Alana Lea (Changent/Fundraiser)

Alana LeaIn December 2008, I returned to the land of my birth for the first time since I was a baby.

I had the conviction to use my talents as a force for positive change in a land that I'd only known from the stories my mother had told me as a child.

Even as my plane touched down in Sao Paulo, I didn’t know my end destination or the details of my trip.

Although I'd spent nearly my entire life in the US, I was told that I kept my jeito - a Brazilian way of going with the flow and to get things done. My daughter, Leala Rose, was with me that day, and we both took a great leap of faith as we set off together on a journey of discovery in a foreign land. Brazil responded…

Within a few days, I was pouring my enthusiasm into conversations with everyone I met. I had built a successful horticultural business in the United States and was a respected botanical artist.

My passion for the plant kingdom poured into my work and my art. I had illustrated a small book on the healing plants of the Amazon rainforest and my watercolor renderings of orchids and pollinators had been displayed at the Smithsonian Institute.

With a strong feeling that my work in Brazil was going to involve the rainforest, I made inquiries about traveling north, to the Amazon.

But I was amazed to learn that surrounding my birthplace in Rio de Janeiro was the most diverse and endangered rainforest in the world. It was the Atlantic Rainforest, known in Brazil as Mata Atlantica.

And when I found out that from the time I had left Brazil until the day I returned, that millions of hectares of the forest had been decimated and converted into primarily cattle grazing land, leaving only 7% of the original forest intact, I knew my purpose was to be a Voice for the Rainforest and set out to find some solutions.

I knew that in order to implement true sustainability, I'd need to engage the local communities and find innovative ways to address their economic challenges. Local leaders and change makers were invited to discuss possible solutions and a plan emerged, over time.

Now, nearly two years later, an international team has formed behind a social enterprise that will help to fund our cause of rainforest renewal. The foundation is in place and I'm back in Brazil, planting our first 1,000 trees - a reforestation story that you're able to read about in the blog.

Related links:
Alana Lea on Changents