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A Note from the Forest Keeper
EL Bosque Eterno de los Niņos (BEN) was founded in 1988 by the Monteverde Conservation League (“the group”) in Monteverde, Costa Rica. There were countless numbers of people who became involved: League members and workers, teachers, schools, scores of volunteers, the Monteverde community, and thousands of children from more than 40 countries mobilized, united in the Dream of saving the forest.
A Brief History
In 1951, a group of North American Quakers settled near a beautiful, remote cloud forest to establish a non-violent community in a peaceful friendly country –Costa Rica. The area they settled in was called Monteverde.
Many years later, the communities around Monteverde had grown, and rainforest was being destroyed to make way for more farms. The Monteverde Conservation League was formed in 1986 to protect the forest that, as the story tells, was “disappearing fast”.
In 1987, the children of the little Fagervik school in Sweden and their teacher Eha Kern contacted MCL board member Richard Laval wanting to help save the rainforest. (Bates College Biologist and MCL member Sharon Kinsman had given a talk to Eha’s class about Monteverde, and the forest that needed protection). In September 1988, with the promise of donations from the Swedish children, the MCL negotiated to buy a beautiful rainforest area of approx 1500 acres, to be named the Swedish Children’s Rainforest (Barnens Regnskog). A short time later, Tina Joliffe of the Children’s Tropical Forest, U.K. contacted us. In quick succession came Kazumi Fukunaga of the Japanese children’s rain forest group Nippon Kodomo no Jungle, and Sharon, who had founded a Children’s Rainforest US group to help. Bruce Calhoun and other science teachers of SAVE the Rainforest, Inc., Friends in Unity with Nature (Quakers), and Kinderregenwald Deutschland of Germany, also joined the movement.
Donations began coming in from as far afield as Peru, South Africa, Australia, France and Malaysia, and the Dream of one rainforest that belonged to all the world’s children --The First International Children’s Rainforest –was born.
Schools across the globe held bake sales, put on plays, and sold tickets to various events to raise money for the rainforest. In the end, children sent nearly 3 million dollars, and 64,000 acres of rainforest was saved and protected. (note: after some land swaps with the government and other rainforest conservation groups, the official total was reduced to 54,000 acres by 1995.) The project took 3 years ...a very short time to realize such a large dream.
I gave the rainforest the name Bosque Eterno de los Niņos (BEN) for three reasons:
• 1) to honor Bosqueterno, SA --an association set up by the original Monteverde Quaker community to save their watershed.
• 2) to honor the thousands of remarkable children around the world who believed in the Dream. They cared about land, trees and wild creatures most of them had never seen, and they easily understood that the rainforest "was their home" too. They --and children like YOU who keep the dream alive -- are the eternal heroes of the story.
• 3) to emphasize an “eternal” commitment to future generations to guard our natural heritage.
What's Happening NOW
Despite persistent challenges in protecting the forest from illegal hunting, poaching and cutting, the BEN is still thriving and growing wild. This is made possible by the ongoing dedication of children, teachers, parents and rainforest organizations worldwide. Especially the sister network of MCLUS, Barnens Regnskog, Children's Tropical Forest UK, Nippon Kodomo no Jungle and Kinderregenwald Deutschland is pivotal in keeping the forest safe.
HOW CAN YOU HELP keep the BEN wild and safe?
1. Learn about the BEN, and other rainforests, and spread the word about how important they all are for our future. Ask your teachers if you can do this in your school.
2. Join the Dream The Forest Wild Kids' Book Project.
The Monteverde Conservation League in Costa Rica (see www.acmcr.org)
Or the Monteverde Conservation League-US (see www.mclus.org).
Jim -- the first BEN Forest Keeper
by Sue Memhard with Jim Crisp