Island Updates

2nd December 2021

The sun is shining

Greetings from José Cabello. The sun is shining and it’s a beautiful day here on Robinson Crusoe Island.

All of us at Island Conservation are thrilled for this project to get underway. We’ve already noticed significant improvements in the upgraded internet, which is making our job of helping to save endangered wildlife much easier. What used to take us days is now taking us hours!

The local community are equally excited about what this project will bring to the island. There’s a real buzz about the place. As a community of only 900 people, they know that a few individuals can make a big difference. That is why they are so looking forward to welcoming the lucky volunteers, and their skills, to the island in 2022.

Keep checking back on this page to see how we’re progressing. We’ll get various people to keep you updated: the community, us, and the volunteers when they arrive.

Until next time.

By José Cabello, Head of Operations Latin America, 2nd December 2022.

10th March 2022

Working for Humankind on Robinson Crusoe Island

I dreamt of Robinson Crusoe Island long before I arrived here.

My journey began back in 2013, after I quit my full time corporate job, gave up my rented apartment and sold most of my belongings. As a traveller, I wanted to spend time with communities in parts of the world different from where I had grown up. As a travel writer, I wanted to tell stories that had never been told before. For seven years, I lived out of two bags, travelling everywhere from Tajikistan to Guatemala, seeking experiences that allowed me to connect deeper with nature, the environment and the people who called them home.

Then the pandemic came along and turned the world upside down. With borders closed and nowhere to go, I began to dream of distant places, filling with fernweh – a German word that means longing, or a homesickness, for somewhere far away, somewhere I’d never been but that would feel like home.

When Lenovo reached out to me about the Work for Humankind project a few months ago, I knew that ‘somewhere’ I’d been dreaming about was Robinson Crusoe Island!

After a 30 hour flight from my home country India and 7 nights of quarantine in Valparaiso, I was thrilled – and a little nervous – to board the smallest plane I’ve ever flown in! Through the scratched windows, I caught my first glimpse of the Juan Fernandez Archipelago – wind-swept cliffs, mist-engulfed hills and roaring waters. The island airport made me think of lunar landscapes. The endemic Juan Fernandez seals – once declared extinct – greeted us at the jetty. When I posted a video of the boat ride to San Juan Bautista, my Instagram followers asked if I had landed on the set of Jurassic Park!

After 7 nights of island quarantine, I finally met the other volunteers – from Germany, Italy, Brazil, England and continental Chile. The Work for Humankind project brought us together on Robinson Crusoe Island, where Lenovo has set up a remote workspace in German and Gloria’s Marenostrum Cafe, with high speed internet and the latest technology (including computers, monitors, tablets, smartphones and much more) – allowing us to continue our work on the go, while also working with Island Conservation, the Island Municipality, Conaf and Oikonos to support their efforts to protect endemic species on the island, many of which are found only here in the whole world.

We’ve spent our first week getting to know the friendly islanders and the incredible biodiversity on the archipelago – hiking to Puerto Frances and camping at Villagra; getting to know the spectacular endemic forest near Alexander Selkirk viewpoint; learning about Project Neriifolia and the invasive species on the island; monitoring the nests of the endangered Pink-footed Shearwater (Ardenna creatopus); seeing the last surviving Dendroseris Neriifolia in the wild – the only one left on the entire planet; kayaking, snorkeling and diving with Juan Fernandez seals; and being invited by the community for movie nights, game nights and BBQs.

Over the coming weeks, we’ll use Lenovo’s tech devices and solutions to work with the community to chalk out a transition to renewable energy (currently all electricity comes from diesel-based generators) and community farming (currently most produce is shipped in from continental Chile), document efforts to conserve endangered endemic species on the island, work with the island school on education around single-use plastic and microplastics, and lots more – while deepening our personal connections with the islanders. What an honor and privilege to be here, working for our personal fulfilment, the community and the environment – and indeed, working for humankind.

About: Shivya Nath runs the award-winning travel blog, The Shooting Star (the-shooting-star.com), and is the author of a bestselling travel memoir. She advocates for purpose-driven travel, consults tourism businesses on their environmental and social impact goals, and can be found on Instagram @shivya

15th March 2022

A Hike to Remember

It’s been a running joke amongst the team on this project that my camera backpack weighs a tonne! But what do you expect me to do? I’m on one of the most incredible and remote islands in the world, if I’m not prepared for whatever scenario presents itself then I’ll miss the shot, it’s not the kind of place you can just come back to!

Last week we set off on one of Robinson Crusoe Island’s longest hikes (a must do if you ever visit!) 20km from the airport, through the mountains and back down to San Juan Bautista. This hike would be split into two 10km stages with an overnight camp in a place called Villagra. For this I needed everything! I carried with me two cameras, 3 prime lenses, a telephoto lens for wildlife, a drone, extra batteries, a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop and a tripod should we get a clear night sky as well as a few extra layers of clothing and plenty of water.

Setting off late morning, we headed east along a winding path overlooking the Pacific Ocean. The island’s airport is situated in a desert-like terrain, often feeling otherworldly in comparison to the lush green slopes surrounding Villagra and the formidable mountain peak of El Yunque. With breathtaking views from the very beginning I found myself photographing everything along the way.

That evening, after a delicious BBQ and a spontaneous sunset photoshoot with the rest of the team, I was able to spend some time in my tent reviewing the day’s images, preparing a few to share with everyone. Some incredible moments and memories that everyone on this project will look back on fondly. As usual I’d carried a lot of unnecessary weight, it was too windy to fly the drone and cloudy all night so the tripod wasn’t needed either… but if I hadn’t brought them, I’d have needed them!

The next morning we set off further into the mountains, climbing to the route’s highest point, Alexander Selkirk Viewpoint (540m). It was here that Selkirk – the man Daniel Defoe based his character Robinson Crusoe on – would watch for ships on the horizon after being marooned there in 1704. There was no power in Villagra but thankfully the extended battery life on my motorola edge 20 pro (which on flight mode feels like it’d last for days!) meant I had plenty of battery remaining to capture those “behind the scenes” moments and snippets of video to look back on.

Our guides from CONAF (The Chilean National Forest Corporation) showed us some of the island’s endemic flora along the way, the Luma and Canelo to name a couple. There were also many examples of invasive species that are causing issues here, more notably the Mora (Bramble), a very familiar sight for me back home in the UK.

Following a quick break for lunch at the top, the weather turned on us (as it so often does here without much warning!) so we quickly began our descent back down into town. Just over 20 kilometres underfoot and an uncomfortably warm evening in a tent later, we were certainly all ready for a shower, but what a fantastic journey to have experienced together.

Documenting this project has certainly had its challenges but the rewards are far greater, the images I’ve been able to capture during my time here are at times hard to believe! Thankfully, having equipment with me that can withstand what I put it through helps! The ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop I’ve been using is an incredibly tough, resilient and reliable piece of tech, allowing me to edit anywhere and keep on top of my workload whilst out on assignment.

Robinson Crusoe island has definitely captured the hearts of all of us here and I can’t thank Lenovo and Island Conservation enough for having me along as part of the Work for Humankind team.

21st March 2022

A UNIQUE MOMENT OF HISTORY ON THE ISLAND

Hi! Marcello Ascani here. I’ve almost spent four weeks on Robinson Crusoe island and everyday I’m making new discoveries. So let me start from the beginning…
During our first week we had one objective: exploring the island and getting to know the communities’ needs. This was the first step to understanding how our efforts would be most effective.

Firstly, I should clarify that this is not a poor island and we are not here to bring money. Robinson Crusoe has very specific needs and is in a unique situation.

The primary activity here is fishing. In fact, lobsters are the island’s most exported good – they’re famous around the world. That said, the surrounding sea (and most of the island) is a natural reserve and, in order to fish, people must follow strict guidelines. Don’t get me wrong, they’re happy to follow these guidelines, as they created them themselves to preserve the islands habitat! Everyone who grows up here has a strong connection with nature. And it’s no surprise given they have access to a sea full of fishes and seals, and mountains that are filled with all kinds of plants and animals.

The community is made up of around 1300 people. However, nearly 500 people are from mainland Chile. They come to Robinson Crusoe Island to work, help, or for love. In fact, during the past 10 years the number of people on the island has increased and, although younger people tend to spend some time on the mainland, they often end up here again as it’s such a special place.

Nature

The first challenge on the island is its unique wildlife and vegetation. Like many other Pacific islands, these are similar to the mainland, but not identical. That’s because as these regions became isolated, evolution took different paths. Compared to their cousins on the continent, the plants here have fewer thorns, the animals are less aggressive, the hummingbirds are red and the horses are small (although I’m pretty sure that the last point is not related to evolution)!

However, as colonization occurred, invasive species also came to the island. And, as a result, many of the endemic species are now endangered.

So how can we help? For each person it’s different. But for me personally, it’s been a case of helping to raise awareness of the problems and the solutions through the power of social media.

Tourism

The second challenge for Robinson Crusoe island is recovering from the pandemic. The income from fishing used to be closely followed by the income generated from tourism. And, like the rest of the world, this sector has stayed still over the past 2 years.

In this instance I could help a lot. For the first time in history the island has a high-speed Internet connection and, thanks to Lenovo, a tech hub has been created. It’s been furnished with all the latest technology including laptops, tablets, smartphones, headphones – pretty much everything you could ever need to maximize the benefits of social media.

My work has included running workshops and teaching local entrepreneurs how best to approach different social media channels to promote the island. Together, we have created social media accounts and designed strategies that can be followed after I leave.

What strikes me is that I came to the island at a unique moment in history. For the first time ever people are connected to fast Internet. This is the equivalent of 10 years technological progress in one month. Of course, these things are not always easy and I’m happy I’m here with Lenovo to bring this project to life in the best way possible.

25th March 2022

UNITING THROUGH ART

I landed on Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile with many goals, but the main one was to understand how the arrival of fast internet and boundary-breaking technology from Lenovo would transform the life of its community. A community that creates, produces, and delights with its kindness and hospitality. Bringing to the island a wealth of experience as a writer and content creator, I wanted to fully immerse myself in island life and find a way to engage with and inspire the community.

Many stories pass and intersect on this island, more stories than a person can possibly remember, so technology combined with internet connection now brings perpetuity to the island and its knowledge. When I met Raimundo, a very dear person to everyone on the island, it was clear that he had a lot to say about this place, speaking as someone that fell in love with both the art and landscape of Robinson Crusoe. More than thirty years ago, Raimundo moved to the Juan Fernández archipelago. Passionate about art, he has a great eye for understanding the genius and sensitivity of the artistic processes that are developed with the “aislamiento” (the Spanish word for an act of isolation – it is interesting to note that the word isla, in this case, island, is present in the act of isolating oneself). Since being on Robinson Crusoe Island, Raimundo started a new project – a creative house called Casa Isla, which both receives masterpieces and supports emerging artists.

Raimundo’s house has one of the most impressive architectures on Robinson Crusoe Island. It brings together natural elements and asymmetrical shapes, with large glass windows, an impressive view of the sea, numerous paintings and artistic objects scattered almost carelessly throughout the place. The coziness of the house and the resident’s good conversations are invitations to linger. Raimundo has collected paintings by Chilean artists whose works relate to the Chilean cultural movement that permeates stories of Robinson Crusoe. His collection includes a reproduction of a painting that shows a Spanish ship, the San Telmo, which disappeared in 1819. All 644 officers, soldiers and sailors met a tragic fate and became the first people to die in Antarctica. Months later, parts of the ship’s rubble were found by the first seal hunters to reach Livingston Island. Certainly, if anyone from San Telmo had survived, they would have been the first people in history to reach Antarctica.

On Raimundo’s walls you can also find a number of reproductions of Bororo. These belong to the so-called Advanced Scene or Generation of the 80s and can be characterized by their playful character of art, lost in previous years. With intuitive brushstrokes, expressive drops and direct stains, they are showcased in a very prestigious way throughout Raimundo’s collection. I was struck by the power of colour and elementary design in this very simple, almost childlike graphic, composed within a universe that transits between the abstract and the figurative. The artist’s intensity and passion flow into a subjectivity that shapes different dimensions and perspectives on the canvas, with blue being the predominant colour (which, coincidently, is very true to the shade of Robinson Crusoe’s sea). In the past, Bororo has actually visited the archipelago with other artists to seek inspiration from its geography, culture and history.

In its very essence, culture is related to knowledge and the exercise of thought – two things that are essential for the development of society. Culture is so important to the personal, moral and intellectual formation of the individual and in the development of their ability to relate to others. As part of the Work For Humankind project, I’ve dedicated time each week to volunteering with the local community on Robinson Crusoe Island. This has involved working with Raimundo to find a way to communicate his knowledge and art curation across social networks, with the aim of uniting the community through this common good (in addition to providing an immersion in the cultural universe of Robinson Crusoe for those who live on the continent).

Connecting with the community was the first step towards putting together a content production strategy for the island. We organized a workshop with the residents, where I shared my expertise and experience of more than 10 years in online business. I also shared training and presentation tools to help aid their storytelling. As the island has a great number of entrepreneurs, we talked a lot about how to set up a communication strategy between the brand and client, preserving the characteristics and identity of local businesses. The richness of this whole project is the rarity of everything that happens here.

After the workshop two young people were very interested and wanted to join the process of building the social networks of Casa Isla. Lorenza and Lukas were excited about the idea of ​​continuing this project so we all got together with Raimundo to develop both a branding and communication plan for Casa Isla’s social networks. To make this possible, both of them received technological tools from Lenovo, the Lenovo Tablet P11 Pro and the Yoga 7i laptop. Both technologies will enable them to exercise their creativity and ensure that these young people, who are full of ideas, will be able to continue the project for a long time to come.

Now we have a team ready, trained, and excited to tell the stories of Robinson Crusoe, promoting its art and culture for the community and the tourists who cross paths here. Valuing these stories will generate inspiration and cultural accessibility for more people, as these are the pillars that brought us together and the pillars of the experience that is Work For Humankind.

13th April 2022

A dream 5 years in the making

In March I left France to volunteer on Robinson Crusoe Island in the Juan Fernandez archipelago.

As a long-time admirer of far and distant lands, when the opportunity arose to discover the biological and human treasures of this island, I simply could not resist, and my visit was the culmination of a dream I have been envisioning for a long time.

This dream started five years ago, after seeing a documentary about the island. I was drawn to the unique flora and fauna that defines Robinson Crusoe, as well as the rich cultural and biological heritage of the land. So, when I got the opportunity to take part in Lenovo’s Work for Humankind project, I accepted without hesitation.

The opportunity was unique. With Lenovo technology on the island, I would be able to continue my own full-time job as a content creator, alongside volunteering my time to support the local island community.

Ahead of my trip, Lenovo provided the island, and volunteers with their latest technology and increased internet speeds. This meant that I was able to contact the local community before I arrived to introduce myself and start to plan the documentary I would film and share on my own YouTube channel.

On the Island

Once I arrived on Robinson Crusoe Island, I was blown away by the passion of the local community and the vast opportunities to support the island in their conservation goals.

During this time I met Vasco, who works with our Lenovo’s NGO partner Island Conservation. He explained to me that my traveling expertise and appetite for adventure would be a real asset to the island.

So, I got to work!

Back in France I live in the Alps and spend my life in the mountains. I used my understanding of the terrain to support Island Conservation in the placing and surveying of camera traps. These camera traps helped them identify endangered and invasive species on the spot.

I then turned my attention to the island’s unique microclimate, roaming the terrain to collect seeds of endangered plant life, transferring our cuttings to a greenhouse the volunteers built in the first week. I’m excited to learn about how these seedlings flourish in their new environment.

Biodiversity on Robinson Crusoe Island

Throughout my visit on Robinson Crusoe Island, I was most struck most by the breathtaking biodiversity that could be found in every corner.

The island has a multitude of unique and paradoxically incompatible biotope ecosystems that interact in fascinating and unique ways.

The western section between Punta Isla (the tip of the island) is where the airport is located and is largely deserted. Close to sea level, and rugged by nature, it is mainly occupied by hundreds of rabbits and thousands of sea lions.

The eastern edge of the island houses the only settlement on the island. The town of San Juan Bautista was my base camp for this incredible adventure. Meanwhile, the central part is occupied by a lush jungle with El Yunque as its summit, an ultra-preserved biological treasure filled with endemic plant species.

Yet it was the north of the island that intrigued me the most. During my last week, I was given the opportunity to find an “easier” way to reach this elusive area by foot. Taking a route only travelled by elders many moons ago, I am excited to have reached the north of the island, bringing a new sense of adventure to the island, facilitated by Lenovo’s Work for Humankind.

The spirit of adventure

This 47m² island is very complex and there is still much work to do on conservation. However, I’m proud to have played a small part in bringing Robinson Crusoe’s conservation vision to life. This ambitious adventure saw me cover more than 220km in just 3 weeks! A reflection of my ambition to make a significant impact on the island during my time here. I hope this renewed spirit of adventure will stay on the island for years to come.

14th April 2022

Learning from the Leaders in Conservation

Marine Conservation in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago

When my application to Work for Humankind was accepted my attention turned to the impact I could make while on the island. As a marine conservationist, I was eager to connect with local fisherpeople, divers, and scientists about the practices and management strategies that protect such an important and productive part of the ocean.

The Juan Fernández archipelago is a designated UNESCO biosphere reserve, with a multiple-use marine protected area and national park inside it. But is also threatened by mass global warming and a constantly evolving landscape.

While non-profits like Island Conservation and Oikonos are working to fight extinction and preserve native species on land, I was most humbled by the marine conservation efforts led directly by the community for the sea.

A conservation first approach

Robinson Crusoe is home to a sustainable lobster fishery that exports products all around the world, supporting the livelihoods of the fishers that work there.

It was the fishers themselves that began implementing restrictions to ensure the lobster economy would continue for future generations. They practice size limits and seasonal fishery closure. This “conservation-first” approach is extended to the wider fishing practices too.

I saw this conservation led approach first-hand when I was taken on Kenneth von Rodt’s boat, a fisherman whose family holds deep roots to the early days of Robinson Crusoe. Not a single fisher uses a fishing net on the island – fish are caught only using pole and line to minimize any environmental impact.

Fishing nets can catch other species by accident, pollute the ocean, and entangle other marine life. If every fishery operated this way, the ocean wouldn’t be in so much trouble.

Now that Lenovo has brought cutting-edge technology, significantly upgraded internet access and wider exposure to the island, we hope more people can learn about this incredible fishery and their sustainable fishing practices.

Working to support sustainable fishing

I’ve been supporting many projects on the island throughout my trip – and work completely remotely – thanks to Lenovo technology.

I’m writing a grant to help the local dive shop, Marenostrum, receive funding for a conservation dive project. I’ve provided recommendations on how to finance environmental work using their tourism sector and unique, irreplaceable natural resources. During my remaining time, I’m going to help amplify a marine conservation group’s work through storytelling and communication.

As part of the global goal to protect 30% of our oceans by 2030, Bustamente Endemico is striving to expand and connect multiple marine protected areas off the coast of Chile. The marine parks are vital to safeguard the marine resources inside and sustain the fisheries into the future.

The organization’s leadership was a key player in establishing the Juan Fernández Marine Park in 2014 as well as the Desventuradas Marine Park in 2016. Media campaigns played an integral role in swaying political leadership to protect the region, and we are planning to create media materials to do the same now. Together, we’re using Lenovo’s tech devices, software, and solutions to craft a short film, social media assets, and an awareness campaign to share the importance of this initiative in conserving this part of our blue planet.

Final reflections

I have only been on Robinson Crusoe for three weeks now, but the experiences I’ve had with the community and natural landscapes will stay with me for a lifetime.

The passion and commitment to sustainable conservation on Robinson Crusoe Island is a sight to behold. I am proud to have played a small part in turning the tide against the multitude of existential threats that the archipelago faces. My hope is that Lenovo’s Work for Humankind project has helped turbocharge the island’s conservation and goals and will help protect our global eco-system for years to come.

28th April 2022

Building a community through sport

I am writing from the Juan Fernández Archipelago, on Robinson Crusoe Island in the San Juan Bautista community. Robinson Crusoe Island is a magical place that never ceases to amaze me with its sweeping landscapes, spirit, and incredible food.

But a lesser-known gem on the island is the quantity and quality of the athletes that call it home. I came to this community with the mission of sharing with them the pleasure of doing sports, but I was surprised to find a community that houses one of the largest gatherings of athletes in all of Chile.

Each day I saw mountain runners soaking up the morning sun, dancers enjoying Zumba in the afternoon and children playing soccer, volleyball, and basketball. It truly is a community steeped in sporting excellence.

It was therefore very easy to get involved with the sporting activities on the island. Initially I took small steps, joining in with the soccer games and taking part in a few classes. Eventually, I began integrating myself more in the planning and execution of sports on the island.

Lenovo technology has been a fundamental part of my sports development with the Juan Fernandez community. Planning functional training classes with my ThinkPad X1 Yoga 2-in-1 convertible laptop and, when teaching, using the laptop’s 360-degree hinge to convert from laptop into a tablet or stand, so I can use it as a timer. This means the students can see how much time is remaining in each interval. It’s the perfect combination of working and sweating! I’ve also been taking advantage of the amazing camera on the motorola edge 20 pro, using it to record 8K videos of everyone giving it their all during the functional training classes.

One of the things that has made me think the most during my stay here is that while I exercise so much every day for health and physical and emotional well-being, people here live in something that I like to call the “natural gym” from a very young age. From walking kilometers daily, fishing in the rivers, or climbing up the mountain to get home, my time on the island required strength far beyond my usual daily means to carry out day-to-day activities.

It is in these unique set of circumstances that the Island Conservation community set up the first Juan Fernández Challenge, a race in which the entire community is invited to run 10 km, swim 800 meters in the open sea, sail 5 km in a kayak and cycle 10 km. This event aims to motivate people to continue with their healthy lifestyle and encourage visitors from the mainland to come and challenge themselves in this great event.

Just yesterday, I was invited to play a soccer game with the youth team of the community against Selkirk FC, the current champions in the annual tournament that takes place between the 4 teams in the area. The game was 11 against 11, on a full-size pitch, with official rules and I was even given a team kit. I ended up very tired after playing 2 halves of 40 minutes each. I was surprised to see all the participants running, jumping, and fighting for the ball whilst I was exhausted!

My final reflection comes from something remarkable I have witnessed within the San Juan Bautista community. Each family has a football club which they belong to and wouldn’t change for the world. If your grandfather played for this soccer club, your father, you and your children will continue to defend these colors, which is done with great pride and honor.

I see a lot of love and passion for sport on the island, which is the same love and passion I see in all aspects of this community.

It has been an honor and one of the greatest experiences of my life to support the Robinson Crusoe community with their sports and athletics training, thanks to Lenovo technology. I know that the athletes of this community clearly understood the concept that sport and technology go hand in hand, it would make me extremely happy to see the people who trained with me on social networks replicating some exercises that I left out there!

I hope to leave a mark on their memory and will return in the future to play once again, within this incredible community.

– Keno Martell