A hidden garden of Eden ensconced in the heart of Peru, Puerto Maldonado rests upon the juncture of the Madre de Dios and Tambopata Rivers. Laden with wildlife and natural beauty, Puerto Maldonado mesmerizes visitors from around the world. The glory of mother nature manifests itself in the diversity of the near-by Tambopata Candamo Reserved Area, Manu National Park, and the Bahuaja Sonene. These pristinely protected reserves take us back to a land before time as we are forced to realize how breathtaking our Earth is so long as we are willing to live in harmony with it. Where else could you explore through one million hectares of virgin, verdant jungle and wake up to the collpa of Guacamayos, a flourishing of hundreds of melodious, multi-colored macaws and birds along the river horizon? This paradise, flowing with the tributaries of the mighty Amazon river, instills a sense of respect and admiration for mother nature that many of us take for granted as we routinely reside in the concrete jungles of human construction. Here in Puerto Maldonado, the city elopes with the jungle, as the 46,000+ residents of the city adopt the Peruvian Amazon and Pampas del Heath savanna as their culture; their way of life; their residence.
But they need our help.
Their struggling economy, dependent entirely on extraction of natural resources such as gold, wood, rubber, and fruits has cut-back to develop the eco-tourism industry for which we are so blessed to experience. But the indigenous tribes which guide us in their land: the Ese'eja, Machiguengas, Huarayos, Mashcos, Arasaris, Huachiparis, Shirenis, Inaparis, and the Amaricaris; all industriously work to make up for financial strife. Subsistence agriculture and cattle-ranching, along with a population explosion - mostly immigration from highlands, selective logging, and gold mining pollutes the Madre de Dios River and its major tributaries with mercury. Living conditions in the region are at the medium poverty level. 35% of the population in the Madras de Dios region depend directly on the Brazil nut industry, which is completed in three months and signifies a monthly per capita income of US$89. The agricultural products are maize, cassava, rice and plantains, which are sold in the local market or exported to Cuzco. All the major economic activities are however, still extractive - gold mining and timber exploitation are the principal endeavors. The poverty rate hovers constantly between 30 and 40%.
This pressure afflicts more than just adults, but also the children of these native tribesmen. With poor infrastructure connecting Puerto Maldonado to the rest of the world, there is little chance for the rest of the world to easily assist these hard-working, decent people. One proposed solution, the planned construction of a coast-to-coast, multi-national superhighway threatens to run directly through these remote jungle villages, literally cutting the community in two.
Progress in education
With historically low levels of investment in primary education and a highly centralized system, Peru has one of the most ineffective and inefficient educational systems in Latin America. In the Amazon, where villages and communities are famous for their voluntary work, the majority of self-financed public community projects have been dedicated to the construction and maintenance of their escuelitas (little schools) with little assistance except from their migrant clubs and associations in Lima or other large cities. This overwhelming drive to change personal, family, and community conditions by means of education began at least 150 years ago, at a time when public education was extremely limited and private schooling was open to only the elite mestizo and white populations of the few major cities. In 1990, however, 28 percent of all Peruvians, over 5 million people, were matriculated in primary or secondary schools, which were now within reach of people even in the remotest of places. The presence of a village school and teacher is considered by the poor as the most important first step on the road to "progress" out of poverty and a state of disrespect, if not for themselves, for their children.
Everyone in the area is affected, and supporting the children of these lovely people will enable the next generation to use the best of their culture and more modern technology to thrive in their environment. Educationally, the needs are great. The smaller schools in the outlying areas are barely recognized by the government and receive very little support. They do not have the proper school supplies, the few buildings they have are rotting and the sanitary conditions are deplorable.
In the city of Puerto Maldonado, the high school is more equipped, but the roof is still rusting and the microscopes in the lab are from the 1950's. Further, when a young person decides to go to secondary school, the student's family has to divide itself. One of the parents moves with the young student to the main city and the other partner stays in the community to maintain the farm. Mostly, the situation of these poor and newly arrived families in the city of Puerto Maldonado is unsafe and precarious. In a culture that is relying more and more on the tourism industry, they need ovens, electrical equipment and woodshop tools in order to learn the skills necessary to earn a living in this industry and help support their families.
Anatta's plan involves assistance in both educational and medical arenas. Through the dedicated efforts of our Vice President, Jeri LaVigne, we have established a strong, proud, and reliable local network which has proven its readiness to follow through on our projects.
Already, the Filial Madre de Dios Hospital has received a badly needed heart monitor that will provide life-saving support to the community. This hospital, however, remains in dire need of even the most basic medical supplies. Bandages, saline, and antiseptic are in short supply and medical equipment is decades out of date. We have received a "wish list" and are making every effort to continue to improve the conditions in this badly undersupplied medical facility.
On our trip in November of 2006, Anatta is also committed to begin an ongoing process dedicated to the enhancement of the educational programs at three local primary schools. In addition to provision of basic school supplies, we will begin by donating requested educational materials and provide financial support to enable local carpenters and builders to begin proper construction of classrooms, a kitchen and bathrooms which will meet the fundamental requirements for a safe, sanitary learning environment. The possibility of educational enrichment programs will be explored, and incorporated into the second phase of our projects. We will also implement a secondary school scholarship sponsoring program for these impoverished children, helping capable students improve their academic skills and achieve a higher degree of academic success in these remote areas.
In the midst of the Amazon rainforest, the residents of Puerto Maldonado work hard to balance preservation of their unique ecosystem with the demands of maintaining a struggling economy. Influx of immigrants, poor infrastructure, and lack of adequate education help keep living conditions at the poverty level. Anatta's projects continue to enrich the standard of living by improving health care, hygiene, and educational services.