The indigenous community of the Tahuayo River basin consists of approximately 8,000 people who live in 12 villages. The majority of our staff were born in these villages and the communities have a long history of involvement both in the conservation program of the ACRCTT as well as eco-tourism activities of Amazonia Expeditions. Our guests are always welcome to visit the villages to see how the people live using sustainable resources of the forest. Cultural practices, such as shamanism, are of interest to many of our guests and are made available by the communities without the ugly practice of begging which has degraded ecotourism operations in so many parts of the world.
Amazonia Expeditions has long provided aid to reciprocate the kindness, conservation ethic and assistance provided to us by the indigenous people of the Tahuayo River. To this end Amazonia's director Dolly Arevalo Beaver incorporated a non-profit organization, Angels of the Amazon (AOA), recognized by the IRS as a legal non-profit. AOA has managed to raise funds to provide substantial support for the local communities. The aid provided can be categorized into three major spheres: medical and health care, educational assistance and economic programs.
Our major health initiative has been support of the medical clinic in Esperanza Village. AOA reconstructed the rural clinic in 2009, adding concrete floors, two emergency care rooms, bathrooms and offices for clinical staff. In 2010 a maternity room was added by AOA. In 2011 we added electricity by solar power to provide evening lights for medical procedures and to refrigerate vaccines and antivenin. The obstetrics/gynecology nurse is paid entirely from AOA funds. AOA also helps to provide medicines and medical supplies. The clinic is considered to be the best rural clinic within Peru's Amazon region. Although built to provide for the people of the Tahuayo River basin, some people come from other communities days away because of its reputation for quality care. The clinic sees an average of 20 patients a day.
Sometimes individual medical needs are beyond the scope of care offered at the clinic. We see this with 2-3 people a year who need some exceptional procedure. AOA has provided the funding for surgeries to restore sight, hearing, ability to walk, ability for mandibular function, reconstruct lower intestines and faces, cancer treatment etc. in special hospitals in Iquitos, Lima and in the United States for many children and several adults.
Plans are also underway to provide pure well water for the villages of the Tahuayo. AOA and Amazonia Expeditions are partnering with SAIWI (Students Assn for International Water Issues) to determine the most feasible way to engineer sanitary wells.
Outside of the Tahuayo River basin AOA assists and provides supplies to the AIDS House in Iquitos. Over a thousand dollars of supplies are donated to the AIDS house annually, helping to raise the quality of care for patients there.
We started our scholarship initiative with a handful of girls, thirsty for knowledge, wanting careers, aspiring to continue their education beyond the elementary grades. We knew that many social as well as economic issues in the world can be solved with the education of women. Before we started our initiative most of the Tahuayo girls that went to elementary school were done with their education by age 13-14, then got married to have children. There were no other choices in their village. If they wanted to continue with their education the only place to go for high school was in the city or to another village, far away from home. The parents of this poor region could not afford that expense. With the support of their sponsors and the courage to leave their village, we found a place for them in high schools in Iquitos city. Today these young women have jobs in Iquitos or Lima, are financially independent and are able to support their families. Through education they were able to break free from the vicious cycle of agrarian poverty.
From these brave pioneers we built the program to the point where some 40 plus children, boys as well as girls, are now in our scholarship program. As much of a success as this program has been to the students fortunate enough to be placed in it, it still fails to address the aspirations of hundreds of children on the Tahuayo River. Seeing the power of education to transform lives, most of the young children of the Tahuayo River now hunger to continue their education. They dream of all the options in life that education can open to them. But there are simply too many children wanting an education, for us to manage in our current program.
The only way that a high school education can be brought to all of the Tahuayo children who desire it, is to build a high school in the largest village of the upper Tahuayo River, Chino Village. To this end Angels of the Amazon has secured a grant from the organization Be The Change Volunteers to begin construction of a high school in Chino Village. Construction on the first classroom began in August 2014 and by the start of 2016 we have a functioning high school with two classrooms and restrooms. The project will continue another 5 years, adding classrooms, cafeteria, library, teacher’s room, sports facility and agronomy laboratory. The classrooms are built on raised concrete columns, high enough above ground level so that if another massive flood ever hits the region again, the community could use it as an emergency shelter. We have the approval and cooperation of the government which provides teachers and accreditation as well as the cooperation of the community leaders.
AOA and Amazonia have provided for several economic initiatives. Dolly organized the women's artisania cooperative, which trains the women to make beautiful baskets from renewable resources such as palm fibers, in the traditional style of their culture. In addition to keeping this artistic tradition alive, the sale of the baskets provides for a needed cash income for the villages. Since the baskets are woven by the native women, their economic empowerment has helped them to find a voice in politics of their communities and uplifted their self-esteem in their own home.
Hunting was greatly decreased in the ACRCTT by the agreement of Amazonia to train and hire those who hunted as conservation assistants, to assist in maintaining the trail grid and to provide for a continuing census of wildlife populations.
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