Amazon Project, a transforming initiative
It came about as an action of Catholic evangelization that grew up into a consolidated project that generates relationships of reciprocity between locals and volunteers.
Óbidos is one of the many villages on the banks of the Amazon River. It is located in the State of Pará, Northern Brazil, in the narrowest and fastest-flowing part of the Amazon River – 1.7 km wide. The Diocese of Óbidos, this year, hosted the fifth edition of the Amazon Project.
This project, initially an “action of evangelization of the Church in Brazil” promoted by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, began in 2004 with the organization of trips of people from different sectors and regions who dedicate some days of their holidays to visit the place and carry out different actions according to local needs.
This fifth edition began with the collection of more than 300 boxes, most of them containing medicines, toys, educational and children’s books, and nursing materials. In addition, some neighboring communities collected money to help the volunteers with their journey to get there. The Federal Air Force provided a boat to travel from Belém to Óbidos, in addition to cooperating with the transportation of the donations.
On the established date, 30 participants from six Brazilian States travelled to Santarém – the closest airport to Óbidos -, followed by 9 hours of boat travel together with some locals. On their way to Óbidos, they visited six riverside communities with whom a friendship has been developing over the years.
The participants – mostly young people – included some members of the Focolare Movement, such as a nursing teacher who went there together with two students and a colleague. Their contribution was crucial and of great help to the doctors in carrying out the medical examinations before the consultations. They also visited the elderly sick people who could not leave their homes, who expressed their gratefulness with fruits, big smiles or, as in the case of an old lady, who asked the nurses if they could say a prayer with her.
In addition, the “hospital ship” of Pope Francis harbored there. The diocese built it together with the Franciscan friars and the help of people from different parts of Brazil and the rest of the world. This ship is a real hospital in miniature, which provides health services for the benefit of the riverside communities.
This project began with approximately 30 participants and over the years, it has grown to more than 150, with an active participation and increasing presence of young people.
A 50 years old man volunteer from Belo Horizonte said after finishing his experience in Óbidos, “I thank everyone because these days have been a very special stage in my life. The experience here was very different from what I had imagined. It has been an enormous growth for me as a person, also from the cultural and donation perspective. This project makes us grow in humanity. The most evident fruit of this project is ourselves – now we are new persons. I have been transformed, I am no longer the person I used to be”.