UCLA Medical Program in the Amazon

by Amizade Global Service-Learning

This past July, six students from UCLA spent 10 days with Amizade Global Service-Learning and Amizade’s community partner, Fundação Esperança, traveling along the Trombetas river on a medical boat that provides health services to isolated communities. Read about the experience here and be sure to check out their fantastic photos here.

Traveling Down the Trombetas River on a Clinic Boat

Amizade volunteers in Brazil

The vast, green jungle surrounded us as we traveled down the Trombetas River on the clinical boat. I was traveling with Fundação Esperança, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing health services to isolated communities along the river. I had heard about their amazing work from Amazon Medical Program (AMP), a student organization at University of California, Los Angeles. We were all excited about the journey ahead of us, as well as what working in the Quilombo communities would be like. At night we sat on the roof of the boat and watched the stars, listening to the guitar, playing cards or making jokes. We were amazed how comfortable the hammocks were to sleep in, which is common in this region in Brazil. From river dolphins, monkeys and the beautiful jungle, it was one of the most impressive trips I have ever taken.

Volunteers in hammocks

Clinic Days in the Quilombo Communities
After traveling more than 24 hours to reach the first community, we awoke to see the sunrise and the community in the distance. Once we arrived, we set up the clinic outside the boat in less than an hour. Patients were lining up, waiting to be treated. The clinic had a variety of programs including pre-natal, gynecology, pediatrics, a laboratory and a growth and development program for the children. The students rotated and were able to spend time working in each of the programs. We saw everything from blood typing to minor surgeries. The community members were welcoming and loved that we were there to learn.

Amizade volunteer

We spent 5 days in the actual clinic. All of our meals were made by our cook, Albanita, who everyone on the boat adored. She worked so hard to accommodate everyone, even the vegetarians. She made some typical Brazilian dishes like Feijoada that were absolutely delicious. Our experiences both on the boat and in the community were remarkable and definitely some of the most unforgettable experiences of my life.

Amizade volunteer

Exploring Santarem
After returning to Santarem, a quaint city where Fundação Esperança is based, we had time to explore the city and the surrounding areas. We learned about Capoeira, a popular Brazilian martial art, and even were able to try out a few of their crazy moves. One of the coordinators from Amizade also took us on an adventurous jungle tour! A doctor that works with the Quilombo Project also took us around the newest public hospital in Santarem, where we saw the facilities and talked about the medical advances being made in this region of Brazil. We even ran into journalists from Globo, the biggest TV provider in Brazil, who interviewed our student group and broadcasted it on TV the same night! In the evenings, we went to live music bars or local restaurants for some entertainment, good food and fun. We also went to Alter do Chao, a scenic river-beach town where we were able to relax and enjoy the beautiful river. And for some more excitement, our group even went banana boating and kayaking! Brazil