Location | Santarém, Brazil
Support | Community Initiatives in Brazil
Service Opportunities | Medical Placements, Clean water initiatives, Building Community Centers, Teaching English, Teaching Art
Cultural and Recreational Highlights | Amazon forest tour, Alter do Chão beach excursion, kayaking, capoeira, sports, dancing, Santarém night life
Evidence of human life dates back more than 11,000 years in the territory of current day Brazil. When the Portuguese arrived in the year 1500, the territory had an estimated indigenous population of 7 million. They were divided into nations, including the Tupis, Guaranis, Gês and Arawaks. Today Brazil is the world’s fifth largest country both in terms of landmass and population, and boasts the world’s seventh largest economy.
In 1992, Daniel Weiss, an US citizen and recent graduate of the University of Chicago, accepted an opportunity to volunteer at Fundação Esperança, a humanitarian organization based in the Tapajós region of the Brazilian Amazon. After returning to the United States to begin his PhD at the University of Minnesota, Daniel founded Amizade in an effort to connect more volunteers to the important work taking place in northern Brazil, an area that is less economically developed and considerably more rural than the wealthy south.
The Tapajós region is located in the western side of the state of Pará. Home to the vast Tapajós National Forest, the region comprises 25 municipalities, over one million people, and covers 722,358 square kilometers. Santarém is the the largest city in the region. It is an urban center located at the confluence of the Tapajós and Amazon Rivers with a population of over 250,000.
Soy and rice production are major industries in the area. The social and environmental impact of a growing agribusiness sector, are central concerns for governments, businesses, non-profits and whole communities of people. Land tenure is also a very polemic issue, illustrated by competing claims for the same tracts of land. Many individuals, sometime entire communities, relocate to Santarém from rural areas in search of jobs. These newcomers often graft themselves onto the city by building homes at the margins of outlying neighborhoods. Poverty at the city’s periphery is characterized by inadequate housing, poor health indicators and limited educational opportunities.
Lodging Dormitories, homestays possible | Food Lots of fresh fish, rice, beans, fruit
Flights Through Manaus, Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo | Visa Yes, in advance from an embassy
Communication Cell networks; wifi | Closest Airport Santarém, Brazil
Our Community Partners
The Pastoral do Menor | The Pastoral do Menor is a Brazilian non-governmental organization, under the social works umbrella of the Diocese of Santarém. It was founded in February of 1988. As a charitable, nonprofit, inspired by the Catholic faith, the Pastoral develops strategies for the social inclusion of at-risk youth in urban Santarém and it’s rural municipalities. Since its inception, the Pastoral do Menor has been campaigning for children’s rights, as well as offering a safe haven for children between the ages 8 of 18. The organization seeks to empower youth personally and professionally through educational courses, vocational training, academic support and recreational activities. Its courses include carpentry, silk-screening, knitting, jewelry making, sports, tutoring, musical instruments and singing, and computers. As of 2011, the Pastoral serves more than 2,000 at-risk youth. In addition to its on-site programming, the Pastoral helps its registered youth obtain health and legal consultations as needed
APAE | The Association of Parents and Friends (Amigos) of Exceptionals (APAE) was founded in 1977 to provide assistance in health, education, and welfare to people with disabilities. It is the only private, non-profit organization in the area (a region that is approximately the size of Belgium) that is actively promoting the prevention, rehabilitation, and education of physically and mentally disabled children.
SEARA | SEARA is a local non-profit that works with at-risk families in two of the poorest communities in the city of Santarém. They focus on malnourished children in early stages of development and work to address the social needs of their families. They operate a daycare for children 3-6 years of age and monitor the children’s nutritional needs. To help parents enter the job market, SEARA provides trade education to parents.
Available projects vary with each program. Volunteers do not need any special skills to participate, just a willingness to serve. Service projects are coordinated in accordance with a schedule set by the community; therefore, they may change at the last minute to better fit current community needs. Where possible, volunteers’ individual interests may be accommodated through specific service projects or additional recreational and cultural activities.
Amizade has been working in Brazil for over 15 years, and the impact has been tremendous. Amizade and local volunteers have achieved the following:
- Built a vocational training center for underserved youth and adolescents at the Pastoral do Menor.
- Built a children’s health center. The children’s center provides prenatal and early childhood health-care to over 1,000 children per month.
- Renovated a kitchen allowing a program for underserved youth to provide snacks and/or lunch to approximately 200 students per day.
- Built a well drilling center which brings fresh water to communities and schools. Volunteers also drilled half a dozen wells, bringing fresh water to hundreds of people in isolated communities.
- Built an orthopedic workshop to provide access to affordable orthopedic shoes in Santarém. The workshop employs 10 teenagers with developmental disabilities.
- Built a small guest house for a program that works with disabled teenagers and adults. The guest house serves as a vocational training program and also helps generate income to support additional programming.
- Built additional classrooms for schools and community organizations serving over 1,000 kids.
One of the most rewarding aspects of participating on the Amizade program is making friends with the local people. Brazilians are a warm, welcoming people who love to laugh, sing, and dance. Volunteers get the opportunity to work and play with the local people and also experience first-hand the rich culture of Brazil.
- Steve Alexander (2007) Santarém: Riverboat Town. Missouri Partners Publishing
- Kenneth Maxwell (2003) Naked Tropics: Essays on Empire and Other Rogues. New York and London: Routledge.
- Joe Jackson (2009) The Thief at the End of the World: Rubber, Power and the Seeds of the Empire. Penguin Books.
- Selections from Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn, The Fate of the Forest: Destroyers, Developers and Defenders of the Amazon (1990)
- Selections from Stephen Nugent and Mark Harris’s edited volume Some Other Amazonians: Perspectives on Modern Amazonia (2004)
- Selections from Cynthia Radding, Landscapes of Power and Identity: Comparative Histories in the Sonoran Desert and the Forests of Amazonia from Colony to Republic (2005).
Special Topics Resources-Health Care in Brazil
- Khazan, O.: What the U.S. Can Learn From Brazil's Healthcare Mess. Atlantic. 2014 https://www.theatlantic.
com/features/archive/2014/05/ the-struggle-for-universal- healthcare/361854/
- Gómez, E.: In Brazil, Health Care is a Right. CNN. 2012 https://edition.cnn.com/2012/
- Berkman, A., Garcia, J., Muñoz-Laboy, M., Paiva, V., and Parker, R.: A critical analysis of the Brazilian response to HIV/AIDS: Lessons learned for controlling and mitigating the epidemic in developing countries. American Journal of Public Health. 95(7):1162-1172, 2005. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.
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