In March 2016, we began work on two exciting and important initiatives, which are a continuing unfolding of the work we have been engaged in here for over five years and an indication of the strength of the relationships we have formed with our indigenous partners.
The first project is offering a much-needed basic health service to urban Shipibo communities. People in these communities, especially young children and babies, suffer from many illnesses such as diabetes, flu, gastroenteritis, sickness and diarrhea.
These are caused by both extremely unhygienic conditions – though our recent installation of eco-latrines in half the households in the commmunity of Bena Jema is helping with this (see before and after photos above) – and poor nutrition due to the change from traditional diets – of fish, fruit, and animals from hunting – to a more Western diet of cheap processed food.
This project is being jointly led by Carolina Mahua, a Shipibo woman with great knowledge of traditional plant medicine, and Christiane Ulrich, a trained midwife and homeopath from Germany with over thirty years of experience.
For a month, Carolina and Nine have been visiting and treating Shipibo families in their own homes in the urban community of Bena Jema, with the support of our good friend Luzmila Monteluisa, the female vice-president of the community.
They are working on the front-line of considerable suffering. This first pilot project of one month is showing very encouraging results, as people are already making noticeable improvements in their health. This is greatly helped by:
- The dedication and skill of Carolina and Nine, and the friendship and respect between them, which means that they can offer and combine the best of indigenous and Western medicine.
- Their ability to create trusting relationships with the families they are working with and the fact that they meet and treat the families on their own ground – in their homes.
Immediate future plans include a further one-month project in June in the urban Shipibo community of John Hocking, which adjoins Bena Jema. Longer term, next year, when we have secured more funding, we hope to revisit the communities of Bena Jema and John Hocking and offer the mobile clinic to four other communities.
The second project arose through our contact with acclaimed Shipibo visionary artist, Lastenia Canayo, three of whose exquisite paintings we are selling on our e-shop.
Lastenia paints her own unique vision of plant, animal and tree spirits. When these were shown to our intercultural education adviser, Profesor Eli Sanchez, who is also leading the initiative on intercultural education of ORAU (the regional organization of the national Amazonian indigenous movement, AIDESEP), he told us that these paintings are important as they would help Shipibo children get closer to their culture and cosmovision.
In a subsequent conversation with Amanda Rubin, who is a collector and admirer of Lastenia’s art, the idea arose to create a book for Shipibo children of primary school age, which Amanda has generously offered to fund. We have, therefore, begun work with one of our key indigenous partners, AIDI, (Asociación Indígena de Desarrollo Integral), whose website we helped build, to produce a book for Shipibo children to be used in their schools.
This book will feature 50 of Lastenia’s beautiful paintings of the spirits of medicinal plants, with text in Shipibo, Spanish and English relating to a legend or story about that plant, and with a glossary showing a more scientific drawing of each plant, together with its scientific name, as well as its names in Shipibo, Spanish and English – where an English name exists.
Future plans for this project include:
- Writing a teachers’ guide to accompany the book and training teachers in how to use this book as an educational resource to help bring the children closer to their traditional culture and cosmovision.
- Creating more medicinal plant gardens in communities where we are working with schools. We already have planted 75 medicinal plants as part of the permaculture project attached to the school in the community of Santa Clara.
- Making a limited edition, high-end, art book using screen-printing to sell to raise money for this project.
- Creating two further childrens’ books, using Lastenia’s paintings – one of 50 animals, birds, fish and reptiles, and one of 50 medicinal trees.
We have been able to support both these projects with funds from individuals and organizations. We need and would welcome more donations to help develop them further. Please donate through the ‘Give’ button on our website.