——- Note from Céline Cousteau: In 2008 I joined Patty Webster during her medical expedition up the Pastaza River in Peru close to Ecuador. My experiences with her nonprofit Amazon Promise were in part responsible for my own journey in creating my nonprofit, CauseCentric Productions. It is only appropriate that Patty writes the opener for a series of blogs in preparation for our upcoming expedition returning to a region of the (Brazilian) Amazon I have become inextricably tied to.
In 2008, Céline contacted me about volunteering with Amazon Promise. She mentioned the work her grandfather had done in the 1980’s in a very remote area of the Amazon where we were also working, on the upper Pastaza River. She mentioned the close ties he maintained throughout his life with several of the native Achuar families he met and worked with while out there, and how she was attempting to reach the area herself to find and help them. This was more than exciting to me on so many levels!
Later on that year Céline became part of our medical team heading into the Pastaza River region. She not only volunteered in clinic, but also created an incredible film about the work we do in the villages of the Pastaza that would go on to become instrumental in the future survival and success of Amazon Promise. The content of the film was also used to showcase the work of Amazon Promise when I received a CNN Hero Award in 2010.
The film immediately began attracting future volunteers and funding that was desperately needed to allow us to continue our work. This production was meaningful to me in many ways, namely reinforcing the work that Amazon Promise does, and our belief that if people have access to basic medical care and health education, they can go on to lead full, productive lives. It just makes sense. When you are healthy you can study, work, tend the fields, and provide for yourself and your family. No one beats the drum for basic health care. It doesn’t draw the attention that other health-related issues do, yet more people, especially children, die from a lack of basic health care than from anything else.
Our work continues to bring healthcare to people in 75 remote Amazon villages and many impoverished neighborhoods in and around the city of Iquitos.
In 2010, we built the Belen Clinic in the sprawling river community of 74,000 people living in extreme poverty.
Working with the group Toilets For People, we hope to expand our work in Belen by installing low-cost composting toilets in 2014. The Belen Clinic has also become a place where other organizations work and local government projects are carried out.
While our ¡Soy Capaz! program maintains its focus on HIV and STDs, we have now begun to address related issues through a new program called ‘Healthy Lifestyles’, including individual and reproductive rights, and environmental protection. These areas are a natural extension of our years of field experience and research. Our goal is to generate an up-to-date, holistic educational program tailored to the current necessities of the local Amazonian communities.
- We provide treated mosquito nets to combat malaria.
- We now have a portable ultrasound and lab that has significantly increased the level of care we are able to provide.
- To confront the growing rates of cervical cancer in the areas we work in, we have created a “Women’s Well-Being” educational program to provide cervical cancer prevention and intervention. Within the next year, we will have the necessary equipment to perform both colposcopy and cryotherapy in the field.
We’ve grown in many ways and I’ve been thrilled to watch as CauseCentric has evolved into a major support system for other grassroots organizations.
Watch CauseCentric Production’s short film, “Amazon Promise”, which highlights Patty’s work!