The Challenge Participants who take the Seva Challenge will have up to one year to raise significant funds and awareness through local outreach and community building. Seva Challenge participants will receive extensive leadership support and resources from OTM throughout the year. Participants who raise $20,000+ will be invited to join OTM on a Bare Witness Tour to the Amazon and see firsthand how the funds we have raised are helping to create positive change.
The Bare Witness Tour is an opportunity for a deep immersion into the history and culture of Ecuador as well as an examination of the root causes of rainforest destruction and the violation of indigenous rights. We will also bear witness to innovative solutions being implemented on a local level that will create the foundation for a more just and sustainable future. In the last five years that Off the Mat has been leading these trips, we’ve found that they are especially profound and life-changing for the participants once they return home and establish projects of their own.
Ecuador has one of the highest rates of biological diversity in the world, as well as one of the highest rates of deforestation. This small South American country, located south of Colombia and north of Peru, boasts more than 25,000 species of plants, 3,500 animal species, and 16 distinct indigenous tribes.
The future existence and wellbeing of all creatures that inhabit the Amazon of Ecuador is intricately linked to the delicate ecosystems of the rainforest.
Although rich in biological diversity, the Amazon region has one of the highest poverty rates in the country due to limited access to healthcare, lack of roads, and poor education. The average family living in the rainforest survives on less than $2/day. Historically, most families survive on hunting, fishing, and agriculture. Yet today, many of the animals have been hunted, fish have all but disappeared from the waterways, and crops have been polluted, largely due to toxic contamination from nearby oil exploration. In addition, studies have found a high correlation between incidents of cancer, birth defects, miscarriages, and other illness in local indigenous communities and their proximity to an oil production area.
The 11th Round This year, 2013, Ecuador is in the process of auctioning off 3 million hectares of pristine rainforest in the south of the country to China for oil drilling, in what is called the "11th Round". Indigenous groups say they were not consulted in the sale of their ancestral lands, and this action violates the law. Environmental groups fear that the same disaster that happened in Ecuador's northern Amazon will happen again in the south.
Call to Action It is more important than ever that the international community stands by the Ecuadorian people to help them protect the Amazon rainforest - which are the lungs of the earth - and defend the rights of its people.