Alternative Spring Break

Thank you to all our 2018 volunteer teams!

Thank you to all the teams of volunteers in 2018 that came to help us in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.
We are eternally grateful for all your hard labor on the homestead and in the forest! We salute you. Please keep coming back and forging strong relationships with this forest, and to keep the mission of sustainable forestry going.

Appalachian State University A-S-E March 2017

For seven years now, March has been a time to welcome new groups and also those who have forged long-term relationships with our project. Since 2011, Appalachian State University students having been coming to offer their services in their Spring Break time.

Back Row, L-R: Prof. Shea Tuberty, Josi Carder, Brooke Henderson, Celeste Womack, Anthony Ajaero, Daniel Burwell, Cole Ronk.
Front Row: Mackenzie Francisco, Hallie Langley, Jaycie Loud, Magha Garcia, 3t Vakil, Andrés Rúa.

This March 2017, group leaders were Jaycie Loud & Daniel Burwell, accompanied by seven of their adventurous peers, and one awesome chaperone, Professor of Biology, Shea Tuberty. From stacking wood in our drying shed, to re-organizing our workshop, to building a small forde on the river on the Ethnobotanical Trail, this team was a delight for the project, and all the tasks were accomplished every day, mostly through rain. Yara Soler gave an excellent Salsa Dance class, and Magha Garcia cooked up a storm in the kitchen, serving the most delicious vegetarian meals. Ricardo Valles helped Andrés Rúa with crew leadership. 3t was the random element. A great dinner at Habitarte, a community fortifying project run by Wanda Rodriguez and Ricardo Valles Perez, in the spectacular mountains of Guayama. What is so remarkable is how many things we all accomplished together. The images below tell that tale of life at Las Casas de la Selva, for a week.

Appalachian State University, Biola UniversityPenn State York University, (and in April, Cambridge Montessori) are the only groups that have come to Las Casas this year. Many of our other regular groups were concerned by the reports of the Zika virus on the island of Puerto Rico, and followed the best info they had for peace of mind, and made the decision not to travel to Puerto Rico.

Please be assured that Zika is NOT a life-threatening concern for us here on the island, and we feel that the concerns about the virus have been unjustly hyped.

App State Professor of Biology, Shea Tuberty:  As a professor at Appalachian State University I understand our US colleagues’ interest in keeping our students safe during international travel. However, the Zika scare in Puerto Rico is entirely overplayed. We didn’t see a single mosquito while there this last week (March 12-18th, 2017). This is a wonderful project from A-Z focused on all things related to sustainability and deserves to continue on its long history of providing alternative spring break groups, researchers, and tourists a destination and opportunity for make a difference there. They are in serious need for help as they embark on their bridge project over a branch of Sonadora Creek to access the old coffee plantation section of the forest. Please consider reinstating your annual visits to Casas de la Selva soon.”

We welcome back next year all our friends from the various Universities and High Schools that could not come in 2017.♥

Come and experience the Alternative Service Experience!
Email: 3t @ eyeontherainforest.org

From the Appalachian Website: “Consider an Alternative Service Experience and explore a variety of social issues while working with communities across the globe. Whether a domestic program on the gulf coast or an international program south of the equator, use your time during fall, winter, and spring break to create deeper connections between your classroom work and the communities of the world.”

Buy a Tee shirt and Help Support our Road and Bridge Building Project

Images by: 3t Vakil, Mackenzie Francisco, Celeste Womack, and Josie Carder
March 2017

Penn State University, York, March 2017

Click here for a whole bunch of fun images, with an international body of students from Penn State, York, who came through Globalworks to spend a few days helping in a grand overhaul of our workshop and wood storage. All these great images are by Penn State York chaperone, Judith Owen, and Globalworks Team Leader, Ava Murphey. Thank you all for a really wonderful time.

Freddy Dempster (Chief Engineer of Biosphere 2) joined us at Las Casas de la Selva during this period as well and made an inspiring Biosphere 2 presentation. Thank you to Magha Garcia for the fine food, Andrés Rúa, Ricardo Valle, for crew leadership and to Alfredo Lopez for being the random element help.

Google Album: https://goo.gl/photos/pHjr61hJ2gwm6XgR9

Dramatic Rainforest Adventures – short movie

Earthwatch Team 2015 with Stacey third from left. Thank you for a lovely reminder of our adventures together!

The Quest To Solve Wonders In The Rainforests Of Puerto Rico-Earthwatch Expedition

https://youtu.be/uilNnTt2T48

A video made by one of our 2015 Earthwatch volunteers, Stacie Stoffregen. Enjoy!…and she has said feel free to share it!

Montessori Schools from Puerto Rico and Boston – March 2016

These 13 and 14 year olds from Montessori schools in PR and US, braved the torrential rains of the Patillas mountain to join us at Las Casas de la Selva for a few days together, helping 3t with
re-potting nearly 200 tree seedlings, and they also learnt some woodworking skills with Ricardo and Alex. Andrés was chef, and provided us with yummy foods and a barbecue. Thank you all.

Instituto Nueva Escuela, Puerto Rico, Staff: L-R: Juan Jose Rodriguez Fernos, Alberto Viera Vargas, and Elsa Román.

INE Students: Erick García, Shaday Ruiz , Darian Cotto, Alleysha Nevárez, Evaliz Arroyo, Zulibeth León, Angélica Rodríguez, Imanol Dererme, Jeshua Guzmán.

Cambridge Montessori, Boston, Staff: Far Right: Joyce Nett and Genoveva Calvo-Rey.

CM Students:Wilson O’Brian, Adon G, Liliana Abramson, Finn Paquette, Gwyneth McLear, Eliza Austin, Mia Bawendi, Derek Hansen, Eve Meyer.

Globalworks & Sandy Spring Friends School March 2016

This great bunch of seniors from Sandy Spring Friends School in Washington DC, spent a few days working on major pruning around the homestead and laying the foundation for a new floor.
We were super impressed with the sheer hard work carried out, and this time we had great sunny weather as well. Thanks to school staff, Leah and Barry, and Globalworks facilitators, Scott & Arie. Magha made great food throughout, whilst 3t, Andres, Ricardo, and Alex led the work crews. BIG THANKS to all.

Pepperdine, App State, Fountain Valley: Volunteer Groups March 2016

These intrepid students from Fountain Valley High School, Colorado Springs spent 5 days of hard labor on projects ranging from nursery work and trail-blazing with 3t, to roadwork with Andres, and woodworking with Ricardo and Alex. This is the third year of FVS students volunteering at Las Casas de la Selva. We are honored to have worked alongside you all. Welcome back anytime! Thanks to Deb and Brett, awesome staff who accompanied the students. Also huge thanks to Magha Garcia for the delicious food. Check back in the coming weeks for more pix.

This was our 2016 Appalachian State University Team of hardworking volunteers on their Alternative Service Experience during Spring Break. We all worked on a multitude of tasks at Las Casas de la Selva, including organization of the sheds and workshop, deconstruction of an old roof, and ditch-digging for a new floor. AS Staff member, Mona helped in the library with cleaning abd book maintenance and care. We are thrilled every year to receive students from App State and every year just gets better. Abbie (her second year at Las Casas de la Selva) and Lucas – hats off to you for great team leadership. We thank you all for your labors, along with the fine company. See you soon again. Thanks also to Lizbeth Velez for participation with the groups, helping in all aspects of management.
Great team from Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA. This team built the two extra showers, that we need as some of our groups in the year are over 15 people. The year’s compost pile was emptied and a new one started. Thank you Carsen and Kris for leading the team and thank you all for such tremendous company and hard work. This team lived in a mountain cloud for the most part of their time here. It rained a lot!

YMCA Salem, MA, Volunteer at Las Casas

In April 2015, we were fortunate enough to receive two teams from the Northshore YMCA in Salem, MA. These teams all got involved with various tasks that ranged from creating a new trail, making a dam, to setting up new tables in our nursery and moving all the saplings from last year’s collections into the nursery. A good clean up of the wood drying shed was also really appreciated. Special thanks to staff, Matt Buchanen, John Brinkmanship, Kat Moser, and AnnMarie Green for the first group, and the second group, Graeme Marcoux, Cat Marcoux and Katie Coleman.

As always a huge thank you to all these volunteers who shared their lives with us in April 2015.

Northwestern Alternative Spring Break March 2015

This all-ladies team helped out with a whole host of tasks, including the on-going plastering of the new terrace wall, and workshop cleaning, clearing, and management. Along with a salsa dance class, they enjoyed the rivers in the forest of Las Casas de la Selva, and also took a paddle-boarding class at Inches Beach in Patillas, with Omar Garcia. Thank you ladies for all your enthusiastic teamwork, we enjoyed your company immensely.

Fountain Valley High School March 2015

Fountain Valley High School from Colorado Springs, in their second annual collaboration with Las Casas de la Selva. This team of enthusiastic teenagers worked on the ethnobotanical trail, helped grade the main drive, helped in the wood workshop, learnt how to use a lathe with Andres Rua, and turn wood, had a Puertorrican cooking class with Magha Garcia Medina, enjoyed a salsa dance class with Yara, and after an afternoon at the beach, Villa Pesqueras in Patillas, and a wonderful dinner at Habitarte, Route PR 15, with Wanda and Riccardo. It was a pleasure to get to know you all.

Appalachian State University ASB March 2015

In their third year of collaboration with Las Casas de la Selva, this App State Team worked hard on maintenance of the main drive, our life-line to the outside. In amongst all this manual labor we ate well, thanks to Magha Garcia Medina, and also visited the Habitarte Project on Route PR 15. Thanks to Wanda and Riccardo for hosting us for an evening. We also took the team to swim and kayak off the spectacular Villa Pesquera, Patillas Beach. Several of the team were lucky to swim with three manatees that frequent this zone. Thank you App State…hope we see you back next year!

Pepperdine University – Getting down and dirty! March 2015

Pepperdine University students spent seven days at Las Casas de la Selva, helping with various tasks led by Andrés Rúa, ranging from plastering the new retaining wall and walls on the main house, as well as work on the ethnobotanical trail, step-building, pruning, and prepping surfaces for more work. This team were lucky to have a cooking class with renowned gourmet chef Magha Garcia Medina, and a rocking Salsa Dance Class with Yara Soler Garcia.

We had a superb time with this team, and we thank you all for all the joy and enthusiasm that you brought to the project. Please revisit in the future! Thanks also to William Robinson who has been volunteering here for one month.

On the second day of the group’s visit, Simarouba, our beautiful white cat gave birth to 5 kittens. Magha Garcia Medina takes the students on an exploration of the foods of Puerto Rico, and we end up with a Sancocho for dinner. If you have never had Sancocho, here’s the place to come and try it!

Fountain Valley High School, March 15-19, 2014

A team of Fountain Valley High School students from Colorado Springs, CO, spent five days with us. Led by Andrés and 3t, the students completely emptied out the entire woodworking and machine shop, cleaned and organized all the tools, cleaned machines, took out all the wood stockand re-organized it, and left the workshop clean, organized and far more user-friendly! Students also worked in the nurseries and trails with Norman. Thank you to Deb Prantl and Vydia Garcia for tremendous team leadership, and a super big thanks to all the students who carried out such an incredible task. We really appreciated your help, and also the constant smiles and endless enthusiasm.

Please come back in the future!

Appalachian State University March 9-15, 2014

Appalachian State University students worked really hard on a diversity of projects at Las Casas de la Selva; plastering the bunkhouse, making a ramp for access to the dining room, pruning, gardening, nursery work, moving soil, making a new compost, emptying the humanure compost ready for use, and many other tasks. Wow! We thank you all for being such wonderful company this last week. We’ll see you again!

Vanderbilt University March 1-8, 2014

Vanderbilt University students have just spent several days with us at Las Casas de la Selva, and we have had a super time, working hard! Students learnt the art of plastering on the bunkhouse, led by Andres, and also helped with heavy labor and soil renewal on the Papaya Terraces with 3t. In their time here, they also got to do a leaf litter study with Norman and hiked into the forest. Thank you for your remarkable teamwork, and thanks Zach and Julia, team leaders who did a great job. We salute you all! Come back and see us again soon.

Vella Lovell, a student at The Julliard School of Dance, Drama and Music, NY, volunteered at Las Casas de la Selva for the days that Vanderbilt University students were here. Thanks for all your hard work and enthusiasm lovely lady!

Pepperdine University Feb 22-28, 2014

This was our third year hosting a team from Pepperdine University at Las Casas de la Selva. Norman Greenhawk, as crew leader worked with the students on the main hill-trail and everyone worked super hard to build steps, and to make the walk up and down the hill much safer and more comfortable. Hauling rocks and gravel from the river and carrying then up hill was hard work, and it was extremely satisfying to us to see a group getting on so well with the task at hand. The materials used were recycled from all over the homestead and the wood was from the old drying shed that Pepperdine students helped us to deconstruct in 2013. The work was muddy, and in rainy conditions for a few days, but sunshine prevailed and we all had a superb time with this great bunch! Pepperdiners, we salute you all. Please stay in touch.

Pix below by: 3t, Katrina Kirsch, Evelyn Aleman, Anushree Mahajan.

Fryeburg Academy February 12-20, 2014

3t, Andrés, Norman and Magha appreciate the work and great company of Fryeburg students, February 2014

This wonderful team from Fryeburg Academy, worked with Andres and 3t to build the new nursery for the endangered endemic tree planting program. We have had a super time and we thank you all for help in clearing, pruning, tidying, and generally being a great clean-up crew on the homestead too! And in rainy conditions! The team also spent time with Norman on trail work, and carried out a frog study on a night-hike.

Thanks to Chris and Emily for bringing such a great team our way this year. We look forward to seeing Daniel at age three next year!

This program has been formulated to protect endangered flora and fauna by planting endangered endemic tree species, and working on habitat enhancement in subtropical wet forest. The location and the quality of the habitat of the 930-acre forest property of Las Casas de la Selva is ideal for the establishment of projects toward the recovery of various endangered endemic tree species. The property’s north-eastern border adjoins the Carite State Forest which contains another 6,660 acres of subtropical wet mountain forest land.

Tropic Ventures Research & Education Foundation are collaborating with US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to develop habitat enhancement and restoration projects that benefit endangered endemic species of Puerto Rico

See images of this area being cleared by the last team from Vanderbilt University in December 2013.

Why volunteer here?

Why volunteer at Las Casas de la Selva? See this 3 minute video by Ben Zenner.

This 3 min video was produced by Ben Zenner, a volunteer of Las Casas de la Selva in April of 2013. Ben is a videographer and graphic designer, and is in the process of developing a non profit design firm to help organizations with their online media presence and funding efforts, and to connect students and individuals with potential volunteer opportunities. For more information about Ben and his project called Volunteer Dream, check out his website: www.benzenner.com/

Thank you Ben!