such as the Nguillatun celebration that I was able to participate in on my last day with the community, where families came together to honor the earth and make offerings to the land and ocean. These traditions are part of what has shaped Chile, but have been forgotten and erased from the country’s history and current-day awareness. In a similar way, native cultures made the United States what it is today, but have been similarly forgotten; discriminated against, and forced off their land.

For these reasons it remains deeply important to preserve these indigenous cultures, and to my surprise, each of the families that hosted me explained that their hope for change lies in the hands of foreigners. As Mapuche people, they face apathy on the part of most Chileans who only see them as the stereotyped versions of who they really are and fail to take their demands seriously. On the other hand, the international community provides some form of hope for the Mapuche people. With enough support and understanding from the outside, they can start to reach their goals and regain the rights they deserve. As survivors of extreme oppression, it is a fight for them to re-claim what was once theirs, but now is a time of political optimism for the Mapuche and with the help of groups such as MAPLE they hold more hope.  


Delaney Swink is a student at the University of Oregon, studying Romance Languages and International Studies.  She has served as a Student Ambassador and the Public Relations Director for the International Business and Economics Club at the UO and is currently spending time abroad studying in Chile and Morocco.  Delaney was recently awarded the Shephard Family Scholarship for Study Abroad from the Robert D. Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.  

A Glimpse of Empowerment and Inspiration From Uganda

Written By: MAPLE Microdevelopment

Bernard, a shortstop for the MAPLE baseball team in Lira, Uganda, talks about his experience with school and baseball, what they mean for his life, and what he wants for his future.



What is your experience with baseball?  Do you feel you have come a long way?


“I love baseball and this sport has changed my life mentally and physically, I know I have a lot to do to get better but I can’t stop or quit. I want to become somebody in the future and working hard with class work and baseball will get me there. If this dream came true I would put up baseball fields in my country and facilities for others to play in.  I love to see a big impact from this sport in my country and my life. Thank you MAPLE for bringing this experience to us, I am proud to be involved.”     Bernard


Bernard goes on to talk about his love of Baseball, and the appreciation he has for his two coaches from MAPLE, Bernard and Mark:

"It is about two years now since I play baseball and I want to keep going. My first experience involved with baseball was last year in May when I went to the little league baseball tournament at the age of 10 with my teammates who made it there. I personally had a lot to do for myself from what I saw from the teams that came to the tournament and how well they played.  I looked at their level of play and said to myself, 'I will be the best I can be next year,' and this is still how I feel." 

"I feel I have gotten better physically , morally, and mentally which makes me stronger from last year. I celebrate my coaches Bernard and Mark for building this confidence in me. I thought I would never come this far, after wanting to give up and quit several times last year. This is a new sport to me.  I had never seen this game until last year when it was introduced to my school, and now it is my preferred and best sport in my life. I don’t know what will stop me, maybe if there is no one to keep me going...  I can’t stop thinking about baseball.  It has brought a smile and happiness to my life and my family for several reasons. Coach Bernard and Mark are my inspiration in this sport, they have been there for my betterment and I celebrate them always. May God keep them going as we enjoy our career with this great sport, for they are skillful and have got talent that we need to get better each day.   Thank you all."                Bernard



Bernard’s story of inspiration and empowerment is one of many. 



Since 2008, MAPLE has been working in post-conflict Uganda to help build the dreams and futures of strong, intelligent, and motivated youth.  Through MAPLE’s Sports Training program for baseball and softball, children learn skills they need on the field and skills they need in life.  They learn about hard work, team work, discipline, and leadership.  In a country where nearly 50% of the population is age 0-14, the people of Uganda are depending on a capable youth ,with these skills and abilities, to raise its communities out of extreme poverty.

This story of success and empowerment is only one of the nearly 60 projects MAPLE can tell from Africa and South America.  

If you would like to hear more about other projects, or more about MAPLE and what we do and how we do it, check out the rest of our website, visit our Facebook page, or email us at info@maplemicro.org.     

With the continued help of our amazing supporters, volunteers, interns, and staff, we will continue to find community-based grassroots solutions help communities in Africa and South America achieve financial independence and foster well-being for generations to come.


Join Us! 


Trekking through Mapuche Lands: A note from a MAPLE Volunteer

By: Cam Brand

The distance to travel between Eugene, Oregon and the community we work with, Llaguepulli, in Southern Chile, is by no means a quick trip.  And as the community members prepare themselves for colder months to come, we here in Oregon are anticipating the sunnier season.  But being in different hemispheres hasn’t prevented us from forming a close connection over the past two years.

For a few weeks in December and February, I skipped out on Oregon’s cold, wet winter, to have a visit with the community and be a part of this connection that has been growing through our community finance project there.  This project, now aptly named Apoyo Mutuo, just finished a successful pilot stage with initial members utilizing group savings to fund income-generating projects of their choice.  Coming all the way from Eugene, I planned on staying with families throughout my visit, and I was excited to see how the cultural norms of the community and the Mapuche way of life were integrated and connected with the project. 

The first noticeable presence of this connection has its traces back to the name of the project, Apoyo Mutuo.  The translation of the project’s name is ‘mutual support,’ and this is a cultural tradition within the community that is deeply engrained in their way of life. For instance, many of the daily family meals I experienced are almost always joined by guests outside of the family, whether by invitation or spontaneous visit.  And this community generosity carries over into the framework for their labor economy, where work, labor, and individual skills are often inter-exchanged and traded cooperatively.  In one case, one community member might offer his help with someone’s wheat harvest, in return for some of the crop’s harvested grain.   This interexchange and invitation culture common throughout the daily life in Llaguepulli is rooted in the ideals of reciprocity, where support is not only received, but given in return. 

And this ideal of reciprocity not only exists between the community members, but also between themselves and the land.  The Mapuche and the community we work with have such a deep connection with the land, both physically and spiritually. From the different foods they cultivate such as potatoes, wheat, and beans, to the natural medicinal practice of Lawen, the families rely on the earth and it’s resources not only as a source for sustenance and health, but also as a source of their identity.  Mapuche, after all, means ‘people of the land.’   The community has many vibrant craft traditions that carry forward the Mapuche identity as well.  The tallera traditional weaving art, can be seen practiced by women many times of the week, whose traditional designs carry a significance related to the Mapuche cosmology. Further craft traditions can be found in the amazing food, such as the traditional Catuto bread that I was shown how to make.  Craft traditions like these and their connection to the land, are important considerations in the continuing design of Apoyo Mutuo, because for the members of Llaguepulli, a financial tool that increases economic leverage is only as successful as it’s enduring ability to preserve the Mapuche culture.

When reflecting on my experiences living with different families and immersing myself in the Mapuche culture, I begin to understand that the project isn’t just designed in connection with different cultural traditions and values, it IS their culture.  From the underlying framework to the daily operations to the expected lasting effects, Apoyo Mutuo is becoming a success because the people that it supports are leading its evolution.  For MAPLE, as an organization that values cultural diversity, this is of the utmost importance in our collaborative efforts; that our projects, in being designed with and by the community, are a reflection of the culture they come from.


Being a part of this connection that we have created from Oregon to Llaguepulli puts the world in a different perspective for me.  We have built a bridge between two different sides of the world and between two different cultures who are learning from one another.  But we don’t want to create an exclusive means of exchange between MAPLE’s internal team and the communities we work with.  You are just as important in these growing connections.  We grow only as far as our roots will allow us.  Our foundation for growth, our root system, is people like you who are passionate about our mission and our process for designing sustainable solutions throughout the world.  Our organization and our projects are made up of people who work hard to keep this process going, and if you have an idea, a thought, or any questions about how to get more directly involved in what we are creating, don’t be shy to get in touch with me at cam@maplemicro.org