Taking a boat from the confluence of the Amazon and Tapajós Rivers, winding through a thick rainforest canopy, there are multitudes of wildlife in all directions. Primates dangle from trees, colorful birds take flight, and vibrant tropical vegetation surrounds. There is the buzzing of insects, murmur of the river, and rustling of leaves, all sounds that make up the unique symphony of the rainforest. With each bend of the river comes a new and stunning view of the vast foliage. Though this may sound like the setting of a National Geographic documentary, it is the setting of an adventure that many Amizade participants experience each year during volunteer programs in Brazil.
Amizade volunteers begin their river tour in Santarém, a city of nearly 300,000 people located where the Amazon and Tapajós Rivers converge. With a large population and limited resources, poverty has been a problem for the area of Santarém. The people in the region have dealt with such issues as poor health and nutrition, inadequate housing, and a struggling education system. Because of these problems and limited resources, the Tapajós River along with the Amazon, are very important to the environment and livelihoods of the people in Santarém. When Amizade volunteers take a trip upon these rivers, they have a chance to learn about the rivers’ significance to the Santarém people. They learn about how the rivers provide a source of water, water that is used for both drinking and as method of irrigation for growing crops. Volunteers also learn about how the rivers are a primary source of transportation for many Santarém people to surrounding villages and communities. These lessons make the river boat trip through the Amazon not only an incredible adventure, but an important opportunity to better understand the livelihoods of the local people.
The river tour through the Amazon is yet another instance of how Amizade programs are able to connect significant learning with exciting adventure. Not only are volunteers given the incredible opportunity to explore the Amazon Rainforest, with all of its spectacular wildlife and foliage, but they also are given the knowledge to connect this landscape and environment to the lives of the people within the community that they serve. This service, learning, exploration, and adventure make the river tour in Brazil all part of the Amizade experience.