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2019 Top-Rated Nonprofit

Paso Pacifico

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Animals, Wildlife Preservation & Protection

Mission: Founded in 2005, Paso Pacífico's mission is to restore and conserve the natural ecosystems of Central America’s Pacific slope by collaborating with landowners, local communities and involved organizations to promote ecosystem conservation.

Results: Paso Pacifico envisions a Central America where well-managed conservation areas are connected by viable biological corridors that span from ridge to reef, including restored tropical dry forests and marine protected areas. Through programs informed by the most cutting-edge conservation science and implemented through close cooperation with local communities, Paso Pacifico is making leaps for ecosystem conservation. By rebuilding forests and connecting ecosystems from land to sea, we are actively combating climate change and saving wildlife, such as endangered sea turtle, spider monkey, and yellow-naped parrot species. In working towards its vision, Paso Pacifico empowers communities to develop more sustainable livelihoods in eco-tourism, fishing, agriculture, and natural resource management; advances women and children as environmental leaders; and develops strong, collaborative relationships with private landowners and the private sector. With our holistic, forward-thinking approach, Paso Pacifico is making connections for conservation.

Target demographics: conserve and restore natural ecosystems

Direct beneficiaries per year: planted 250,000 native trees and will sequester 150,000 tons of carbon over the next 40 years

Geographic areas served: Nicaragua

Programs: environmental education, endangered species monitoring and research, forest restoration & reforestation, private land conservation, and community outreach. Conserve Coastal & Marine Ecosystems Strengthen Communities Save Wildlife Reforestation & Restoration Coastal Conservation Private Reserves Climate Change Mitigation

Community Stories

26 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Paso Pacifico does great work and has an ongoing commitment to protecting ecosystems that is admirable and so very needed. Education in this regard is key, and they go to great lengths to train and educate communities, to convey what it means to truly care for and restore our environment. Thank you for the work that you do!

Nancy N.4

Donor

Rating: 5

We have a small foundation and have worked with Paso Pacifico since 2012. We chose Paso because of it's Executive Director, Sarah Otterstrom who works tirelessly to promote environmental education to save and strength the dry tropical forests and coastal ecosystems in the countries of Latin America. They are saving turtles, parrots, monkeys in Nicaragua and El Salvador. We worked with Sarah and Lisa, the country director in Nicaragua, on educational and medical programs in the country trying to enhance the educational program by building a library, donating much needed school supplies to the rural schools and purchasing drugs for medical clinics in rural areas. We could not have accomplished this program without Sarah, Lisa and Henningston. We have worked with other non profits but Paso Pacifico has always been our favorite mostly because of the heart and soul of Sarah. She is an amazing woman who has created an outstanding program. Thank you Sarah for all that you do!

Board Member

Rating: 5

Paso Pacifico has worked tirelessly for almost 20 years to promote their mission. The restoration and protection of the endangered dry tropical forest as well as coastal ecosystems of Mesoamerica’s Pacific Slope has been their unwavering commitment. I am proud to have served on Paso Pacifico’s Board and continue to support their vision.

Board Member

Rating: 5

Paso Pacifico is a science-based, hands on conservation organization that straddles two time scales - it invests in long term, sustainable improvement for ecological systems in Central America while doing immediately impactful work every day in collaboration with the communities who reside there. Many nonprofits choose to work in one time scale or the other but Paso Pacifico successfully conducts actions that protect turtles, moneys, birds, and working landscapes while also building a healthy future for these ecosystems and the people who live in them. I am a donor and a volunteer and can’t recommend this organization highly enough.

Carmen C.6

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I first heard of Paso Pacifico and the great work that they do through a friend. Much later I was fortunate enough to be a conservation intern. Paso Pacifico's team is made up of skilled individuals with so much passion, this includes their team in Nicaragua and El Salvador! All of the conservation project that they do are critical and their approach is affective. By working with local landowners and emphasizing education of local communities Paso Pacifico is making lasting change. Some of the projects and successes I found most admirable include their junior ranger program, this program has reached hundreds of children encouraging them to be active participants in conservation efforts. Paso Pacifico has also established a community ranger program, these rangers collect scientific data, protect turtle nesting sites, setting camera traps and so much more!

Donor

Rating: 5

I have personally directed a 501c3 non-profit foundation for fifteen years. In my role, I know what to expect from a well-run NGO. Paso Pacifico has the elements which inspire me to donate whenever possible. I've met members of its leadership and they've impressed me with their passion, knowledge of what's happening in the field, and their strong work ethics. I receive regular updates of how donations are being used to help move specific projects forward. Most importantly, I can see how Paso Pacifico is developing programs with long-term impact over choosing showy projects which do not provide substantial value. I know the difference.

Nicholas B.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I discovered Paso Pacifico on State Farm's Neighborhood of Good, and I contacted them and became a Research and Writing Intern. This has been a wonderful experience; as an intern, I have learned much about the various flora and fauna they protect in their biological corridor and throughout Nicaragua and El Salvador. They work hard to educate the public both in Central America and in the U.S., as well as to involve local communities in ecological protection. One example was that they sponsored World Oceans Day Ventura in 2019, bringing out hundreds of people to appreciate the ocean through speeches by activists, music, and an environmentally conscious raffle. Other key projects include protecting yellow-naped Amazon parrots, protecting sea turtles from poaching, and running a junior rangers program in Nicaragua to encourage children to be environmentally-minded.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

This non profit did a great job with their Oceans Day event in Ventura. I had a great time with friends and being able to help with such a great cause was so rewarding. I will definitely be attending any events they have in the future.

Donor

Rating: 5

I originally heard about Paso Pacifico through an article I read about their Investeggator project that they have been working on. This innovative project led me to look up the company, and I became pretty interested in their mission. I donated and then joined their mailing list, and I have been nothing but impressed with what I have seen.

Over the last few months, Paso Pacifico has led multiple projects throughout Mexico and Central America related to habitat and species conservation of important organisms. These projects all not only help solve an important biological problem, but they also all employ local employees native to the regions they work in. This idea of supporting the environment while also supporting the communities around it is one that many nonprofits like to tout, but few actually follow through with. PP actually actively seeks out opportunities to help in this way, and for that I admire them greatly.

I also have gone through their publicly-published tax forms and they really appear to be sustainably funding their projects and not overpaying or dealing out any huge bonuses to the leadership teams in the U.S. This is one of the main things I look for while deciding where to donate my money, as I see integrity in the handling of money as a sign that there will be integrity elsewhere. They also appear to really be using donations to make important strides with their projects, which makes me happy to know my money is being put to good use.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I first heard about Paso Pacifico on PBS and then checked out their website. I was impressed with the conservation projects they have generated, and told my family about their work. This led to my daughter applying for and getting an internship there this summer.
Through her experience I have seen that Paso Pacifico is incredibly innovative, creative, and truly dedicated to connecting local human populations with the conservation of fragile ecosystems. Locally in Ventura, PP initiated the first World Oceans Day Celebration in June bringing awareness and a fun event to their own hometown.

Cristina M.1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have worked alongside Paso Pacifico, beginning in 2009 and spanning over the last decade, as a participant, volunteer and supporter of their programs I have been impressed by their mission, dedication and care for both ecosystems and local communities. Their programs have clear and strategic outcomes and also ripple effects that carry over long into the future. I have no doubt the work they do is powerful, sustainable and positive.

Previous Stories

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I begun volunteering with Paso Pacifico in 2009 when I volunteered as an English Language Instructor, recently I returned to Nicaragua to collaborate in community guide training and conduct research on access to environmental protected areas (2015- current). I have lived in Ostional, where they have a main office, for over 4 months.

I found that Paso Pacifíco is largely perceived as an organization of good repute among locals; throughout my stay, many community members described it as an organization that consistently demonstrates interest in listening to and responding to local needs and ideas. Additionally, to working in biodiversity efforts, Paso Pacífico truly cares for their staff and local affiliates, it supports small-scale humanitarian work providing food, medical supplies and educational resources to local communities. It has also collaborates in providing training in computer use, English language education and small-scale entrepreneurial capacity building. Nicaragua is one of the most impoverished nations in the worlds- so the impact of going the extra mile by caring for people, as well as a environmental mission, is tremendous.

Having conducted over 20 interviews with locals affiliated directly and indirectly with Paso Pacifico I know the work they do it making a tremendous difference in raising conscientiousness around environmental issues, developing capacity and skills among the communities, and protecting wildlife. Being affiliated with an organization of such repute leads to sustainable environmental projects, the change is already happening.

Teresa L.1

Board Member

Rating: 5

Paso Pacífico is an amazing organization. I have been a donor, an employee and am now on the Board, and I am proud of the work we have accomplished. It has been incredible watching the organization grow.

Paso Pacífico is a small nonprofit, but with incredible reach within the areas of Nicaragua they work, as well as well respected in the local communities, national level and international. I first learned of the organization through their work on a groundbreaking reforestation and carbon offset project registered through CCBA and Carbonfund.org. The sea turtle conservation program is an incredibly innovative multi-tiered approach with payments for conservation, job creation, wildlife ranger training and ecotourism training. We create jobs in small communities, while teaching about and promoting conservation for a variety of charismatic species

Volunteer

Rating: 5

My family has been working with Paso Pacifico for several years. I have had the pleasure of seeing first hand the positive impact the organization makes for both the environment and the wonderful people of Nicaragua.

2

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have been honered to work multiple times with Paso Pacifico in Nicaragua. They have been a great partner in helping us reach out to rural schools along the Pacific Coast. The organizations contacts with schools and communities have allowed us to help thousands of children and their families. Their help has been invaluable to getting aid to these areas.

Donor

Rating: 5

Paso Pacifico does amazing work to help wildlife and local communities in Nicaragua. I had the opportunity to visit and see first hand some of the animals that are being helped and the wonderful people of the communities who work to make it possible. We met Junior Rangers, Turtle Rangers, Women Oyster Farmers, people who work w/ Monkeys and Parrots and Landowners, all of whom were so proud to show us what they do to help the environment. Founder and Executive Director, Sarah Otterstrom and her team are the best...Conservationists who work tirelessly and care so deeply for this important mission in this critical area of need, bringing such pride to the people who live here.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I worked directly with Paso Pacifico to support their female-ran collective aquaculture development project in southwest Nicaragua. I travelled to remote locations to consult Paso Pacifico in development of rock oyster growing operations. This NP has a clear goal to provide sustainable seafood options for rural communities, while promoting cultural development and opportunities for women. What a fantastic combination! The team at Paso Pacifico are among the most motivated and hard working people I know, and I look forward to any opportunity to collaborate with them again. Cheers : )

Cortney V.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Paso Pacifico is a small nonprofit that has accomplished major conservation goals in Nicaragua, empowering locals to care for their environment through tree planting, wildlife monitoring, entrepreneurship, and many other avenues. Their education programs have reached hundreds of children, encouraging them to become stewards for the environment by picking up trash, exchanging slingshots for birding binoculars, and many other fun and engaging activities. Paso Pacifico has trained former poachers to become turtle rangers, patrolling beaches for illegal activities and providing them with meaningful employment and respectable wages. The organization has also pledged their support to women, creating and supporting female-owned cooperatives and businesses.
I had the great pleasure of working for Paso Pacifico in their US headquarters for several years, and helped create a small spider monkey sanctuary for the organization. I maintain that the Founder and Executive Director, Sarah Otterstrom, is one of the most kindhearted, driven, and passionate women I have ever met. I continue to be impressed by what she and her team are able to accomplish each year.

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

I am a teacher in Santa Barbara, CA and visited Paso Pacifico in Nicaragua with my family in June 2017. We were very impressed by the extensive work being done at the Mono Bayo reserve to educate others about the importance of protecting the spider monkeys as well as sea turtles and other wildlife. The rangers were extremely knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating to my family and I. We left feeling very confident about the important work being done by Paso Pacifico to protect Nicaragua's wildlife .

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I am the founding board president of Paso Pacifico, a conservation organization dedicated to protecting and restoring the Pacific slope ecosystems of Central America. From its inception, Paso Pacifico has been clear about its mission, has collected passionate followers, talented and skilled staff and the commitment and involvement of local communities. Crossing the three program areas of Science, conservation and education, this impressive organization has developed innovative models and programs to study and protect the needs of all the species in this biological hotspot. Flagship species include the back-handed spider monkey, the yellow-naped Amazon parrot, four species of endangered sea turtles and jaguars.
The projects are implemented by dedicated staff and volunteers, which include college students, community leaders and seasoned scientists.
The unique and creative programs developed by Paso Pacifico have been recipients of many awards and accolades from the conservation community for providing viable tools for addressing biodiversity loss and climate change. Most recently, a Hollywood special effects artist worked with a Paso Pacifico ecologist to create fake sea turtle eggs that are actually GPS-enabled decoys. These decoys have enabled Paso Pacifico to track the eggs from the beach to market and help put an end to illegal poaching networks.
I am continually inspired by environmental programs targeting the youth through education to ensure the commitment and dedication of conservation for the future. The Junior Rangers, ages 8-14, engage in regular workshops focused on environmental knowledge and stewardship. The students earn badges for each educational module and then serve as proud ambassadors for conservation in their communities. The Junior Rangers also engage in bi-monthly monitoring of birds and primates in forests neighboring their farms and communities. It is so inspiring to watch these youngsters gain skills in data management, wildlife observation and cooperation with their peers.
I have no doubt that Paso Pacifico will continue to make a difference to people and our planet in transformative ways.


WendyPurnell

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

Even before it was founded, I wrote about Paso Pacifico's founder, her research, and the needs this NGO addresses. At the time, I was producing environmental education curricula in the Czech Republic for a non-profit I eventually directed. I was genuinely inspired by the founder's story and how clearly she saw the tough choices faced by conservationists in the developing world. A few years later, after spending time in Central America and growing passionate about the need for economic development and biodiversity conservation in the region, I grew more involved with the organization.

Paso Pacifico is a U.S.-based 501c3, but it has genuine community buy-in throughout Nicaragua. The first time I visited the Paso del Istmo, everyone I met would use the pronoun "we" to talk about Paso Pacifico's work. These were not employees or even volunteers. These were local farmers, fishermen, landowners, entrepreneurs, and kids who were bursting with pride to be a part of such an important movement in their part of the world.

I know from my time in Washington, D.C.'s world of public policy that a lot of the big environmental NGOs spend your donation dollars on lobbyists. Paso Pacífico, on the other hand, puts my donation dollars directly to work in the field, protecting critically endangered wildlife habitat and empowering local communities.

At other organizations, I have been disappointed by financial impropriety, philosophical inconsistencies, incompetent leadership, arrogance, or a lack of dedication. This is NOT at all the case at Paso Pacifico, where people are honest, dedicated, passionate, humble, and responsible stewards of their resources.

Everyone at Paso Pacifico listens to the children and other community members in the areas where they work. Paso Pacifico researchers stay on top of cutting-edge research in conservation science, bringing technology to bear in remote parts of Central America, and using insights from the social sciences to build successful programs that respect people and protect endangered species and wildlife habitat.

I could not be prouder to be a longtime Paso Pacifico collaborator and contributor.

Volunteer

Rating: 5

I have volunteered with Paso Pacifico since 2014, first assisting with the native stingless bee keeping program, then leading a project to inventory native bee species in the Paso del Istmo, the region of focus for Paso Pacifico. I have also helped with compiling the data generated by Paso Pacifico's Audubon Christmas Bird Count, which it has organized since 2015.

To me, what is most exemplary about Paso Pacifico's work is how it creates opportunities for local community members to learn, achieve, and contribute in the realm of conservation. This means investing considerable resources in training local people and trusting them to carry out responsibilities like counting sea turtle hatchlings, tracking Yellow-naped Amazon Parrots with radio telemetry, taking care of hundreds of planted trees, collecting specimens of obscure insects, following spider monkeys through rugged terrain, and leading the way in oyster farming on Nicaragua's Pacific Coast.

Paso Pacifico's patient, persistent investment in people, on the ground, demonstrates a long-term vision and commitment to biodiverse, ecologically intact, prosperous, sustainable communities. Perhaps Paso Pacifico's greatest conservation success is its Junior Ranger Program, which affirms the idea that conservation of ecosystems in Nicaragua rests firmly in the hands of the young generation of Nicaraguans.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 4

Conozco la labor de Paso Pacífico desde hace algunosa años, entre otras tareas deseo destacar la preocupación por la capacitación de las personas vinculadas al Proyecto. Particularmente los Guardaparques, que han sido enviados hasta... Argentina! Y la formación ambiental de los niños para lograr adultos ambientalmente comprometidos. Felicitaciones

Steven22

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I am a spatial ecologist with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, with many years of experience working in Central and South America. Having had the opportunity to work with Paso Pacifico staff and student researchers, I highly support its mission and focus on fundamental conservation issues in a key portion of the Central American isthmus. Paso Pacifico's reforestation efforts and initiatives to protect endangered wildlife species and habitat with strong cooperation of Nicaraguan citizens is a testament to their successful approach for conserving areas of high biodiversity. I look forward to future collaborations with them.

Review from Guidestar

Ophelia W.

Professional with expertise in this field

Rating: 5

I admire Paso Pacifico's effort to engage community members, Nicaraguan staff, students and biologists, as well as international collaborators to conduct local-regional level biodiversity conservation work very much. After doing ecological research in Latin America for years, I have come to the realization that action-oriented conservation that involves participatory mapping/research is badly needed. Paso Pacifico is an excellent example of how citizen science in conservation is applied in the real-world problem-solving contexts.

Advisor

Rating: 5

I am a retired employee of the US National Park Service. I have had extensive experience in Latin America as a conservation consultant. Paso Pacifico is the most grass-roots organization with which I have ever worked. All the work it does in the fields listed above is almost exclusively done by Nicaraguans in Nicaragua. I worked on training their rangers who were selected from communities near beaches where marine turtles annually come to nest. These rangers have revolutionized the villagers' attitudes toward turtle egg poaching. On one beach, for 25 years, no baby turtles crawled to the sea. All the eggs were dug up and sold. Last year, due to the ranger's protection and their educational efforts in the community, thousands of turtles made it back to the Pacific Ocean. These rangers have becone leaders in their communities, demonstrating that the sustainable use of resources is a viable way to feed, clothe and educate their children. Paso Pacfico's work in all areas of conservation is ourstanding.

Review from Guidestar