helen perks

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since May 09, 2013
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forest garden trees greening the desert
I started out in academia studying global environmental change and climate change in the past in the tropics, then worked in various places, longest in Papua New Guinea in environmental conservation, farmer-to-farmer training, and rural "development". Quit all that because of the ethical minefield and started to retrain in permaculture and holistic approaches to ecological regeneration, in Mexico and Central America. Wanting to gain the experience and connect with community to apply these approaches more specifically to regeneration of degraded lands in communities with fewer economic resources. Recently lived for 2+ years in Cuba.
Apart from my native English, I am fluent in Spanish (and German and Neo-Melanesian Pidgin!).
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Recent posts by helen perks

Hi Bill,

I am actually at this moment in the UK, but just visiting family briefly after time in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau, then to southern Spain, then Cuba...then...I move around a lot, but am looking for a base for about half of the year and the rest of the time to be working in the Global South, probably Guinea-Bissau and perhaps Mexico and Peru. I spent 7 years in the US, but back in the 90s. Just some visits to New England and an over-winter. It's quite hard for me to get a visa for repeated longer stays in the US, but perhaps there would be ways. Where are you?
1 year ago
Hi Melanie, I only just came across your post and it is now from several years ago! How are you going there and are you still looking for people to contribute to what you are creating? I hope that it has all been going well!!!
1 year ago
Hey Jack,
You first posted this several months ago so things might have moved along since then, but if you are still looking and just in general if you want to share more about what you are doing then I would love to talk with you! I'm currently looking for a base in southern Spain for at least half of the year, while trying to build projects in Guinea-Bissau (and perhaps Mexico and Peru). In the past 6 months, I've spent much of the time volunteering at a site near Motril learning more about syntropic farming in a Mediterranean context. I am about to return to a site in the Sierra de Cádiz for 6 weeks to volunteer and try to do some designs of degraded arroyo areas there. I am networked in some with the SE Spain permaculture network REPESEI and the new association for the Ecosystem Restoration Camps, but still looking for a base and community. My email is helenaperksatyahoo.com
1 year ago
Hi Brody, they all sound like good ideas. Do it! Ask yourself each day what you can do that day to move closer to doing what you want to be doing.
1 year ago
Hi! Is anyone out there working in or know people working in Guinea-Bissau?
1 year ago
Thanks so much for these replies. No, the author shouldn't be getting any less from the sale of their book. I have been thinking about the idea of building an online bookstore that is permaculture books, which I would like to use to raise money for land regeneration projects. I have access to a very good website resource for this, but don't have suppliers of these types of books. Dropshippers sell at wholesale prices and also do all the shipping for you. On my site, the books are at their "normal retail" prices. It is not really like using an affiliate program and there would be too many titles to contact individual publishers. I am still learning on all of this. I have seen a few permaculture books on one dropshipper's site where they had a gardening section, but I would like to have a fairly large selection. It's just an idea I have been playing with and I would need to market/advertise it well. I just thought that it would be a great way to raise money for such projects and to have a place where people could go to to source these books all in one place (and probably a wider range than Chelsea Green).
2 years ago
Hi, this might be a bit random, but I am wondering if anyone out there knows a good source for permaculture books that provides a dropshipping service (i.e., you link your site to theirs and they do the shipping when someone orders from you)? I am thinking about the viability of setting up an online permaculture (and more general gardening, sustainable living, etc.) bookstore to raise funds for ecological regeneration projects in the Global South. I don't really know it the market would be big enough, if people would be attracted to buying from the site knowing that a large proportion of the funds would be going to such projects, and if I can source the books easily (they can be both physical products and also in e-book format). Is it a crazy idea? Building the site is not difficult, but I am not sure if the market would be large enough and if I could source the books for this purpose. Thoughts and comments very welcome!
2 years ago
Hi again Travis,
Thank you again for your reply! I am actually a bit "holed up" right now in a city in the Peruvian Amazon with a broken ankle, so...plenty of time to write! I think with people working on your land, it is a process of experimentation...trial and error. There are of course good people out there, and some that would not be such good matches, and of course some of us are less social and "people people" than others. I've met a real mix during all my volunteering, but I would say that the majority have been really hard working, smart and with a lot of initiative, but it also takes a lot of communication and input, at least near the beginning. It's one of those things...deciding it's a priority, the time when it feels it's good to make it happen, and taking the leap! Sounds like you have a ton of knowledge and experiences to share, it's just figuring out what would work best for you

I guess I've grown tired of the whole volunteering thing. I will still do it when it seems to make sense to me, and I see its value, but it seems to have come to dominate and this has meant that opportunities outside of volunteering and to go deeper are limited. Off course there are many ways to compensate people for their work and input, and food, accommodation and a context to learn in are some of them, but I have seen often people work very hard and receive little for it. People often put less effort into volunteers because they are volunteers. I just saw the post above about the Ecosystem Restoration Camps, and have been following them for a while, but...they are entirely based on people volunteering (and contributing a small monthly donation) and we are in the real world where money is needed to live from day to day. In days gone by with apprenticeships, people were still paid a small income while they apprenticed. People think it's great that everyone volunteers and contributes to the common good, but it's not practical, although I know that there are many people who do find themselves n a financial position to be able to do it, and often a lot of "young people" who are setting out on their permaculture learning paths. But in the end we need to make a livelihood and volunteering is not a livelihood. But I digress! We do need more people out there who are not only homesteading (which is also super-valuable!) who are models, mentors, trainers for people who want to have permaculture be their lives and their livelihoods and to greatly expand the options.

Good luck to you, my friend, in all of your endeavours and dreams!
3 years ago
Hi Travis, I really appreciate your thoughtful reply. I guess we are all facing our challenges in a world where we are trying to build new systems...and cultures. It was perhaps a bit inadvertent, my use of words that sounded "technical" indicating expensive. I am actually interested in quite the opposite...low-tech, simple, hands-on stuff in places where there are few resources (except the considerable ones offered by the people themselves, "human capital", of course). I am not looking for much money as "income" personally, although it would be nice to have some in a world where volunteering and paid internships has come to dominate as it seems to be one of the few income streams that people who have permaculture projects see as viable. There is volunteering everywhere you go, and it has both its positives and negatives. There is actually also a huge amount of money being thrown around out there in the development world, although that often has detrimental effects. I am faced with still feeling, even though I am 48 years old and have kicked around the world a lot, that I do not know enough about design work..reading the landscape and saying...I know what to do with it....this this and this...admittedly with continual observation, experimentation and tweaking...it's been so hard to find those opportunities and also teams of people working in this field to truly exchange with and learn from. I really appreciated reading your response and your wisdom. Thank you.
3 years ago
Hi, I wasn't sure where exactly to post this. I have posted similar things looking more specifically for opportunities, in the tropics forums, that also ended up in wwoofs or volunteering, I think..but this is more general. I used to work in the world of international conservation and "development" (much of it in Papua New Guinea) and quit it all for the ethical minefield that it was, for how it was still dominated by unjust power dynamics, and also the damage I often saw it doing...many things and a longer story. I got into permaculture and tried to learn and train, took a lot of courses, most of them in Mexico and Central America, volunteered a fair bit, decided I really wanted to focus more specifically on regeneration of degraded landscapes/permaculture approaches to ecological regeneration and find ways to teach and exchange skills/hands-on tools with those that have access to fewer resources, generally in the Global South. I have been trying to find openings in this for several years now and keep coming up against a big wall. I want to be able to teach and design, to be able to put together regeneration projects, and it is so hard to find places where I can gain the experience, where I can gradually build up a few designs I have done more independently myself, with some guidance from others, or to be part of a team doing this work. All opportunities seem to start and end with the PDC and volunteering that doesn't go very deep really and doesn't offer the experience to work in this field  in the training/consulting/international context. Where are the mentors out there? Apprenticeships? How do we get beyond the PDC, PDC, PDC,....? How do people bulid up their own portfolios of design work they have done? How do permaculturists break into the world of international "development" projects and expand the current agroforestry paradigms? Why is it so hard to find openings? I have searched and searched, travelled and travelled, written and written to people and it feels like such a roadblock. Do people have insights, advice, offerings, experiences to share? I often feel quite alone in all this and wonder why it should feel so hard! Very happy to share with you all here. Does anyone even want to start up a team doing this kind of work?
3 years ago