Rhythm of Hope to the Amazon – Part Two
PART ONE FOLLOWS BELOW
Rhythm of Hope visits always focus on how a future collaboration, in this case with Reef (the sandals maker), Açai Roots and a forming local nonprofit in Para will help people to help themselves and others.
In Bahia we largely help sustain established small programs in the crowded and often violent urban slums. These programs help children and others make better life choices. In Pará the emphasis of our work will be slightly different.
In Pará we will help a nonprofit forming to serve families of açai laborers and whatever else we can to help people like the young man above (polishing açai seeds), the handicapped and women, gain and keep living wage employment.
Açai production is a lifeline for people in the amazon region who find work growing, harvesting, transporting and processing the berries and seeds. Processed açai seeds are already being used as a source of clean fuel in the US.
Full vats of incoming berries, above, are being washed in preparation for processing as Reef Sandals photographer / videographer Cody Welsh records events. A complicated series of steps follow to seperate the fruit from the seeds.
Açai processing is less automated and more labor intensive than you might imagine. Well trained workers complete their tasks according to guidelines which ensure that high sanitation quality standards are consistently met.
After processing the açai fruit is bagged and the bags are carefully layered in containers for further handling.
The bagged fruit is frozen prior to shipment. Whether the fruit is processed up or down river the first leg of its journey from source of origin is by boat.
The arrival of a steady stream of boats carrying fish, fruits – including açai and açai seeds - and vegetables is greeted with anticipation by a good many residents in the port city of Belem, including this pair of Brazilian vultures.
Our goal, with your help, is to help ensure that laborers and their families in the açai growing region of Pará, and others, like the market vendor in Belem above, are better served by the growig popularity of, and variety of uses for, açai.
From Belem the açai fruit is shipped all over the world, including to San Diego based Rhythm of Hope collaborator Açai Roots which imports, repackages and sells açai in a variety of forms in the US. My Novemebr entry will focus on a special project involving açai seeds, workers in Pará, Reef the sandals maker, Açai Roots, and Rhythm of Hope!
Rhythm of Hope to the Amazon – Part One
Rhythm of Hope is invited to later collaborate on construction of a school, and providing aid, for children of hardworking poor by two men who will help to preserve the Amazon by responsibly growing and harvesting acai
In the watery world of the Amazon basin where movement overland through dense rain forest is very difficult people more commonly travel by boat.
The Rhythm of Hope team traveled to a remote river island in the state of Pará, accompanied by Cody Welsh of premiere sandals maker Reef. We all hope to help children like the boy below in the future.
Families there live in nondescript little wooden houses eleven hours by large motored passenger boat from the city of Belem. The desire of Reef and our açai grower / producer hosts to make a difference brought us to the region.
ROH board member and Açai Roots CEO Igor Pereira, below with children whose striking features reflect local heritage, embraced Reef’s unsolicited interest in helping to promote the work we do.
Our survey included objectives related to future collaborations involving the ROH green team, leaders of strategic partner Youth Art Haven. Our hosts share our strong commitment to preserving the environment.
Our hosts Klinder Chaves, his son, and Francisco de Jesus prepare to share heart of palm harvested by Francisco as we roamed the island to see present stands of açai palm and consider some future possibilities.
Bringing us all together for the greater good is the açai berry, below, the ‘super fruit’ of a palm that is native only to the Amazon. Health conscious consumers the world over have discovered and swear by it.
Açai fruit is only found on long braid-like strands in the upper reaches of the açai palm, so it is not easily accessible, and although the fruits look a lot like blueberries they only offer a thin veneer of pulp over seed.
Since there is no practical way to automate it, açai harvesting relies on locals who climb the palms to retrieve strands of fruit. It is Francisco’s dream, and now the dream of ROH, to build a school for their children.
Human, rather than machine, labor is employed to strip and ‘basket’ the berries once they come to the ground. The jobs provided by this work are desperately needed in this part of Brazil, as elsewhere.
Blue eyed yellow-rump caciques were one of our colorful visitors. We were also treated to pink river dolphins, striking black and blue tropical butterflies, orchids and countless other interesting plants and animals.
In keeping with our shared commitment to sustainable development Klinder plants an açai seedling, something we all did to symbolize that commitment. One day we will see the fruits of trees that we ourselves planted.
The construction materials below are already accounted for. Francisco is still establishing his açai growing program here, his first priority. Klinder will receive and process the açai in a facility near Belem.
Cody, below, was there to take photos and shoot film for Reef to produce promotional news releases and videos for our collaboration. Special thanks to Reef for making this unplanned for visit possible.
We caught a passing river boat for the eleven hour return trip, most passengers passed the evening in hammocks. There were a limited number of very cramped cabins with bunks.
When the sun set on our voyage back to Belem we were left with much to think about. Where will we find the financial, human and material resources to meet our ever expanding opportunities to make a difference in the world?
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