In Memoriam: Rachel Crandell

Rachel visits BEN
Rachel’s visit to the BEN in February, 2009 after the MCL annual meeting.

Remembering Rachel Crandell, Friend of the Forest and its People

Our dear friend and President of MCLUS passed on Monday, September 7th, 2009. We wish you peace and stillness as you receive this news. This newsletter is dedicated to remembering Rachel’s contribution to rainforest conservation through MCLUS as well as reflecting on her inspiring spirit. Gratitude for the richness of Rachel’s character helps us to see a continuing expression of her with us. Please join us in remembering and giving thanks for her example.

Rachel planting tree
Podocarpus oleifolius
Rachel loved to plant trees, as shown planting Citharexylum sp. in the top photo. As an appropriate metaphor, the tree planted (Podocarpus oleifolius) in her honor (bottom photo) is the offspring of a rare tree located near the MCL office. Undoubtedly, it too will have many offspring as it continues to grow and reproduce!

“Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could only do a little.” ~Edmund Burke

Rachel gave us a wonderful example of how one idea put into action can make a difference. Rachel had the idea of finding something hopeful and inspiring for her 2nd grade class to learn about. It led her to discover the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (Bosque Eterno de los Niňos – BEN) of Costa Rica and eventually to co-found the Monteverde Conservation League U.S. in 2002. The BEN itself started in 1986 by the Monteverde Conservation League (MCL) for the purpose of preserving and protecting tropical ecosystems in Costa Rica. When Swedish second graders got the idea to help save 25 acres of tropical rainforest, that idea expanded into a world-wide youth-led effort to do something much bigger– purchase 54,000 acres of tropical rainforest.

Together, Rachel and her husband Dwight, began to reinvigorate the effort to protect the BEN, to help keep a good idea going. As a member of MCL and as a volunteer President of MCLUS, Rachel contributed to three new purchases of land and helped to maintain guard salaries to protect the forest from poachers and squatters. Through Rachel’s and Dwight’s individual efforts, an environmental educator was also hired for a short time and a nature center in Costa Rica developed for school groups to visit. In March 2008, Rachel co-authored The Forever Forest: Kids Save a Tropical Treasure with Kristin Joy Pratt-Serafini. This children’s book, full of information for all ages, was another good idea put into action, intended to help raise another generation of international stewards for the BEN.

“When you pray, move your feet” ~African proverb

Rachel’s ability to translate issues of global significance into action on the ground was underlain by her deep love for the good and beautiful. She shared this love as a 2nd grade teacher for 20 years at Principia Lower School in St. Louis, MO, as an eco-trip leader from 1992-2009, as an author of children’s books (also Hands of the Maya: Villagers at Work and Play; Hands of the Rain Forest: The Emberá People of Panama), and as an advocate for indigenous peoples. Rachel collected over 100 traditional Emberá stories and published a first volume in English, Spanish, and Emberá with assistance from Rogelio Cansari (an Emberá living in Panama City) and her daughter, Joanna Crandell.

Rachel had an unusual fearlessness that took her to Belize, Costa Rica, Namibia, Ecuador, and many other parts of the world, including going ‘solo’ to Papua New Guinea. She had an endless love for learning and especially for people whose cultures embraced the land and life around them. Fortunately, her insatiable appetite for diversity was complemented by an ability to rapidly make friends and gain trust. The warmth of her smile cut through cultural barriers. She had a wisdom of knowing how to manuever sticky situations, and a graciousness that never compromised principle but respected the best in everyone. She relished sharing stories, giving simple pleasures, and making a difference in the lives of those who have fewer choices. Her laugh was deeply genuine, and so were her friendships.

As the saying goes take only pictures, leave only footprints–so we all have a vivid picture of Rachel’s inspired example and an indelible footprint which continues to find impression in the actions of our own lives. Thank you Rachel for your endless giving!

Mothers Grove service

Friends of the BEN gathered on Sept. 11 in Mother’s Grove in the Bajo del Tigre section of the BEN to celebrate and remember Rachel. Katy Van Dusen brought brownies, as Rachel loved chocolate. There was a beautiful Morpho butterfly nearby, birds singing and white faced monkeys could be heard nearby. Attendees included a mix of MCL employees, members and friends from Monteverde.

A Word from the Monteverde Conservation League Executive Director

Even though we feel sorrow today, we are left with the great legacy of Rachel and Dwight, which is the love for the things that we do, principally in the form of children and the protection of nature. Today the MCL commits itself even more, so their efforts continue to bear fruits.

Many thanks, Rachel, for everything that you have accomplished, and we are convinced that since Monday she has and will follow us more closely, in the heart of the Children´s Eternal Rainforest and in each of the daily activities we carry out…

As Rachel would say, For the forest…

Yúber Rodriguez S.
Executive Director a.i.
Monteverde Conservation League and
Children’s Eternal Rainforest

Rachel at Pocosol Biological Field Station
Rachel standing in front of the new building at Pocosol Biological Field Station (February ’09).

The Mission Continues

As we gratefully acknowledge the contributions of both Rachel and Dwight to the Children’s Eternal Rainforest, we can continue to look for more progress. The new building at Pocosol (above) will enable visiting student and tourism groups access to a classroom and a more comfortable stay. The eco-tourism trip to the BEN in June 2010, including a visit to the San Gerardo Field Station, will proceed uninterrupted with leadership provided by Maggie Eisenberger (pictured below).

“Those who are ready to go are already invited.” ~Rachel Crandell

Everyone has a role in forwarding the mission. Below are some of the ways you can participate:

  • come see the living treasures of the BEN for yourself! (more details about the 2010 trip coming in the October newsletter)
  • donate to support Rachel’s earnest desire to protect the Pacific slope, with hopes of saving the bellbird and quetzal populations
  • give a presentation about your trip to the BEN to inspire others to get involved (and let us know when you do!)
  • volunteer your expert advice to the MCLUS staff or Board of Directors
  • consider future service on the Board of MCLUS

Please direct your communications to

Donations in honor of Rachel should be written to MCLUS and noted “in Honor of Rachel Crandell.”

Checks can be mailed to:

Monteverde Conservation League, US
P.O. Box 938
Manchester, MO 63011

You can also visit to make a donation online.

Rachel and Maggie Eisenberger
Rachel and Maggie Eisenberger in July 2008. Maggie led a trip to the BEN in early June 2009, and will lead the 2010 trip.

For the forest,
Friends and Board of MCLUS