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Then and Now: Ben Swank

A Look at the Lasting Impact of the Rainforest

Ben Swank first visited the Children’s Eternal Rainforest (CER) in 2007, during the summer after 5th grade. Along with his mother, Penny, he was part of a group led by our late founder Rachel Crandell. While his trip was many years ago, Ben recalls the experience of watching the Arenal Volcano spitting “flaming debris into the sky and mountain” and listening to Rachel describe the ways in which the animals and plants are connected in the CER. Afterward, Ben became a student ambassador, traveling to elementary and middle schools to present on the CER and the importance of protecting its amazing biodiversity. He shared why it’s important to be environmentally conscious and to care for even the smallest animals in the rainforest. More students began to travel to the CER and work together to raise money for the rainforest.

Ben went on to get a degree in economics, although he maintained a focus on environmentalism through a fascination with ecological economics and environmental justice. While his current work isn’t directly involved with environmental activism, he spends his time reading up on regenerative agriculture, indigenous peoples’ relations with the land, and other environmental topics. “I do not think that perspective would have been present without my trip to the CER,” he says.

“I think about the treatment of the earth each day. I have Rachel and the opportunities given to me through my work with the CER to thank for that.”

For us at Friends of the Rainforest, Ben’s story is a success story. It is a testament to the powerful influence witnessing the rainforest first-hand has on young minds. Our goal as an organization is to make visits to the CER more accessible, and our hope is to have more stories like Ben’s. Learning about the Rainforest at a young age can inspire life-long care and consideration for the environment - both in the rainforest and at home!

Do you have a similar story to tell? We’d love to hear from you - email us at

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