Topic: Project Amazonas
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 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. Learn more
I’m so proud to report that AidJoy’s collaboration with Project Amazonas is resulting in thousands of people receiving healthcare in the Amazon.
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: http://www.aidjoy.org/ngo-corporate/index.html.
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.
To see photographs of medical clinics cruise over to our Flickr page:
Also, some of Mike’s favorite photos are here:
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.
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?
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 http://www.foreigntranslations.com and generous individual donors this work would not be possible.
The ForwardAs 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.
IntroWhy 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 heartsI 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 http://www.foreigntranslations.com and generous individual donors this work would not be possible.
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.]
Just thought I’d let you know a bit about what’s going on down here at the moment. Both Jonathan and myself are working on a couple of different stories and multimedia pieces that we will be sharing with you in the not-too-distant future. I would of loved to be able to have a couple of them finished by now but it’s more important that we do as good a job as possible then it is to just crank out “stuff”.
Last week we headed down the Amazon river to check out some leads for healthcare stories on the Rio Ampiyacu. For mere mortals it’s a 24+ hour trip one-way but we were able to do it in 5 with the help of our friends Cesar and Segundo and our trusty steed, the newly (re)named boat The Tamale Express. (She used to be named the Mai-Kai Express but being the manly men that we are the sole food we packed for our expedition—besides some peanut butter and jelly—consisted of a bag with cuarenta (40) Tamales)
I mean these things are cheap cheap cheap! Three for a dollar to be exact, and you can survive A-OK on one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. “What’s a Tamale” you ask? “That sounds disgusting!” you say? Well well well, you have no idea what you’re missing out on. The local Iquitoan Tamale consists of a corn and peanut mush peppered with eggs, some pork, the occasional olive, and some seasoning. They’re Frickin Fabulous!
…and after last week if I ever see another one I’m gonna gag. Seriously.
Annnyyywaaayyy… So! The Tamale Express has a 100 horsepower motor on it, and when you run it full throttle, and head downstream while staying in the center of the current (while swerving all over to avoid the trees and masses of bushes that also like the main current) you can make some pretty good time!
So we get to Pebas by early afternoon. Pebas is a town of about 5000 people that’s situated on a hill overlooking the confluence of the Rio Ampiyacu and the Amazon. It’s a regional capital of sorts and serves as the main hub for over 100 smaller communities and villages who all come here to buy Inca Kola (the national beverage) and *ding ding ding* get medical assistance!
Before we head to the health post though we have to check in with the local Apu (big man). Cesar leads us up a winding path to what could only be described as an Amazonian Castle! The place has a tower and everything! Cesar explains that the monstrosity looming above us belongs to the internationally renowned artist Francisco Grippa—and that he is very cordial with visitors (i.e. he likes to sell them things.) No one seems to be home so Cesar leads us inside one of the dozens of doors into The Gallery. I say “The Gallery” because it’s immediately apparent that The Grippa is a very serious artist. The room we’re now in is the main wing of The Gallery. It’s about 30 feet by 50 feet and has giant canvasses exploding with color… everywhere. The biggest piece is easily 12 feet by 16 feet with the average one being a measly 5′ x 8′ or so. Wild stuff!
While we’re poking around one of the Big Man’s people emerges and lets us know that The Grippa is in town- so off we go.
Down a path, through a gate, some mud and the main square later we find The Grippa relaxing in his bar and restaurant (they call it a Disco, but I never actually saw anyone dancing in the thing so I’m sticking with “bar and restaurant”) working on what does not appear to my carefully trained eye to be his first beer of the afternoon.
Now now now, a bit about The Grippa. And I’m struggling here because I’m not sure how best to describe this unique creature… Well, for starters, The Grippa is a very large man– and he’s always covered with an impressive display of paints, kind of like one of the Jungle Animals he loves so much to capture on canvas. The Grippa will always tell you what he thinks. The Grippa has a larger personality than 99.99% of the people you have—or will ever—meet. The Grippa is crazy. The Grippa Rocks!
[Click the "learn more" button to see the rest of the photos!]
More to come soon-
ODE TO AIDJOY AND THE BLACK BLOOD DRAGONS
by Bo Bryan
Going with AidJoy is risky business, off the chart, where the geodetic survey drops from the table, over the edge where discoveries are made. Where the olden time mapmakers signified the unknown with a terse warning, “Here There Be Dragons”.
Where AidJoy goes the dragons are sometimes microscopic, the size of sporozoites, those tiny, savage bugs that cook you alive in the slow fires of Malaria. Sometimes the dragons are flame-throwing, petroleum giants feeding on the Earth’s black blood, way up the Amazon River.
The dragons are always way up the river. This time in northern Peru, on the Rio Corrientes, a tributary of the Amazon, where a giant lizard, name of Occidental Petroleum, has sucked the black blood out of the Earth for thirty-five years, and now the river is sick. A lot of people who live along the river are dying, and nobody knows. AidJoy will go and investigate, taking medical personnel up the Corrientes, along with cameras, and journalists and all the equipment that directs the light of the civilized world into the caves where the dragons are.
BRIGHT LIGHT IS THE ONLY THING DRAGONS FEAR!
*click “Learn More” for the rest of the story
Mike & I are headed back to the Amazon. This will be the third trip, and probably final work related trip for AidJoy to this part of the world. We’ve been working with the charity Project Amazonas since the fall of 2008.
Since 1994 Project Amazonas has been busting their humps providing medical aid and land conservation in the Amazon. Since they began they have treated over 100,000 patients.
We are in the early stages of setting up a series of trips for prolific journalists to come aboard the boats and experience a true humanitarian adventure.
Here is our list of initial story ideas & journalists. This isn’t a final list. We’re open to your ideas. Feel free to suggest additional people and ideas.
I’ll keep you apprised as the expedition progresses.
My breathing and heart rate accelerate as the guard puts his key in the padlock holding the doors shut. The lock opens, the chain drops, the doors swing wide and the stampede begins. The crowd at the front of the line surges forward as though it were a single animal. Behind them, a thousand anxious footsteps, more people – pushing, yelling, whistling.
No, I’m not at a Black Friday sale at Macy’s. I’m at a hospital in the Peruvian Amazon. The people here aren’t fighting for a designer handbag or the latest electronic gadget, they’re just part of the daily struggle for healthcare in Iquitos, Peru.