Amazonas Explored

Season’s Report 2016

A massive THANK YOU for joining us in this beautiful country next summer. We know it’s  not always easy to find the time and raise the funds.

Please enjoy reading about last summer’s achievements as this will give a complete picture of the vast amount of assistance you will be giving to the local community through your generosity!

The work is ongoing with our Australian and New Zealand volunteers and then will recommence in April of this year when our first group of North American and British volunteers arrive to carry on with these vital projects. 

Group 1

Pakay Chicta Community

Education with Maria Jose

CENTRO EDUACTIVO COMUNITARIO ‘’CAMILO CERDA’’  

With group number one we have practiced again everything we have taught the last season to the children.

  • From 9-12 years old- children can recognize very well the following: Alphabet, Colours, Numbers 1-1000, Shapes, Animals, Days of the week, months of the year and Fruits.
  • From 6-8 years old- children can recognize very well the following: Alphabet, colours and numbers. Also we have practiced with them some English songs like: Bingo, old MacDonald, wheels on the bus, if you are happy and you know it, Hokey Pokey and two more nice songs sung with actions with the body.

May is very known in whole world to celebrate our moms and say how much we love them.

Children don't have the possibilities to buy a present to their moms so we decided to make with the volunteers and children during the classes beautiful presents with our hands. With the older students we made a bouquet of flowers and a card with some decorations. With the younger kids we made a card, one flower with a heart in the middle. Children and volunteers were so happy to make it and the teachers were so grateful for this help.

Vinny

Some of the volunteers were working on a bathroom and on the last day the lady living in the house made chocolate syrup and sliced banana for them. They really liked this because they felt the lady really appreciated the work they had carried out. Also a lot of the volunteers held a 'Christmishualli'. They exchanged gifts and had a great night. It was a nice thought and they really enjoyed it.

Felicia and Christina brought  polaroid cameras to the two communities and took a photo of each kid as they received their gift. Matilda, another volunteer, dated each picture and instructed the kids to give the picture to their parents. It was a cool idea and you could tell it meant a lot to the parents.

Xavier

  • Three completely finished bathrooms,
  • Three are ending and stay made the bathroom floor tanks based on the tank walls and lids. To make this work we had to extract sand and gravel often in the track loaded into the wheelbarrow.

One day we started working and we had to start building the walls and reviewed each of the tanks as always for prevention and in the third skeptic tank saw a snake was asleep and volunteers stared and I was very afraid because I played it out to me, then down and grip try to prove that was not afraid but if I had hahahaa but the snake was very quiet, then the grip and slowly pull and then went to leave in the jungle and volunteer put very happy

Jungle trek with Pippa

Hiking, learning about medicinal plants, learning about local agriculture, tubing, quiche handicrafts, navigational night canoe, traditional chicha tea, performance to the local school children, presentation of gifts, football, cacao hot chocolate and cacao bliss balls, aqua dulce tea, camp fires, marshmallow toasting, moonshine shots, massage circles, blow gun practice and ceramics masterclass.

Group one were lucky enough to find poison darts frogs and snakes along the way. The song they sung to the community that was the brain child of one of the volunteers, Andy who also acted as our Maestro and was convinced that “Babe” had 2 syllabus, All but 4 of the group took part in the Shamanic ceremony, and we visited Santa everyone was super impressed by the skill of the ceramic ladies and got some lovely gifts for mother’s day

Group two, after a few falls, all made it safely to camp. During the night canoe the first night, we almost lost Waseem to the caimans! The group made the most of their tribal make overs during the plantation tour and managed to avoid falling during the river walk.. although success didn’t last long and they got stuck back in the mud! The next morning, the river flooded camp! This only happens once a year and almost made it to the kitchen! Luckily we didn’t lose the canoes.

Group 2

Pakay Chicta Community

Vinny

  • We dug two holes in difficult weather conditions.
  • We transported enough gravel, sand, stones and blocks to two remote  homes located at the end of a long and difficult trek.
  • We laid brick for two septic tanks and mixed and laid cement to cap them.

The group continued to contribute for money raised for the kids of Pakay Chicta. Collecting almost 200 dollars for shoes and other necessities.

Both groups visited the El Jardin restaurant and had a great night trying traditional Ecuadorian food.

Xavier

We were extracting gravel, touched us loaded into sacks and the road was very muddy and there is a little uphill, so I loaded first to show volunteers but slipped and fell down again hahahaha I had to start again and say wait volunteers to bring shovels and make some steps.

A hole that was done before,  made the bathroom floor and the base of the skeptic tank, also the walls and lid are made, they made two holes and these two most bathroom floors became the basis Skeptic Tank and walls are half, for all this work the volunteers had to carry a lot of sand gravel and cement blocks was very hard, but the volunteers did. Also the first step of the new project is to actually wiped trunks sounds easy but was hard.

Jungle trek with Pippa

Group B, all made it safely to camp and re-united after the 3 and 7 hour hikes for dinner before the shaman arrived. This experience was new and exciting and everyone had lots of questions. Everyone enjoyed getting tribal on the plantation tour, had to abandon all thoughts of getting home dry from the walk along the ‘stream’ and went bravely forth into the river for tubing where almost all avoided the whirlpool! Apart from Jacqueline and Emily… that will be something to tell the grandkids when you are older! On the night canoe we saw camen and owls, a very lucky spot by this group! The kids enjoyed Alex pretending to be a snowman, almost as much as Alex did ;) - GO TEAM LIT!

Group A, a very rainy day of hiking allowed for some very interesting routes through river to camp, officially made your way out of the jungle alive! Pippa and Kate made a slight diversion, along the river on canoe from Missy, the river was so high you couldn't see the beach! And met everyone back at camp. To make up for the high water Fabio kept us warm and made us a small fire, although the shamans magic was needed to keep everyone healthy.. and luckily he arrived on the second night after enjoying Santa Barbara ladies visit the camp and a much more relaxing tubing day. The children in the community were blown away by the groups rendition of happy as you know it, and that night bonded under the stars after the canoe ride before heading back to Missy the next day.

Rafting was extreme, the first full flip of the season!

Group 3

Pakay Chicta Community

Education with Maria Jose

  • I made a list of English questions of each topic that children learned in the classroom practice with volunteers. It’s amazing to see how fast they learn and how interesting they were for learning English. Always asking us: How do you say this in English? and this,.......
  • With the little kids we spend a good time with many English songs and some movies.
  • We painted also four toilets

About the new project in Misahualli, on Sunday we fixed the path close to the beach. We clean the way and we carry lots of rocks to put in both sides of the path. Also we removed a tree that falled in the middle of the path.

We kept with the idea of Venancio (the teacher of the school) about to write in big papers  everything we had taught to the students so the teacher can continue practicing with them in the future. So we finished this.

It was really sad to say goodbye the children and the rest of the people. They were so grateful for helping Pkay Chicta community giving the toilets each family and  for helping at the school too. 

Also with the money that Vinny collected we could buy good shoes each children from the school and some cookies.

The farewell party was really good, they bring a professional dancer. That was very cool.

Vinny

  • Four and half toilets were finished, two of which were very far away and took a lot of work to move materials.
  • One house was located in a remote area where volunteers need to walk through a river carrying blocks and bags of gravel.
  • Pakay Chikta community is now complete. I believe VESA has made a huge positive impact on the community’s infrastructure and people.

Volunteers participated in the final farewell party for Pakay Chikta. It was a special event however sad. Saying goodbye to this community was difficult. More locals than ever attended the bitter sweet party and it made for a memorable occasion.

Volunteers worked on one of the most challenging holes I have witnessed. The rain made this hole collapse three times but the volunteers didn´t lose spirit and persisted. It was the last bathroom we would build in Pakay Chikta so it was important to get it right before we left and it took a special effort from volunteers to complete.

Xavier

To complete the work in the community dig the last two holes were completed and two bathrooms that were half the work.

This required removing gravel and charge to make the covers of skeptics extract and load a lot of sand to keep building the walls and plastering, so that the work remains very well the last two holes we extract more gravel we bases bathroom floor tanks and the basis for the skeptic tank, load block, carry sand, and the bathrooms were almost completed, workers need only plastering and put the toilets, sinks and also the ceiling. Mission accomplished.

Also in the Misahualli proyect, is sanded and applied to wooden sticks liquid to heal and repel insects with the half group.

Also in other day the river increase the water level, so we had to repair some trails, it was very hard work that still raining soft.

Normal day was sunny and we continued working, we were very excited to continue loading sand into the house of the grandfather, had lunch and returned to work, it was time to load the block, we did the first time, but when we returned began to increase the level water of small river, we were all surprised, but we all worry about the block, so we began to load faster and the children helped us a lot, and we did, just upload and it was time to leave the place, and when we returned to increased but the water level did not look the way so I went first and place was very high and I did not know so I stepped and sank into the water and the children thought he was playing so the children were launched and began playing in the water hahahaha, and some volunteers also played hahaha was fun.

Jungle trek with Pippa

Group B, after a full day and night of rain, the beach in Misahualli disappeared, the river was so high the marines wouldn't let out the canoes so we had to quickly re-organise and take taxis out to the drop off. The groups split, those with Fabio got a little more than they bargained for… the rain had washed away the trail..!! So, they had no other option than to make a new one… and they may have circled once or twice on the way. The new route with Gregorio was also wild, the group had to wade  through rivers but eventually everyone found their way safely to camp. We were all greeted with a handsome Italian visitor, learnt lots about each other.. especially Carl! During never have i ever, and were serenaded by Rachel and Meghan on the last night after drinking the bar dry! Carl fell off the seat and made a swift exit, and we all closely followed back to bed. It was Jonas’s birthday on the last day.. as tradition here he was tied up to a pole and given the Ecuadorian version of birthday bumps!

Group A, a little less wet but no less fun, each of the groups soaked up the knowledge from the experienced jungle guides, swung from the vines and ate the poor little termites for lunch! As we all arrived at camp to relax, romances began to blossom. The boys that didn’t make the plantation tour were brought back a ‘special’ gift which to their delight turned out to be very useful… After a day full of excitement in the community, some camp members got Bear Grills and killed a chicken for extra dinner! At the community, Shannon was our star player, but secretly cursed the big puddle! That evening, a new camp record for the most moonshine was set… Fabio will need to be busy brewing more for the next group!! But, it was not without its casualties.. Sofia was the first to fall victim, closely followed by her fellow campers to bed and the night finished early after welcoming in Mae’s birthday, we returned to the village the next day as warriors of the jungle!

Group 4

Tuyano  Community

Education with Maria Jose

(Escuela Fiscomisional ‘’Padre Carlos Verdoya’’)

At the new community school there are only 22 students from 1st up to 7th grade. At the moment they have holidays for two months more or less. So I divided the 22 children in two groups. One from 6-9 years to work from (8am to 10am) and the second group from 10-13 years old from (10am-12) and it works. With the pass of the days I was having more and more students because they pass the voice the rest of the children that don't study there. So we had in the class five more students from 14-16 years old too.

Teacher told me that is the first time they have so many English teachers :)

We started from cero. I provided one small English notebook each student for the English classes.

So I can't wait to come back again with the group and see the children.

Everybody were waiting for us the first day, the people and the children. That was really nice from them. :)

I want to give a big thanks to ''Callum Blades'' for his donation of $300. With this money we could buy paint and all necessary to change the school. He participated every day after lunch painting the school with more volunteers. Some days with the help of the kids :)

We finished one classroom inside and looks great!!!. Everybody were so happy watching the big change.

Although we couldn't finished the second classroom and one wall from outside of the school, there's more leftover paint to finished one afternoon with volunteers. 

Vinny

We broke ground in Tuyano community. I do often say we worked in testing condition however this was the most challenging job to date. The homes were located on top of a hill with a steep and winding trek. This meant every block, grain of sand and gravel, cement and tools were carried on back up the hill, often in mud and rain. It was difficult but the most rewarding job I have worked on. Some volunteers really shone in these tough conditions.

We completed one bathroom, came very close to completing the second bathroom at the very top of the hill and dug hole for two other bathroom.

Callum Blades was the man of the trip, fundraising an additional 300 dollars, he provided the funds to paint the school and playground, making a huge impact on the entire community as the school is the focal point. A huge thank you to Callum.

Xavier

The new community received us very well, we started working on the mountain, the road did not look so bad, but it started to rain a little, then the road became very slippery, we have to climb all the work materials It became very complicated, but when we had to go down again was very funny We are skidding down in the mud.

With this group dig four holes for septic tanks, They made the floor of the bathroom in all septic tanks, They made the base of the septic tank into two, of the two bathrooms of the mountain, one is completely finished, the other is almost finished, we just need make walls in the tank and the lid.

The other two septic tanks, it is impossible to walls because the area leaves much water, So in one is made the lid and the toilet floor, the other one is not complete the dig but is made the toilet floor

Jungle trek with Pippa

Both groups were incredibly lucky with the weather for their jungle hikes, especially the first group.. and this always means more creepy crawlers are around for us to admire. During the first plantation fields the groups learned about the Hatun Sacha reserve, its biodiversity and the difference between primary and secondary rainforest, including what makes their environments different. As we wandered through the cacao plantation of Gregorios family, we were able to sample some of this super fruit before we moved further into the deep forest. Once inside, the volunteers learned about a whole number of medicinal plants, through from the treatment of cancer, to bronchitis, to helping children trying to take their first steps. We saw the cocoons of the caterpillars almost ready to be butterflies (if there not eaten as a delicacy first!) and swung through the trees, just like real Tarzans and janes of the jungle! In Group A, we had facials in the jungle using the natural clay from one of the streams - even in the wilderness, we all need good skin! And somehow we managed to loose and found a mobile phone in all that green… Well done to Hannah!  Once at camp, the groups were ready for the feast that awaited them, and the shaman. The sacred practice of the shamans in this area were shared with the volunteers, including an explanation of why and how these special people use the ancient knowledge of the amazon plant systems to help them when diagnosing problems in the community.  After the shaman had taken the sacred ayhuassca drink, those who participated received a cleaning ritual from using surupanga leaves and ancient mantras.

On the plantation tour the groups learned more about the plants and food that the local families grow in the Santa Barbara community, and a king and queen of the jungle were crowned and those who were lucky enough got to spot a snake by the stream. We saw banana spiders.. some harmless, some slightly poisonous!! Owl eye butterflies, sampled some delicious lemon ants and all learnt how to keep away snakes with garlic, hunt like the wurani by smothering yourselves in termites and how to make a basket big enough to carry home your kill! After all that hard work in the wilderness the group were rewarded by a leisurely tube down the Arajuno river, and spotting owls during the night navigational canoe. On the sad day back to Misahualli the group got chance to monkey around at Amazoonico and learn the ancient technique of Amazon pottery. In group B we had our first and only volunteers of this season who were brave enough to try their own individual bowls of chicha, Jordan, Paul, Fiona and Gemma.. well done guys!! You even managed to keep steady feet during the hokey cokey, which i know the children really enjoyed, and their gifts too. Thanks also to the football team and the cacao helpers!!:)

Group 5

Pakay Chicta Community

Education with Maria Jose

Before to start to work with group Nº5 I organized a ''holiday course to learn English'' because children started the school holidays, so the first day many students were waiting for us. It was a good sign. :)

More Students came to me to ask if is possible to join to the English classes, so volunteers had the chance to work with students from 15-18 years old. So we had to make a new group to work only with them.

With the rest of the students from the school we could teach the following:

  • What is your name? , Alphabet (they can spell their names very well), Colours and Numbers 1-100.
  • We played Bingo to practice numbers. This was the most excited game for them because the winner was going to have a surprise prize.

One more season has finished.

I would like to thank to all VESA volunteers to choose this magnificent program that will undoubtedly change your life. Even for me because every day is different and always there's something new to learn with the children at the school and with the rest of the people in the communities. All this will be forever in our hearts.

Thank you very much again and as I always say it was a pleasure to meet wonderful people this season, thank you for your help and for being so nice with children and with these two beautiful dogs

Vinny

  • We finished up Tuyano Community for the season.
  • We finished off four bathrooms and took and dug a hole + laid the base of a fifth bathroom.
  • A number of volunteers made a huge effort on the final day to finish the hole they were working on, staying on an additional hour and working as hard as they could.

The group raised money for shoes for the kids, local ill dogs and general community projects.

On the last day there was a small amount of mixed cement left over at one house. A teenage boy living at the house was watching us work. We asked him was he interested in Volleyball and would his parents mind if we made a volleyball court beside his house. He was happy with the idea so we took two trees which had been chopped down, cleared the branches, then dug two holes and set them in concrete. The family stretched fishing net across the poles and marked the boundaries to make a volley ball court.

The farewell party was amazing. It was close to 7pm by the time we arrived back in Misahualli as the volunteers were having such a good time dancing, playing soccer and playing with the kids, they did not want to leave.

Xavier

This time to the floor of a bathroom was fun to find stones, because in a small river there are many, but we needed to find flat stones, because the floor of the ground was not level, we had to remove many more stones, haci that we did a competition to find, was very nice.

We finished the second bathroom of the mountain, made two more holes in the two holes are made the bathroom floor, in one is made the cap don’t building walls because water flows!, another bathroom before I am turned the hole, cap, and the bathroom floor is almost finished just need to put the toilet and washing hands, in the mountain but more close are there house and the president forget tell us before we made the toilet floor don’t digging because I found an underground natural canal and only joined the tubes that channel, and for this we carry gravel and cement. in general we had to carry much gravel, sand and cement. Progress was rapid because it is not far.

Jungle trek with Pippa

No automatic alt text available.We all shared the incredibly hard work in construction, and the team managed to complete a huge amount of work. For the jungle hike, we were joined by Vinny, Xavy and Maria which was great to have the whole VESA staff team out in the jungle together. During the first plantation fields the groups learned about the Hatun Sacha reserve, the 3 communities who live there, and were given biology talks on the different fruit and medicinal plants we passed along the route on towards camp. We arrived in good time and the group had chance to relax in the hammocks by the river before our first meal.. the shaman couldn't make the first evening so the group got to know each other a little better playing cards by candlelight. The 2nd day, we had an emergency on camp and Lydia had to be rushed back to Misahualli after being bitten by a camppuchino spider who was hidden in her boot. We were all very worried when the group entered the plantation tour but knew she was in the best hands with Pepe and Maria. We introduced the group to the family who neighbor Eco Selva and who own the plantation, we used the seeds for the Achiote tree to paint the faces of the volunteers, using the indigenous Kichwa symbology, and swore the new tribe into the jungle.

In the afternoon, we relaxed tubing down the river and had the chance to take in the beautiful views from the water’s edge, when Pepe arrived to pick us up in the canoe, Lydia was back! We were all really happy to have her back and safe.. celebrated by a huge mud fight started by Fabio… but I'm sure he managed to escape the mud!!! Back at camp the group learnt how to make dream catchers using vines from the jungle that were collected on the first day and brackets, using seeds from the trees in the Amazon. The same seeds are using in the sacred practice of the shamans to protect them from bad spirits. The shaman arrived later that day and the group participated in the cleansing ritual, which was a special experience for everyone involved. The ancient knowledge of the amazon plant systems is truly fascinating.

The next day the group visited the Santa Barbara community, the group wowed them with their impeccable singing and choreographed dance moves.. Impressive! Because this was the last day of the season, the community held a small fiesta and the volunteers were invited to dance with members to celebrate our time there this season. In the afternoon  we collected firewood on the way up the river for the 2nd tubing afternoon and we built a fire that night when back at camp. We toasted marshmallows under the full moon, and shared stories around the fire. It was a great send off and the group were all awake bright an early for the blow gun demonstration, Amazoonico and the pottery house before returning to Misahualli.

It was a great day out rafting, the river was SO high, we had to chance the itinerary and stopped into Puerto Napo for lunch before heading all the way down the river to Misahualli!

I LOVED this group, I think you are all amazing and I'm so happy to have shared my last weeks in the jungle with you guys. Thank you!!