Sunday September 17, 2017

Life inside a travelling school bus powered by vegetable oil

Cooper Morgan performing in front of children in Nicaragua

Cooper Morgan performing in front of children in Nicaragua (Soulfire Project)

Listen 15:08

Nestled between rows of lush coffee plants, just outside a village in the Chiriqui mountains of Panama, there really is a magic school bus. 

Magic School Bus

Children in Central America aboard the bus (Soulfire Project)

Not the one from the beloved children's story.

There's no Ms. Frizzle, and this bus doesn't go on science expeditions.

But it is a wildly colourful 1979 supercoach with the name Soulfire painted across the front. 

It has travelled over 30,000 miles — from Oregon to Colombia — with an engine that runs on vegetable oil.

Magic School Bus

The Soulfire bus (Soulfire Project)

And its denizens do have adventures.

Over 200 artists and musicians have been part of its mission to promote environmental change and sustainability. They support themselves by performing — cumbia, afro-latino, and reggae music.

But at the heart of Soulfire is a mother-son team, Andrea and Cooper Morgan.

Magic School bus

Andrea and Cooper Morgan (Soulfire Project)

Backpacker and producer Brittany Amodeo encountered them in Boquete Panama, where they were preparing to leave for a new continent: South America. They'd been parked in Boquete for the better part of a year, next to the home of an Indigenous family who worked on a coffee plantation. 

Click 'listen' above to hear Brittany's documentary "The Magic School Bus."