EBBF: Can you say a little bit more about these two initiatives?
Neissan: The first is a yogurt business. Popsicles made out of frozen yogurt flavoured with local tropical fruits are produced in homes and then sold to small shops in poor urban and rural areas. The idea behind the frozen yogurt is to provide street children with a healthier product than the traditional popsicles which are usually made using untreated water. Furthermore, this yogurt-based snack, which I personally find very tasty and refreshing, also provides children with important nutritional supplements often missing in their diet. The income derived from this activity goes to support the other activities of the association, but mostly provides the means for the people working on the project to finance their university studies. For example, thanks to this activity, two colleagues of mine—Laudisea, the main producer and packager, and Edema, the main salesman—are able to pay for their studies in Pedagogy and Business Administration, respectively.
The other main activity of AACC is the development of inter-cultural ecological expeditions into the Amazon. The concept was inspired by the Green Light Expedition and the love that Madame Rabbani (Amatu'l-Bahá Ruhíyyih Khanum) had for the environment and for the indigenous people. AACC in collaboration with their partner organization WCDS (World Citizenship Development Services) facilitates groups of people (mostly youth, students and junior youth) from the western world, to come for one or two weeks to the Amazon, travel through the rivers, the rainforest, the villages, and experience all aspects of life in this remarkable corner of the planet. The network of local teachers and students and their families who live in different villages on the rivers’ banks take turns to host the foreign visitors, take them through the various natural attractions of the area and share with them the different aspects of their daily life. While the visitors stay in the different communities, they learn how to operate in the natural habitat of the forest and the river, participate in the local activities such as fishing, hunting, canoeing, learn the different arts and crafts, cook and eat the foods of the area, and enjoy the leisure activities (including sports, music and dance) of the indigenous people.
EBBF: Can you say a little more about what your role in all of this is?
Neissan: I was invited by AACC to come in as a consultant and assist them on a number of various fronts, such as organizational development, training of community members, marketing strategy and production of audio-visual materials such as a promotional video, photo archive, website, reports, etc. The project I am most involved in is the inter-cultural ecological expeditions. I am assisting AACC to enhance the program of these expeditions and to make them more attractive and effective for foreign and local youth. I also support the organization with networking and establishing linkages with schools, associations and agents worldwide. What I like about serving in small organizations like AACC is you get to do a bit of everything and most of the time your work is very hands-on—in fact I have enjoyed learning and being at times a jungle guide, a translator, a farmer, and even a boat rower/gondolier!