EcoGuardianes: It's Official
Costa Rica governs itself through a system of law heavily based upon the Napoleonic Code, which looks quite foreign to my North American eye. Legal systems based on the Napoleonic Code and systems based upon English common law, like that of the United States, have some fundamental differences. While English-influenced legal systems base judicial decisions on precedence, Napoleonic legal systems give higher authority to the written code. This has several interesting effects (which you can read about here), but the most relevant is that there is a lot of red tape to cross to do anything official.
This month, EcoGuardianes became inscripted as an ONG (organización no gubernamental, or non-governmental organization) in Costa Rica. Normally this requires several people to visit a lawyer and sign paperwork, but thanks to COVID-19, only Tomás had to do it.
One of the most interesting parts of the process is the level of documentation required of ONGs. While nonprofits in the United States must file with the IRS and hold at least one board meeting every year, Costa Rican ONGs have many additional requirements. Each ONG must keep six official books up to date: Acts of the General Assembly, Acts of the Board of Directors, Registry of Members, Accounts, Bookkeeping, and Inventory and Balances. These books may be audited by the government at any time and can bring on a whole load of trouble if everything is not right.
This level of detail is a far cry from my previous world of official minutes residing exclusively on Google Drive.
Like U.S. nonprofits, EcoGuardianes became official with our first board meeting. The EcoGuardianes Board of Directors gathered at CARES21 for the first formal meeting. Among us serve the five ADE staff members, two San Rafael de Vara Blanca residents and ADE partners, and three external community consultants.
|Some members of the EcoGuardianes Board of Directors and their families at the first meeting. Like at most Costa Rican gatherings, we shared food and coffee.|
For all the bureaucracy it took to set up our ONG, the first meeting was streamlined and simple. The EcoGuardianes staff briefed the rest of the board on our vision and strategic plan and all the members signed the registry and voted to establish EcoGuardianes as an official ONG. Though our first meeting didn't change our mission or the direction of our work, official inscription opens doors. We now have more credibility to work with schools, businesses and local governments, and more authenticity within our community.
The EcoGuardianes board meeting took place at the tail end of the ADE team’s strategic planning sessions during the COVID-19 quarantine (read about that here). The quarantine has presented challenges for ADE and EcoGuardianes, but the down time allowed us to refocus our work on our Lord and guiding light. As a result of these planning exercises, we added a discipleship program to our citizen science trainings. We best serve our community and environment when we point to Christ as the reason to care for each other. As we move EcoGuardianes forward, we will grow in following Christ with our neighbors.
How are you serving Christ where you are? Can you give a call to a neighbor who might feel down and isolated from social distancing? Invite a friend to do a daily devotional so you can both grow in your faith? Pick up trash around your neighborhood?
We appreciate your prayers as we search for Christ-minded people to join us in caring for Creation.