Depressed at the Zoo – This cheered me up!

After several weeks in Lima, I ran out of excuses why I couldn’t go to the zoo. My friend kept inviting me, insisting that I shouldn’t miss it. Joel really wanted to show off what seemed to be his favorite place.

Truth is, I get depressed at zoos. When I see the animals in the cages, staring at me with those pitifully sad faces, I feel their pain. Even the most advanced enclosures with natural settings are not the same as nature. I try to convince myself that the animals have been rescued and are being rehabilitated and cared for by loving keepers. If they were released into the wild they wouldn’t survive… so best keep them in the zoo.

But… I see little things that make me angry; empty water dishes, soiled cages, spectators rapping on the glass or taunting sleeping creatures. Garbage thrown carelessly into the enclosures, overcrowding or worse yet… solitary animals, and that, that just makes me sad. If you enjoy going to the zoo, don’t invite me along, I’ll probably spoil your day.

On my last weekend in Peru Joel finally convinced me to go with him to Parque de las Leyendas. I reluctantly agreed. It wasn’t a bad zoo… I tried desperately not to over scrutinize the details. I breezed past the first section with animals from the mountains. I lingered in the botanical gardens and leisurely explored the ancient ruins (pre-Spaniard). I hurried away from exhibits with weepy eyed animals or crowds pressing against the glass.

After a snack we rented a pedal boat and floated around a big lagoon for a while… I managed to see the entire 3 sections (coastal, mountain and jungle) without having a total breakdown or being reduced to tears. It wasn’t a bad zoo…

But the big treat came at the end. We were walking toward the gates to exit and I spotted a bus. It drew me in with its cheerful paint-job. Joel said, “That’s for children”, and tried to drag me away but I had to see inside.

Agua Bus

I pushed my way past the girl minding the door. She was trying to shut it but I squeezed through and entered a chamber with a dozen kids, 2 parents and a man in a blue jacket.

COOL!  A bus/classroom to educate kids about water.

I was instantly comforted, forgot all about zoo trauma, and was excited to learn more. I watched a unique demonstration of how water evaporates then rises to the top of the mountains, falls as rain, gets filtered by the land then returns to the ocean. At least, that’s what I think he was saying. (My Spanish is pretty limited.) He had a nifty switch panel that turned on lights and accentuated his model and presentation.

Water cycle demonstation

Next he played a short video that reinforced what he had just taught the kids. It had flashy graphics and lots of animations. The children were engaged. I watched them watching. It inspires me to see young people learning about nature and our precious resources, especially water. The video showed statistics for how many liters per day each Peruvian needed. The numbers were way lower than what North Americans use. I shuffled uncomfortably when the comparison table was showing.

Watching a Water Information Video

When the video was over, Marc (the blue jacketed man) quizzed the kids and answered questions. It was encouraging to see genuine interest from the kids and infectious passion from the host. When the discussion ended he slid open a door and we entered the back half of the bus. Marc circled the room and pointed to the information displayed prominently on the walls. There was a final round of Q&A followed by another video and a few more questions to finish the water lesson. Afterward each child was presented with a T-shirt from the water authority (Authoridad Nacional de la Agua) and they were shuffled out the back door to clear way for the next group. IMG_5583It was a perfect finish to a challenging day for me. I was inspired by the program. After spending 3 months focused on exposing the problems in Peru, it was refreshing to see someone sharing solutions.

I keep saying, education is the answer. We need to reach the children.

Teach them to recycle, reuse, rethink, reduce, and refuse. Show them how to grow food. Provide them with opportunities to engage with nature… Nurture a connection and respect for the environment. Encourage a sense of responsibility for our natural resources.

The adults of the past few decades haven’t been doing such a great job. Here’s hoping this next generation does better.

Good News, Bad News – The price of truth

This morning I received good news and bad news. The good news is that the footage of illegal mining that I have been trying to get from a Peruvian television station will be made available to me. The news segment was an exclusive report which covered the raid and closure of a gold mining

amazon nation
Madre de Dios River, Peru

operation on the Madre de Dios River. I had tried to get my own footage of that region but there are new (they spring up overnight) illegal mines all over the area and it is extemely dangerous. (It’s especially for a blond haired blue eyed girl like me! I stick out like a sore thumb in the jungle) So after weeks of email exchange in badly translated spanish, I have been given the rights to use the footage. The bad news… it’s $500 per minute and the special is 10:56 long.

So, here I am again, asking for more money. I need this footage! It shows the devastation and corruption that I was not able to capture myself. I could describe the activity but it just wouldn’t have the same impact that the images do.  You know the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? Well in this case, the video is worth $5,500.

I’m almost finished filming this documentary. I have a few more interviews to capture here in Lima and then I return to Canada where I will start post production. I never budgeted for stock footage when I considered the costs for production, but this expense is still a small price to pay for the value of the video. Also, it contains an interview with the head of the ministry of mining and I have been unable to secure an interview with him. It’s too dangerous to ask questions of some people. Did you see my reports on activists being killed? So please share this update and donate to this film if you can. You can email transfer directly to me which means I get 100% of the funds, (GoFundMe takes a percentage for admin and operating costs)
Thanks to everyone for supporting me on this incredible journey. I can’t wait to show you the results of my investigations. Peruvian Heartache is an important film that demonstrates how crucial it is that we protect our culture, traditions and our planet.
Gracias!
— excerpt from email replyamerica
“Por políticas del canal nosotros tenemos unas tarifas establecidas para este tipo de solicitudes.

Para documentales, nuestros costos son los siguientes :
– $ 100.00 + IGV (el minuto, imágenes no exclusivas)
– $ 500.00 + IGV (el minuto cuando son imágenes exclusivas)

Se tiene que realizar un convenio con nuestra área legal y abonar en nuestras cuentas antes de entregar el material limpio.”

— And subsequent follow-upamerica
“Buenas noches, solo para informarles que el material que están solicitando pertenece al programa “Domingo al día”, la nota lo realizo el reportero Libero Belotti, fue emitido el 15 de noviembre del 2015 como exclusivo y tiene una duración de 10 min. 56 segs.

Saludos. “

Press Release: The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru

amazon nation

While world leaders were meeting in Paris for climate talks, an ambitious group of indigenous leaders were holding their own meetings in the Amazon Rainforest. Although at this time they are not recognised by the government of Peru, they are fighting to protect their lands by creating a Nation of unity.  more

Source: Press Release: The Wampis nation of the Peruvian Amazon declares the creation of the first autonomous indigenous government in Peru

Where I´ve been the past month…

amazon kids

I just arrived back in Lima after having spent the past 7 weeks on location. The first month was spent in the highlands of the Andes where I filmed interviews with the indigenous people who are struggling to maintain their traditions and culture despite countless global influences. No matter who I spoke to, or where I went, money almost always was the main problem. The Incas were a people who celebrated and honored a system of reciprocity and currency is not part of their heritage. Unfortunately they have been forced into an existance where they must participate in our capitalistic system. They now have electricity in their homes but must pay a fee to the government, their children need uniforms for school and they must pay for transportation. Some members of the community are more successful than others and it has created a divide in what was once a tightly knit family. Others live in utter poverty, succumb to alcholism or spend money on giant TV’s and sattelite dishes while their children go barefoot and hungry.

Education is the key to alleviating many of these problems but influences like climate change (crops no longer grow because of changes in weather conditions), pollution and contamination from mining or industry, and tourism (explotation) contribute to suffering in complicated and devastating ways. Rampant corruption at all levels of government amplify the effects of disparity and poverty. I am hoping not only to point out the problems in my accounts but also to provide suggestions and implement stategies to alleviate these conditons.

I was relieved to move from the highlands, where I suffered from altitude sickness for most of the time, to the lowlands in the Amazon jungle. Peru is home to 1/4 of the worlds natural forests and I thrived in the lush environment. Fresh air and moisture was an almost instant cure. Unfortunately for many, illegal deforestation and mining have proved otherwise. 9 out of 15 fish in Peru have unsafe mercury levels due to contamination from mining activites. Many of the indigenous farms have been destroyed due to poisoned lands or flooding from operations that have been left to ravage the landscape illegally. The indigenous people have held their ground bravely and battled powerful and greedy forces to try and protect the environment but many have lost their lives due to violence, murder or illness from the toxins.

A modern day version of the wild wild west; guns control the area, law enforcement officials are painfully absent, children attending schools when safe to do so, families torn apart, livestock destroyed, crops failing and workers robbed while returning to their homes. I wasn’t able to film in all the areas because I was scared to death and rightfully wise to keep my distance. Many activists have lost their lives attempting to stand their ground. I wept when we found giant trees butchered and left to rot for morsels of choice wood likely bound for Mexico or the US… I swallowed my tears and held a brave face when sharing a river boat with a family that was fleeing their land… my heart is heavy… Peruvian Heartache is a story that begs to be heard.

Have you invested in Gold in recent years? Chances are someone lost their life trying to protect the rainforest it was stripped from. Do you have a new dining room table? Perhaps the wood was stolen from a national reserve in the forest that is responsible for creating more than 20% of the oxygen in the world.

Please help me to finish this important film. I have excellent profiles of the locals, revealing images of the devastation and alarming information about the secrets being concealed in this country struggling to maintain its culture and traditions. I have nearly exhausted my funds and need to find additional resources for a few more weeks of filming and then post production. Luckily I have been blessed with the generosity of many who have contributed both time and resources to help capture this story, but editing is tedious and expensive. I have a burning desire to get this film to the public as quickly as possible so that we can help save both people and protect the health of the lands.

I can also use your help in spreading the word. I need airmiles for travel (for both me and crew) and any other assistance you can offer. I don’t want to beg, but I am! Never have I felt as strongly about shouting a warning to the world as now.

Thanks for your support and well wishes. Can’t wait to share this amazing story with you all.

Alison xox

Missing Posts… Back in Cusco with Internet

IMG_3729.JPG

Each of these posts was written by different members of the Reach Out Volunteer team. It has been an enriching experience for me capturing their work, travels and experiences for our film and  pleasure to have gotten to know them a bit.

The train ride back from Machu Picchu was bitter sweet. I was happy to be heading back to Cusco and to get caught up on my correspondence… but I knew that I may never again get the opportunity to visit all the amazing places that we had been too. These posts will be a lasting memory of those days. Posts for Day 1 through 3 have already been put to my facebook, but are also available on the wordpress site.

We are on our final 2 days of the 14 day journey… today we visit an animal rescue center, an artisan center that fabricates silver jewelry and a baby alpaca factory for tapestries and textiles.

stay tuned for 3 more soon…

 

 

Day 15 – Non Profit, or Not?

Yesterday Yieber and I had a meeting with a local representative from an NGO in the United States. They don’t have an office here in Peru but when donations are made and specified to be spent here in Peru they process that request and distribute the funding.

Since we have starting filming our documentary we have heard many pleas for help. The small school we visited in Patabamba needs books, computers, teaching aids and money for nutritional food.

Many schools have programs to feed the children. How do we keep the pot full for all?
Many schools have programs to feed the children. How do we keep the pot full for all the children?

In the same small village high in the Andes, the women’s weaving council needs help to sell their textiles. They asked for assistance to set up a website and marketing tools, need help with training and technolgy to be competative in todays marketplace, not to mention supplies for the actual products.

When we visited a school in Lamay we saw firsthand how small contributions, well-managed, can effect huge change. The children in that community were healthy, happy and well on their way to receiving a good education. A few of the children even practiced their english and french with me.

It’s been difficult going into areas that are so poverty-stricken and not being able to help. Sometimes just a small amount of money can turn around an entire community. Upgrading the irrigation system for the farmers, providing books for the schools, seeds for nutritional crops, chimneys in kitchens to reduce asthma, respiratory illness and even cancer… all simple and cost-effective solutions that dramatically improve the quality of living for families living in remote regions.

I know that a lot of people are reluctant to give to causes without the benefit of receiving a tax receipt or having the assurance that the money will actually be going to the right place. For this reason we are investigating setting up a registered society (NGO)

We’d love your feedback on this idea since it is a challenging process, time-consuming and expensive. If we build it, will you participate?

If you want to sponsor our film, and you’re not worried about a tax receipt, there are many ways you can do this now. Donate your airmiles, (travel is an expense that is robbing our budget) provide financial help either through GoFundMe or direct email transaction, share our blog or aid us in the real production. (create graphics, write music, do research, voice-over, editing, PR, write press releases…etc)

We’re heading to the highlands again tomorrow to meet with a community leader and arrange for a donation of shoes for all the children. I’ll be posting some video of that adventure in a few days.

Thanks for your support! Please share 🙂

 

Day 6 – Translating Day One footage from Quechan to English

Today as we continue to review the footage from Day One and Two, I am reminded of the beauty and innocence of the children of Richard’s village. Here is a picture of a mother escorting her child to school. Few of these children have been exposed to the big city and even fewer have seen foriegners. walking to school Richard has two daughters, the eldest is 5 and attends kindergarten. She she is dressed in her traditional clothing.eldest daughter traditional wearThe younger daughter is only two but speaks Quechan very well and is a bright and sensitive child. She was very shy around me, probably because I looked so different than anyone she was used to.

Shy and wary of strangers
Shy and wary of strangers
learning the traditions at an early age
learning the traditions at an early age

Richard’s eldest daughter was eager to show me how she could weave (braid) as well. She was fascinated with the camera and was much more confident than her little sister.

Day 5 – Editing and Photo Review – More pics from Patabamba

Yesterday was a great day because we had many unexpected surpirses. Today we are reviewing the footage of the past 4 days… a complicated task because everything is in a language that I don’t understand. We have over 1,000 photos so far and I do understand them. Like they say, a picture is worth a 1,000 words. So today instead of a big story, I will share some images from Patabamba.

herding livestockIn the morning, the women move the livestock to the pasture land. They use the wool from the Laamas and sheep for making textiles.

interviewing the principal

We tried to speak with the president of the village but he refused to give us his time.  At first we were dissapointed but instead we headed to the school to see about interviewing someone there. The principal, Juana Sulema Carrasco Cruz, was more than happy to share her time with us and gave us fantastic insight into the local community and the problems there.

grade 3 classroom

This was the grade 3 classroom. Major problems at the school are, limited supplies, no library, one computer for the entire school, very few books. Problems for the children are, absent parents (they must work out of town and are often gone overnight) poor nutrition, no money for uniforms, unequal financial status (some families are self sufficient while others live in extreme poverty).

some of the students have childrenSome of the young girls end up having babies are welcome to bring them to school. They bring them into the classes with them.

Teaching new skills

We noticed a huge gap in abilities when Yieber was teaching the older boys how to play a new card game. Simple skills like following directions, remembering rules, number sequences and manipulating the cards in hand were very difficult for some of these boys. It was nice to see them support and cooperate with each other. No one shamed another for poor play… they were cheerful and having fun!

Kindergarten

The Kindergarten was in a separate location. Getting an early start is crucial to their success but not always available to every child.

Womens Weaving Council

The women of Patabamba are fully aware of the problems in their community and have banded together to form a council that meets each week. They share a meal, teach each other spinning and weaving techniques and plan stategies to help bring their families back to the traditional ways.

hand spun wool
hand spun wool
spinning spindle
spinning spindle
weaving textiles
weaving textiles
sharing a meal
sharing a meal
Asking for help!
Asking for help!

These women have little or no education and zero access to technology (computers or internet) but, they know that to succeed they must assimilate into todays society. They asked us to help put them in contact with tour companies and people who can buy their products. They are determined to create a better life for their families and we’re going to do what we can to make that vision a reality.

Day One Filming – Totorayoc, Peru

highland and valley women

Today we will head into the highlands to a small town of traditional weavers (tejedores de la vida – Weavers of Life) where we will learn about their process for creating beautiful fabrics and artwork.

Traditional bags take weeks to produce for each one. The Quechan name is Ch’uspas (sounds like juice pass)

We will also speak with local porters who must suppliment their incomes by carrying goods for tourists along the Incan trails.

Porters with tourists

Preparing our Documentary in Cusco

Yieber and Alison are hard at work planning, writing and scheduling the filming of the Indigenous Peoples of Peru. With external influences like tourism and big business they face many internal challenges. Environmental destruction, climate change, limited financial support and lack of appropriate resources all contribute to the hardships these people endure daily. We hope to bring you their stories while providing some solutions and help along the way.Farming in the Andes