Vanishing Cultures Foundation // Expedition Peru
Our 2012 VCF Expedition, including 16 people from all over North America, traveled to the Iquitos area of Peru where it was beautiful, sad, and rewarding all at the same time. We found the conditions very horrendous. The Amazon and tributaries leading to the Amazon River were 15- 20 feet above normal.
This has been consistent since June 2010. I was there 2 years ago and was speechless at the destruction of the local villages in every level. There are no schools in session because they are under water. The churches are all under water. The local stores are gone. Life, which usually relies on the water, now completely exists and is at the mercy of the river.
The water is full of filth. Trash, debris, sewage, garbage, oil, all floating in the river. There is no place for anything to go except into the river. The elders say this is the worst condition anyone has ever seen.
We were speaking to a man whom has spent 5 years building and digging wells to bring clean water to the people. Every single well has been flooded and is of no useâÂ¦5 years of work destroyed!
When our VCF group arrived we were carrying school supplies, basic dental supplies, and W4W filters. There were so many in need we did not know where to start. So we decided to start at a small village we worked with last year. Our last visit to this visit was magical. It reminded us all of the land in the movie of Avatar, enchanting and mystical. The people loved the land and were working to preserve it for future.
Upon our arrival, we found an entirely different placeâÂ¦ the people were the same full of hope and joy however the land did not exist. This village was gone. All the houses were under water, they were building new houses higher up attached to the old houses. No land to play on, no land for the animals to exist on, no grazing, no farming, barely existing. Only fish was a regular food source, fish from a very polluted river.
We began our distribution of school supplies and health care supplies on a five-foot front porch of a recently rebuilt home. The entire village came on boats, it was the only way. Everyone tried to fit on the small porch, it began to sway from the weight however no one seemed to notice. After all the supplies were distributed, the children all went and waited in the boats.
It was time for the Water filters to be disturbedâÂ¦.we had many families and only 11 filters. How could we decide who should receive them????? We could not choose so allowed the village members to decide.
The mayor received one, the largest families received one, the center families received one, they all decided who should get one, it was an amazing process to watch since everyone wanted and needed one. Everyone seemed happy with the results. If they did not exist in the belief of ayni, everything will be equal and balanced, they would not be existing today.
Later in the day just before we departed I walked into the back of the house. There sat a teenage boy explaining how to work, put together, and clean the whole water system. About 10 kids surrounded him with their eyes fully concentrated on the directions.
He looked up at me and said, âÂÂ they all need to know how this works, it will help us live a healthy lifeâÂÂ. Mmmmm, not much needs to be said.
We also decided to give our friend Luis a Water filter. He has purchased many acres of the jungle to preserve it and teach the local people about the medicinal qualities of the jungle. He is passionate about saving and utilizing the gifts of the jungle not destroying it. He has many local communities come and spend time with him to learn and knows clean water is truly a necessity of life. He was overjoyed when we shared the filter with him, he ran around his entire compound to find the largest plastic barrel for the filter, and said next time he was going to town he would buy the largest barrel he could find!
The people of Iquitos were very grateful for even a little help. Their own government does not help the indigenous people of Peru. We all know in our heads every little bit helps many, however leaving the Iquitos area was sad for us all because so many are in need. We are grateful for our donors and W4W for all it does to change the world.
We would like to thank our Peruvian team members for all their help.
Fernando Huaman Santos
Alberto Alonso Valderrama
Munay, Denise A. Kinch and the entire VCF team