One of the most important lessons we learned during our trip to the Las Piedras is about the power of community and a shared mission. Some of our fondest memories stem from the connections we were able to make with people living and working in the Las Piedras watershed. Hearing the impassioned stories of these people reminded us why we were on this journey and had many of us thinking about how to continue our own personal journeys after the trip ended. On the first leg of our trip in Puerto Maldonado we had the opportunity to hear from a few speakers. Their stories helped us begin to understand the extraordinarily diverse issues in this region of the world.
Upriver, our gaze focused on the Las Piedras, we were finally in the region we had begun studying months beforehand. We worked with ArcAmazon’s Las Piedras Amazon Center, the native Amahuacan tribe of Boca Paramanu, Hoja Nueva, and the people of the small town of Lucerna (All of which you can learn more about on the Our Partners page of our website). Many members of our team had never studied Spanish, thus interacting with the native people we met could be a challenge. Thankfully, we learned when two people share a passion, language barriers suddenly become less intimidating. Our team communicated through translators and some with varying levels of Spanish, but we also communicated through sports, dancing, a desire for education, and celebration.
One of the most impactful groups we were able to learn from and with was the Future Leaders/Innovadores of Madre de Dios. This group is sponsored by Wild Forests & Fauna and, like us, they are from a wide variety of backgrounds and all passionate about the environment. We joined them at LPAC for a series of lectures and activities focusing on the environmental impact of the Amazon and how we can work together to build a brighter future.
For the vast majority of our group this trip was the first experience in a jungle environment. For some it was also their first experience without access to a cell connection and internet. We were all visibly unnerved during our first few nights in this new environment. Everything was unfamiliar. Thankfully, with the people we met along the way willing to guide us, we were able to settle into a routine at LPAC. We began to relax and become truly acquainted with the jungle. Things such as the noises, smells, weather, how to maneuver a trail, and general way of life began to feel familiar.
The passion of the people we met and worked with was palpable. So much so, that it increased and solidified our own passion for this forest and its people. A few members of our group are already making plans to return and find more ways to use their skills to develop solutions to the destruction in this region.