giving to ngos

AidJoy’s Operations Director

We are delighted to introduce you to Jess Dennis. She is joining our ranks as Director of Operations. In this role, Jess will plan and prioritize organizational, logistical, and employee/volunteer operations, as well as bring her significant marketing experience to bear for charities.

Jessica Dennis

Jess Dennis

Prior to joining AidJoy, Jess served as Manager of Marketing Communications for Smith Moore Leatherwood, a Southeastern regional law firm. She has also been an entrepreneur, and consultant to large, institutional clients. View her bio here.

“AidJoy has a really unique and inspiring business model,” says Jess. “Working with a group of truly talented professionals who are passionate about solving life-and-death problems is incredibly rewarding. I can’t tell you how excited I am to become a part of this charity, and to undertake such important work.”

“2014 is going to be an exciting year for AidJoy,” says Jonathan Shanin, Executive Director, “We’ve grown significantly since our inception in 2008, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to have Jess join us at this critical juncture. The addition of her diverse skill set will be instrumental in expanding our programs to new charities.”

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment 1 Comment »
Categories: Team AidJoy

Inspired Gifts

Inspired gifts can be hard to come by. What better way to reflect the spirit of the season and give something that’s truly meaningful with a Christmas gift by AidJoy!

Huayruro Bracelets

Donate $50 or more, and we will send your chosen recipient a unisex, huayruro bracelet, along with a note of thanks for their support of AidJoy’s work saving lives and changing communities for the better. Donate $75, and we will send off two bracelets; donate $100 and we will send four!
* Learn more about them here:

Peruvian Finger Puppets

For the kids in your life (or for the kid in you), donate $50 and we will send you a set of 5 Peruvian finger puppets.

— — — — — — —

Call or email after you have donated and we will have the puppets or bracelets (along with a personalized note) on their way to your friends and family in time for Christmas.

Click here to donate:

Huayruro Bracelets and Peruvian Finger Puppets

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment
Categories: Team AidJoy

Huayruro Seed Bracelets

About Huayruro Seeds

The Huayruro plant is native to Peru, and has been an important part of Peruvian culture for centuries. Huayruro seeds are found in pods in the tall trees of the Peruvian rainforest. The red and black seeds are said to bring good fortune and abundance, while warding off negative energy. The mixture of black and red on the seeds is also said to bring balance. Locals collect the seeds that fall to the jungle floor. We often find jars of lucky Huayruro seeds in people’s homes.

Bracelets & Gifts

Peruvians make Huayruro seed bracelets to keep people safe from harm. A gift of a Huayruro seed bracelet is a wish for the recipient to have a happy and prosperous life.

Our Jewelry Artist

AidJoy has commissioned a jewelry artist in Peru to weave Huayruro Bracelets with slip knots to accommodate almost every size wrist. We hope they bring you and yours good fortune and abundance!

Purchasing Bracelets

Step 1: Donate to AidJoy by check or online

$50 – One Bracelet
$75 – Two Bracelets
$100 – Four Bracelets

P.O. Box 2531
Greenville, South Carolina

Step 2: Call or email us and let us know to whom to send the bracelets.


* Note a: Huayruro is pronounced [Why-RU-RO]

* Note b: The bracelets are made of seeds and they don’t farewell in the water. If the seeds are submerged in water they will become soft and faded.

huayruro seed bracelets

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment
Categories: Team AidJoy

Your Donation Goes Twice As Far Through Dec. 3rd

Donations made to AidJoy through Sunday December 3rd will be matched dollar for dollar by SMG Marketing.

SMG Marketing makes it easy for small to medium-sized furniture and home goods manufacturers to sell their products at giant online retailers. SMG specializes in the technical nuances required when selling on retail sites like Amazon, Overstock, or By assisting with categorization, image, and database requirements, SMG brings manufacturers who were once limited to selling to specialty stores to the entire online marketplace.

This fourteen-person firm’s success is exclusively a result of satisfied clients and partners recommending their services. The owner’s of SMG Marketing, Pam and Sam Galvan, attribute their company’s growth to the power and importance of personal relationships, and to guiding their clients through complex technical processes with the utmost care.

AidJoy is proud to be supported by SMG Marketing. To learn more about SMG Marketing contact Sam Galvan at 630-549-6061.

Give a dime, give a dollar, each coin helps the light go a little bit farther.‿↗⁀☆҉

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment
Categories: Team AidJoy, Uncategorized

Beyond the Black Water: My Weeks in Peru

A village waits for the Nenita to arrive.

Four connections and nearly 20 hours of traveling time: the wheels touch down on the runway in Iquitos. I’m on my fifth wind at this point as I get picked up from the airport by Jonathan Shanin and Spencer Selvidge (co-conspirators in this adventure) to head for the hotel. The gear I’d been protecting with my life sits in my lap as we moto-taxi to our residence for the next few days – it’s only temporary though; the real adventure involves a boat full of doctors and the Rio Amazonas.

First impression of Iquitos would have to be: …busy! The city itself is about 500,000 people and a TON of stray animals. On our way to the Belen market, a bustling, colorful, raw bazaar experience, I was lucky enough to witness an ecstatic dog getting a haircut by a man with a sharpened knife. The trip to the market was primarily to pick up essential supplies, and in particular order some things from the Pharmacy for the big trip – but the fact remains: you’re almost guaranteed to see more than you expected in a place like this.

No aftershave today.

The first day boarding The Nenita – Project Amazonas’ primary hospital ship and our home for the next two weeks or so –  I jumped onto a speedboat with a couple of people for a quick mission to retrieve a kayak. Kind of like a science experiment, we saw where the black water and white water of the Amazon fuse together. Amusing things seem to come in pairs though: on our Skiff was a man who could attract Pink River dolphins by whistling. We found this to be a fairly common skill possessed by Peruvians who spent time on the river. Anyways, our mission was a success and we now had three banana-yellow kayaks onboard the Nenita! Were they recreational? Escape rafts? These are burning questions I won’t answer at this time.

The plan was set – each village we arrived in, we took a moment to assess the population, prepare the medicine, and establish a home base for clinic. The villagers would line up waiting to be seen by the doctors and dentists – and then there’s us: the camera-operators. I tried hard at first to stay out of people’s way but… Spencer and I were in everybody’s business. There’s a poor woman crying during her tooth extraction, and the last thing you’d want to see after all that is a random stranger with a 70-200mm lens and a monopod. She did — and she wasn’t that thrilled.

We slept in bunkbeds for nearly two weeks; and by the second day I made friends with a small spider on the ceiling (I was top bunk). “I’ll make you a deal…” I said. “You can have your web up here – I won’t charge you for rent. Catch the bugs with it so I don’t inhale them at night.” The spider was totally onboard – and pretty fat by the end of those two weeks. On that note, it’s actually really fun waking up in the morning and guessing what bit you the night before.

Hussain Pirani and Michelle Miller demonstrate how to take pictures.

We had a tight schedule: it was something like nine villages in twelve days. Arrive, set up clinic, examine, treat, prescribe, etc. pack up and leave – and repeat. There was an impressive movie moment where the children on the banks saw our boat approaching, screaming to each other in excitement that The Nenita had arrived. It was one of the best welcomes you could ask for as a camera operator – too bad neither of us were rolling at the time.

There were, however, plenty of times where the record light was on, and our cameras immortalized experiences we were lucky to be a part of. Through those two weeks, we saw and felt a lot with these people, and it was reciprocal in many ways. There are still children in the Amazon that have no concept of photographs – teaching them how to take a selfie with a cell phone was absolutely one of the highlights of my trip.  I have to say though, I was particularly intrigued by one village’s demonstration of inter-species friendship: There is a man with ulcers (or some form of gastric distress) in the Amazon – and next to him is a parrot – a macaw that can mimic speech patterns effectively. The man, sometimes too weak to cry out from help in his bed, relies on a loud bird to replicate his sense of urgency and bring others to him.  This is the jungle’s original “Call Nurse” button.

The Macaw watches over her master.

Even just visiting briefly, you learn just how heavily people rely on the Amazon River for most parts of their life. It serves equal parts a Spa, a playground for children, and a Freeway – among other things. Oddly enough, for me, jumping into the River was not nearly as scary as swimming in the Carribbean’s open water. The threats of piranha, caiman, and anacondas (which I thought about at least twice a day) were now distant – and the cold black water was actually inviting given the temperature outside.  I can’t explain why I felt so at ease in the river – accepting that this place would be my home for the next two weeks could have something to do with it. OR… could be because we spent the afternoon with a Peruvian artist, drinking beer like it’s water.

If you just assume from day one that you will catch something – food poisoning, a parasite, whatever – you will be that much freer and happier on your trip. That being said, don’t be reckless… I was not ready to accidentally swallow a bunch of river water splashing about like an idiot. And I chose my foods with a degree of scrutiny, at least in the very beginning. After all, I was there to do a job – and getting sick would’ve made that extremely difficult. And in some cases, ingesting certain things [BUGS, for example] is sometimes unavoidable. In fact, don’t ever say you can’t ingest more bugs – because you can. They get into things… and our juice dispensers would spit out amazingly fresh flavors of pineapple, mango, orange, and papaya – but you’d also find the occasional cluster of fruit flies and other winged nuisances floating in it. More protein, right?

Our return voyage from Pevas was close to 24 hours, during which we managed to capture on film one of the most epic sunsets of the entire trip. There’s a moment at dusk where you realize the sky is going to do something extraordinary – and it was fortunate to have a Skiff handy to jump in and grab shots of the Nenita sailing along the River, the clouds and the sky and the water all lending to the sun’s colorful disappearing act.   It was in that moment too that it hit me: the trip was ending.

Capturing the sunset via time-lapse photography.

When you realize you’re going to the Amazon – as a filmmaker your initial thought is “I’m going to make Planet Earth!!!” There’s a likelihood of being driven by feeding your lens material – whether it’s the landscape or animals or whatever – you’re effectively hunting for those particular shots that will make your project worthy of a South American voyage. Obviously (in this scenario as with many others) the real treasure of this trip becomes the people.

I won’t forget the conversations over meals with volunteers from all over the world: it’s beautiful even if the topic is dull. It’s special even though the moths are swarming around you. Being able to show the boat’s crewmembers footage from the trip (despite speaking limited Spanish) and seeing them laugh is just… inexplicably rewarding.

And then there are the villagers. To be invited into the homes of these people, and see and meet their families. To be able to leave them in better condition than they were just eight hours ago is remarkable on so many levels. There’s a two-month-old child that absolutely would not have survived without the help of Project Amazonas. I watched him yawn one day in the clinic – just a yawn— and was beyond captivated. Without giving too much away as to the focus of our film, the child played a pivotal role in unifying this documentary.

Moments before they all jumped into the river for a swim (except Spencer).

I watched three children horsing around in the River, climbing onboard a canoe and then immediately capsizing it several times. The camera was rolling that time, mind you, but in that moment it didn’t even matter. The Sennheiser video mic was picking up all their squeals and splashing, and the lighting from the setting sun was perfect – still, the shot itself was secondary in my brain at the time. There’s a reality these people are living that is unlike anything I’ve seen or experienced before. For this eye-opening gift I am grateful in many ways, and in fact, I play a fun game where I trace my life backwards to see what decisions I made that led me here. I stopped myself from doing it in that instance, watching the kids on the canoe. They were there,  present and carefree; why disrupt that with analysis? Bursting that bubble, I too was in the moment completely, and with that came a sweetness I can’t put into words, and truthfully, a joy no camera can properly capture.


Hussain Pirani is a screenwriter and director based in Austin, Texas. See more of his work at and if you enjoy tweeting, you can connect with him: @hpirani 

By hpirani Add Comment 2 Comments »
Categories: Project Amazonas, Team AidJoy, Travel

With Cesar In The Amazon Jungle, author Bo Bryan

The first time I went to the Amazon, I was afraid to set foot in the jungle. Mainly I felt the absence of a pistol to carry. I didn’t realize that most of the danger for humans in the Amazon is microscopic, and not a whole lot of that, but enough that a good jungle guide, if you trust one, keeps you feeling more courageous than a pistol.

Then you have the snakes, spiders, man-eating fish, all that to invigorate your imagination. But all you have to do is follow the jungle guide, step here, not there, count your fingers and toes at both ends of the journey.

I met Cesar Peña in the city, in downtown Iquitos, Peru, which like the jungle, looks dangerous due the urban zoo-like atmosphere of a town that is mostly populated with people who are not far removed, only several generations advanced, from the Stone Age.

Cesar Peña in the Amazon jungle of Peru.

Cesar Peña in the Amazon jungle of Peru.

Cesar was riding a motorcycle, a dirt bike jacked up on the front end. He wore blue jeans and a golf shirt, the uniform of college fraternity boys. His bearing was that of a college student. By that I mean he bore the posture of entitlement. His confidence had authority behind it. He knew something about himself, and the environment he moved in, that would lead a stranger to ask questions.

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment
Categories: Project Amazonas

Yes, It’s Working

I’m so proud to report that AidJoy’s collaboration with Project Amazonas is resulting in thousands of people receiving healthcare in the Amazon.

Dr. Paul Kater investigating a child's sore throat

Dr. Paul Kater investigating a child's sore throat

I’ve been working for over two months in the Amazon. During that time I participated in two consecutive medical expeditions. Aboard the first expedition over 85% of the international volunteers (people living outside Peru) learned about Project Amazonas from AidJoy’s work. On the following expedition 100% of the international volunteers became participants because of AidJoy’s work. What began with a Google search such as “amazon medical trip” resulted in volunteers bringing medical aid to people in the Amazon.

When I wanted to take an authentic trip to the Amazon I searched online and found Project Amazonas. Everything I read and watched exceeded my expectations. With Project Amazonas I’m more than a traveler, I’m a participant.” Dr. Paul Kater

Technology, Media, and Marketing Volunteers.

Since 2008 there have been over seventy volunteers working at AidJoy to help expand the extraordinary efforts of Project Amazonas. This is the complete list of AidJoy’s wonderful participants:

Together our work enables Project Amazonas to:

* Provide medical aid to thousands of people.
* Purchase and equip an improved primary boat; the 74foot “Nenita”.
* Grow their volunteer base from around the globe.

What Happens Next?

We are going to show the world how difficult it is to receive medical care from remote parts of the Amazon rainforest. Additionally, people will get to meet the medical professionals that are dedicated to helping the people in the Amazon. And lastly, we will introduce a couple of sustainable solutions to the hardships facing these people.

* My deepest appreciation goes to, and our generous individual donors. Without your support this work would not be possible.

To see photographs of medical clinics cruise over to our Flickr page:

Also, some of Mike’s favorite photos are here:

Huge Hug,

A Double Rainbow In The Amazon Rainforest

A Double Rainbow In The Amazon Rainforest

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment
Categories: Jonathan's Thoughts, Project Amazonas, Team AidJoy

Marilu’s Journey To Medical Care

It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Mayer. Mayer and his wife Marilu have two children. We greatly appreciate Mayer taking time off of work to recount his wife’s third pregnancy with us.

Mayer Chavez recounting his wife’s struggle to get to proper medical care in the Amazon Rainforest.

Mayer Chavez recounting his wife’s struggle to get to proper medical care in the Amazon Rainforest.

When you travel through this part of the world you will see a lot of buildings with thatched roofs. The best of these roofs will withstand the daily torrential rains for seven years. The expertise to make such a roof is passed from master to apprentice. On the Cochiquinas river, Mayer is that master.

Three years ago Mayer’s wife, Marilu, was pregnant with their third child. She was also struggling with a mild case of malaria. It wasn’t mild in the eyes of Marilu. She was outspoken about the severity of her malaria with Mayer. But she didn’t look that sick, and how many times can someone be taken seriously if they piss and moan about cold after cold. It’s a rainforest here. It’s really humid and bronchial infections are as common as people sneezing when flowers begin to bloom back in South Carolina.

The sole bread earner can hardly be expected to play nursemaid every time his hypochondriac of a wife comes down with a cold.

Mayer goes back into the jungle to continue making thatched roofs.
At the time we first met Mayer he was working to fulfill an order for 100 thatchings. That’s enough material to cover a comfortable family house in the suburbs.
Unfortunately Marilu’s health continued to deteriorate while Mayer was out of town. Her father saw the urgency of the situation and took off to find Mayer.

Getting Marilu the help she needed was now the entire family’s highest priority. The following morning Marilu and Mayer paddled their dugout canoe eight hours to the mouth of the river, seeking help from a shaman. The dire nature of this situation is readily apparent to everyone. Mayer recounts to us his wife’s words, “you’ve killed me Mayer. You left me when I needed help and now you’ve killed me.”

At the point where the Cochiquinas and the Amazon River meet they find a shaman. She takes Mayer aside for further consultation.
Note: We haven’t talked with this shaman yet. I can only tell you what Mayer has shared with us.
“While you were away working another man has fallen in love with your wife. He wished you would die and sought the help of a different shaman. A curse that was intended for you was accidentally placed on your wife. Now I’m unable to help her.”

The nearest help from this point will take over a day of paddling to reach. Despite that tail of jealousy, the people in this area do take care of one another. Victor (I hope to have the actual name of this person for you soon) shuttled Mayer and Marilu down the Amazon to the nearest medical center in the village of San Francisco in his peki-peki.

Marques is the medical technician in San Francisco. Like the shaman, Marques did not feel qualified enough to help Marilu.

With the continued generosity of Victor, the peki-peki’s owner, they continue their journey to Pevas.

Pevas is the main city for over 100 communities. There are 6,000 people in Pevas and the hospital has a staff of thirty.

No different than the shaman and medical technician, the doctors in Pevas were not capable of providing the care that Marilu required.  They would need to travel to Iquitos.

The journey from Pevas to Iquitos:

A. Several days via peki-peki (substantial canoes with outboard engines).
B. twenty-four hours via colectivo (large boats transporting everything from people and chickens to bananas).
C. six hours via rapido (we call them speed boats).

Question: How expensive is too expensive to save your wife’s life?
Answer: $192

Facts from the rainforest:

A. Mayer earns 50 cents for each 12 foot length of thatching.
B. Annually Mayer earns roughly $400.
C. That $400 feeds their two kids, parents, and Marilu’s sister.
D. In Pevas a gallon of fuel is over four dollars.
E. A rapido consumes eight gallons of fuel per hour.
F. The trip from Pevas to Iquitos is six hours.

While Marilu is receiving medical care Mayer seeks funds from the mayor of Pevas. For emergency situations, such as this one, the mayor is able to provide funding for fuel.

The following morning Mayer and Marilu are on a rapido headed to Iquitos. Marilu’s harsh words soften on this final leg of their journey, “This situation is not your fault Mayer. You need to take care of our kids. They are all that matter. Take care of our kids.”

Marilu dies en route to Iquitos. Their unborn child is trapped and dies within her.

Mayer continues to make thatched roofs. He is not always alone in the jungle. “My children are now apprenticing with me. They are not ready to make thatching on their own. I am teaching them slowly and carefully.”

Travel Time To Medical Care In The Amazon Rainforest

* 8 hours in a dugout canoe
* 3-4 hours in a peki-peki from the Cochiquinas river to the medical center in the village of San Francisco
* 6 hours in a peki-peki from San Francisco to the hospital in Pevas
* 6 hours in a rapido from Pevas to Iquitos
TOTAL TRAVEL TIME: 23-24 hours to proper medical care

* Without the support of and generous individual donors this work would not be possible.

Cesar Pena interviewing Mayer Chavez about his wife’s tragic story trying to get to medical care in time.

Cesar Pena interviewing Mayer Chavez about his wife’s tragic story trying to get to medical care in time.

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment 1 Comment »
Categories: Jonathan's Thoughts, Project Amazonas, Team AidJoy

April In The Amazon With AidJoy

The Forward

As many of you know I really enjoy telling a story, and I spend hours and hours on the phone bringing people up to speed on what is new over at AidJoy. Sitting down and writing on the other hand seams to consistently get trumped by the daily fires that flair up.

The stories we have been piecing together over the last few weeks simply cannot get pushed aside for project management or thank you notes.


Why have we returned to the Amazon?

We are here to tell you about how extraordinarily difficult it is to get medical care in remote areas in the Amazon rainforest.

Once we illustrate this truth we will introduce you to a group of individuals that have been working to counteract this medical crisis since 1994.

How can we allow you to see through our eyes?

We are setting out to show you the people and the area they call home in the form of audio recordings, still images, small video cameras we wear as we work, and traditional videography. With all of this story telling equipment you’ll be able to gain an appreciation for the journey one must take when they need emergency medical care.

What has been accomplished in April?

We’ve been interviewing patients and medical staff in medical facilities and their homes within a several hundred-mile radius of Iquitos Peru.

Getting access to interview these people has been possible through our relationships with the former minister of health in the Loreto Region of Peru and the NGO Project Amazonas. That trust has been earned over 2.5 years of collaboration.

People’s open doors and hearts

I cannot emphasize to you enough how forthcoming patients and medical staff has been. We start off conversations with a brief introduction of who we are and what we aim to accomplish. From that point people begin to share a story of one of the saddest points in their life. We have seen time and again people do everything in their power to equip us with what we believe can help them in the years to come.

Actions of desperation

* To allow us to photograph their daughter’s bottom that is horrifically burned is an act of desperation.
* To tell us about being carried on a hammock for hours while your newborn remains connected to you by an umbilical cord is an act of desperation.
* A father that volunteers to loose a weeks pay, that he can ill afford, to talk with us next week is an act of desperation.

What’s coming?

Over the next week or so I will walk you through several of the stories we have been deeply effected by.

In the next blog entry you’ll learn about Marilu’s pregnancy while she had malaria.

* Without the support of and generous individual donors this work would not be possible.

Huge Hug,

Recording Marilu’s Story About Her Placenta Stuck Inside Her Uterus

Interviewing The Medical Technician Marques Casara Grandes At A Remote Amazon Clinic

The Village of San Francisco (in Peru not USA :-)) Medical Clinic

A Quick Conversation Before Talking With The Technician At The Village of San Francisco (in Peru not USA :-))

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment 2 Comments »
Categories: Jonathan's Thoughts, Project Amazonas

Chasing the Dream in the Peruvian Amazon

Traveling and working with someone can be a difficult task. You spend almost every waking moment together. You share meals, a bathroom, living quarters- you name it. The person is always there. Compound that with work that both people are passionate about. Work that both people have spent years of their lives pursuing. Work which they’ve invested everything they have into—financially, emotionally, creatively—which now embodies all their dreams, desires, hope, and passion.

Add to this situation two individuals who are both accustomed to walking their own respective paths. Two close friends who find themselves bound together by a common dream, both still unsure just how to obtain the lofty goal they’ve set for themselves.

Sounds pretty intense doesn’t it?

Welcome to the Jungle!

[Click the "learn more" button to get the rest of the story.]

By Jonathan Shanin Add Comment 3 Comments »
Categories: Project Amazonas, Team AidJoy, Travel