Dear friends and supporters of Angels of the Amazon,
The ‘’Energizer Bunny” leader of Angels of the Amazon is Dolly Beaver, a woman whose indomitable will has been a force for good in a remote, forgotten corner of Amazon forest wilderness. Reachable only by boat from Iquitos city, a city itself surrounded by impenetrable jungle and not connected to any other city by road, the twelve native communities of the Tahuayo River basin exist on a remote, minor tributary of the mighty Amazon River.
When the gregarious Dolly, a native of Iquitos city, first arrived in the Tahuayo communities in 1995, to help her husband with his ecotourism project, she set out to make friends with the women of the villages. Dolly was concerned to hear their tales of suffering and domestic abuse. Since the government only provided school through elementary grades, Dolly was also troubled to see when young girls finished their schooling around age 12, they would just pair up with older men and soon start to have babies.
Determined to help to bring about change, Dolly first sought to empower the women economically. A couple of women knew the traditional art of basket weaving. Under Dolly’s direction, they taught other women and organized into a collective which first sold their artistic baskets to tourists and later in other markets. A modest cash income provided important changes in villages generally characterized by subsistence swidden agriculture. They were now in control of the purse strings for their families. Some men were resentful, but now
not able to be abusive as the women’s artisan association offered group solidarity and support to the women.
The women struggled during the flood seasons to find a dry place to sell their crafts. They had a dream, seemingly a pipe dream, to have their own women’s center built high above the ground. Dolly saw the value in this, but it would have to wait. Her first order of business would be to transform the clinic. Just a tiny room, barely able to hold two people and a couple of tables, the clinic for the communities, located in Esperanza Village, was headed by physician’s assistant Jorge Caro. Around this original tiny room, which now houses a laboratory facility and new $7000 microscope, Dolly built a fine rural clinic with multiple rooms for maternity, dental, pediatric and emergency care needs, overnight rooms, offices, rest rooms, waiting rooms and bathrooms. Two full time nurses and a laboratory technician are paid by the Angels of the Amazon foundation.
Adding solar power and refrigeration for vaccines took several years to construct.
Another issue that needed to be addressed was educational opportunity for the children. Dolly started by taking a few high achieving elementary school children, with permission of their families, and continuing their education in Iquitos city. High school and beyond high school, technical school, opened up opportunities and transformed lives and families. Tourists at the ecolodge began to hear about this program and were interested to contribute money to sponsor more children, so the program began to grow. Finally, with nearly 40 children in
the program, but dozens still in need, Dolly, leaders of the community and teacher approached the government with a plan. If the Angels foundation were to help with the infrastructure of a high school in El Chino Village, would the government accredit it and supply the teachers. The plan was accepted, the high school teachers sent by the government arrived. At first they used the communal house as a high school, later with help from grants and volunteers from Be The Change Volunteers construction began for a real high school which is now opened and will continue adding every year with new construction.
Still the women had their dream of their center. Some of their men chided that it would never happen. But in April 2016 construction supplies arrived and the dream started to take form. The women’s own facility. A place to not only sell their wares, but to share and teach their skills to younger women, a place for shelter, for comfort, talk and planning for their mutual good and good of their families. A place to dream, collaborate and feel the love and support of the other women of the community. Here I am now in October for the celebration of
the opening of the women’s center. It would be a night to remember. A night to celebrate the work, the heartache and the gains of twenty years of dreams, for all that might yet come to pass.
Article written by Julia Hubble, who followed Dolly around for the week of October 2-9, 2016.
Edited by Paul Beaver.