Óbidos, on the left bank of the Amazon River, about 682 miles from the capital, Belem, is a city of almost 50,000 inhabitants. There is only one hospital, which is run by the Third Order of St. Francis and absolutely insufficient to assist the most serious cases. After an appeal of the Brazilian Conference of Bishops, for some years now a big group of doctors, nurses and common people, have undertaken journeys to bring healthcare and support to the population, especially in the river communities. The Amazon Project is now known to many.
Upon reaching Óbidos in July, the “missionaries” of this year consisting of about 40 people from various parts of Brazil, gathered during the recent Run4Unity of Belém, and enjoyed the cooperation and hospitality of the local families. Preparations for this event took several months, and dispatches were made – by air and river – of 15 big boxes of medicine, dentistry material and toys. The Mayor hosted four participants, placed at the disposal of the missionaries, a boat and a coach which was used to visit the communities in the interior of the “ribeirinhas” (three communities that never receive medical care and rarely go to the city), and paid for the services of a cook during their stay. The first community encountered were the 2,000 people living in an area next to a “lixão” (dumpsite). The group stayed there for three days.
Much more than the figures (8 days, 611 medical checkups and 221 dental checkups) the remarks of the protagonists, doctors and local people stand out. A woman who was treated for a strong headache, returned after a few days to breathe that atmosphere which she described as “the air of paradise.” At the end of the “treatment” her headache had almost disappeared. Eliane comes from São Paulo: “Before coming here, I gathered information on the internet. But here, things are a completely different thing, a lesson I shall remember all my life. After the trauma I underwent – referring to the recent death of her husband – I thought I would remain indifferent to any other pain. Instead, I now am full of ideas and a great desire to help!”
Tiago, a youth from Óbidos is participating for the second time in the Project. Since he couldn’t buy a pair of eyeglasses, a collection was made: “Seeing so much generosity made me want to do something myself!” Ana Carla (doctor): “I realised that our reality is not the worst one! Upon listening to some mothers that their son had never been visited by a doctor made me think: I may not be able to solve the problem, but I can love, listen, give comfort, or a drug. This is already something. I don’t feel tired, but my weariness lies in having to ask: “What does your child eat?” and hear them answer: “flour.” Amanda is studying medicine: “I now see medicine with another vision: in front of me is the sick person and not only his illness. We cannot be satisfied only by prescribing a drug, we have to treat the person.”
Ereh is a boy from Óbidos: “It is difficult to live in this situation. Mateus and I do volunteer work with children.” Solange (Belém): “When I heard about the Project, I was very interested and I asked my family’s permission to participate. I only received criticisms, but when I got here, I found a family environment which I didn’t expect. I was surprised to see the youths who, in the month of July, give up their holidays.” Also Marcos is a student of medicine: “I found myself in the impossibility of resolving serious situations, since I didn’t have the means to cure them, but only give relief. We must have the courage to make a hands-on experience and help the youths who have turned to stone in their city. Drug addiction is not the only vice, but there are others: remaining closed up in ourselves, in one’s own ego.” Victor (Santarém): “in the name of the entire Amazon, I thank you all who have left your zones to come to our peripheries.”
The Project now proceeds with the diffusion and gathering of useful material and finances, so that more can be done next year.