Sunday, May 21, 2023

Photos of daily life in the village and river.

Photos from around the village of La Libertad, Leticia, and the river.

After our more intense blog posts about the project, we thought it would be nice to have pictures of things that we see in our daily life around the Amazon.

At the end of school shopping, we stopped by a bakery.  The kids said they had never had cookies with animal faces, so we got some!

A doll representing the year 2022.
A New Year's custom in Colombia; burning man.  To welcome the new year, Colombians make and place a doll outside of their house.  They do this about a week before December 31.  When the new year arrives at midnight, they burn the doll!

Another doll of 2022.

Burning Man, Colombian style!
In our village, at the turn of the new year.

Protected from the rays of the sun.

We cover all of the gasoline tanks used for our boat in protective covers.  This keeps them from being exposed to direct sunlight.  Our old tank did not have a cover.  After four years, it became very brittle.  One day when we were filling it up at the gasoline barge in front of Leticia, we hit it against the side of the barge, and it cracked!  Luckily, this happened towards the top, and we were able to stop the gasoline escape.  After this, we got a new tank and made covers for them all.

The temporary bridge to the river in Puerta Alegria.

We spend at least five hours, and often much more time, on the river each week.  It is constantly changing in water level, water currents, sandbar dangers, and the way people access the river.  Many communities construct temporary bridges, stairs, and docks to allow easier access to the water.  This bridge was only on the river for a month this year. 

Our old guesthouse.

In March, we said goodbye to our first guesthouse in the village.  We built it 10 years ago.  It housed many volunteers, tourists, and members of Gustavo's family.  After many repairs, the rot in the wood was too extensive to be repaired.  In its place, we hope to build a combined tool storage and technology area.  But we hope to construct the new building from concrete and blocks.

A "new to her" bike.

Haircuts before going to town for school shopping.

Watching an action movie in the afternoon.

The scholarship kids are watching a movie on a donated computer.  We power the computer with our solar panels during the early and mid-day.  In the late afternoon and early evening, it is connected to the village's power grid.

We are looking for used PC laptops and Android tablets to use for our education program.  (Sorry, no Apple products.  Given our limitations, they don't work well in the Amazon.)  If anyone has either to donate, please send it to us!  All donations are tax-deductible.

Our address is:

Amazon Pueblo
13 Sunset Street
Thomaston, ME  04861

Thank you!

The rising river: Boat crash on the Amazon.

The dangers of river travel.

In January, the river was rising.  The river may rise by up to 25 feet between its lowest level (dry season) and highest level (rainy season).  We had just taken our boat out of storage and were traveling to Leticia to resupply.

Passing through a floating debris zone.

It had been raining for the past three days.  The river was rising rapidly.  When it rises, vegetation, sticks, and logs along the river banks and in the tributaries are carried downriver with the current.  In some places, depending on the current, it collects into dense patches.  We always drive more slowly through these zones.

The floating debris is easy to spot and move around.  The danger comes from logs that float just below the surface of the water.  As long as we are moving slowly, these aren't too much of a problem.  The thing which we fear most is when one of these submerged logs breaks free of the pack and is randomly floating below the surface of what we think is clear water.  In clear water, we travel up to 30 km per hour.  Hitting a large submerged log at this speed can be disastrous.

After unpacking the boat we knew we had a serious problem.

On the trip downriver, we struck a large submerged log in what we thought was clear water.  The force of it was enough to knock all of us out of our seats and send us sprawling forward.  Our pilot lost his grip on the tiller of the motor.  The thing that saved us was that we struck the log straight on.  If we had struck it at an angle, it would have flipped the boat.

We shut down the motor and inspected it for damage.  The motor seemed fine.  However, we did notice a rattling on the floor of the boat.  After arriving at our destination in Leticia, we saw that the impact of the log was forceful enough to break five of the welds between the deck of our boat and the structural reinforcers which run along the floor.  If the deck is not supported, it with lead to the failure of the seams which hold the deck to the boat's sides.  In other words, we could sink rapidly.  It had to be fixed.

After asking in the port of Leticia, we found a shipyard in the neighboring city of Tabating, Brazil, where they could do the repair.  Our boat is made of aluminum, so the welder needed to be skilled and have a specialized MIG welder.  We left Leticia early the next morning to find him.

Estimating the damage.

When we got to the boatyard, the welder said that he could fix it.  He also recommended reinforcing the other welds on the deck, to which we agreed.  He estimated that after wrapping up a job he was currently doing, it would be ready within three hours.  This gave us some time to look around the boatyard and to get a snack in town before eating lunch at noon.  

Brayan looking at a huge winch.

The winch was used to pull this boat from the water.

Repairing the boat with a MIG aluminum welder.

What did we learn from this?  Always be prepared for problems.  Always wear a life vest (which we always do).  We are also very careful when driving as the river rises.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Internet in the deep jungle of the Amazon!


 At last, we have connectivity.  This will allow us to connect to the outside world for education, employment, emergencies and to keep in touch with family and friends.

Gustavo with the satellite antenna.

After six months of being unable to sign up for the service, they finally worked out the problems and sent us the equipment.  It arrived well-packed.  After a two-week setup and test in Leticia, we brought it to the village of La Libertad.

We first heard of the news of Starlink's arrival in the Amazon in the Colombia media.  After waiting for over two years for the service, it is here.  Other options for internet in the city of Leticia were very expensive (a $75 USD setup fee and very slow plans starting at $80/month to slow plans at $200/month).  No connections were available over 5Mb.  5Mb was the maximum US internet speed of the year 2006!

The antenna is mounted on the roof of the guesthouse.

We mounted the antenna on the roof of our guesthouse.  We can power it during the day with our solar panels.  From 4 pm to 9 pm, it can be powered by the village diesel generator.  Starlink may be connected to a commercial router with an adapter.  This allows us to share part of our connection with the villagers.  They connect with their cell phones to make calls using the app WhatsApp, which is widely used in Colombia.  They can also make free calls with this app to any part of the world!  This helps them to work with volunteers, tourism, and other businesses.  Plus, they can more easily communicate with friends, family, and emergency services.

The router we use to share the internet with the community.

Screenshot of our internet speed.

We were very surprised and happy to find our connection speed to be up to 200Mb.  This is fast enough for many people to use the connection for internet browsing, messages, and voice/video calls.  We are even able to watch the occasional streaming movie!

A Starlink antenna in the city of Leticia. 

Leticia, 38 km downriver from our village, also has Starlink.  We had a shared connection from a local internet service provider (ISP), but the connection degraded rapidly as more and more people bought Starlink, and the ISPs sold many lines.  When too many people use the service in an area, the amount of bandwidth (speed) of the internet declines.  Within one year, Leticia had the highest concentration of Starlink antennas in the country of Colombia!  Starlink no longer supplies new accounts for residential services in the city.

Luckily, there are NO other Starlink systems within many kilometers of us.  With very little or no competition for the satellites, we hope to have a fast connection for many years to come.

The notice of no new Starlink accounts in Leticia.

Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Building the Wall! Our work on the health center goes forward.

We have built the walls!

Now that we are back in the States with a good internet connection, we can share our latest story...

Our work during the winter and early spring is complete.  We have built the walls of our health care center.  It was more difficult than planned.  A high rate of inflation added at least 25% to all of our costs.  The low level of the river made transportation difficult.  Finding a reliable mason was a challenge.  And now, the story.

Moving 1,300 brick construction blocks was very labor intensive.  After ordering the bricks at the business of Bom Jesus across the shared border of Tabating, Brazil, we had to wait five weeks for them to be fired and delivered.  The delivery day was February 7.  The day started with a hearty breakfast of pancakes.  Three of our scholarship students helped our main crew to move the bricks.

Pan-que-ques! (bread-what-whats)

Bom Jesus is one of the largest brickyards in the Colombian Amazon.  They supply the majority of the material for the region.  Their friendly staff help to coordinate the delivery.  Unfortunately, the orders were mixed up, and the bricks arrived during the second delivery time of 10:30 in the morning.  This caused us some problems, as the trip upriver was planned to take at least four hours, not including the time we needed to load the boats!

Brick making.

And more bricks.

Picking up the smaller brick blocks at the business La Confianza.

We used a combination of a large dump truck and a smaller motorcycle/cart vehicle to transport the bricks to the riverside.  This was about a two-kilometer trip.  Once at the river, we had to carry the blocks and stack them into our two boats.  Each of our boats was 11 meters long and built in the traditional style of the wooden riverboats of the region.  One boat is harbored at our village of  La Libertad, and the other came down from Vista Alegra, Peru.

We stacked about two tons of blocks in each boat.

While the boats may look overloaded, the pilots assured me that they were not.

The day was hot, in the low 90's, with brutal humidity.  Most of us had varying degrees of heat stroke.  We did attempt to stay hydrated by drinking fruit juice and large quantities of water.  By the time we were packed and ready to go, it was 11:45.

The trip upriver took four hours for the boat on the right.  They arrived at about 4:30 pm.  Their trip was uneventful.  But our other boat ran into problems.  Halfway through the 38-kilometer trip, their propellor hit an underwater log.  This broke off one of the propellor blades.  After looking for a replacement propellor in the river communities close to them, they found and installed an old, used one, which enabled them to resume the trip.  The only problem, the cost of the propellor was four times what it should have been!  Gustavo, our pilot, arrived in the village after a seven-hour tip, well after sunset.  We were preparing a rescue to see what had happened to him.  Luckily he arrived before they left.

Now the fun part.  Construction.

At last, the blocks are safely under the health center's roof

We started the construction one week after the blocks arrived.  We had some problems finding a reliable mason, but after having one person back out, we employed Larry.  He has over 20 years of building wood and concrete structures in the area.  His helpers are from the village of La Libertad.  This works well, as they are eager for the opportunity of steady work.

The first days of work.  Luckily, the weather was beautiful during the construction.

All mortar must be mixed by hand on the floor of the center.

Little by little, the walls take form.

Larry, the contractor, and Ben, our project director.

The camera angle makes the center look enormous.
Its dimensions are actually only seven meters by five meters.

Victor, one of the workers, with one of our scholarship students.

Finished at last!  At least for this year.  The planning and logistics for the walls took about two months.  After we had all the materials in the village, the construction took about three weeks.  That included wood needing to be cut, more trips to Leticia for missing things, and food resupply.

We had about 500 blocks left from the construction.  That will be enough to build a bathroom for next year's project.  Other improvements scheduled to make include: installing a metal door and window bars, mosquito screening, tile floor, plastering the walls, electrifying the structure, painting, and furniture.  We will be busy!

Moving the extra blocks under Gustavo's house.


The last work we did was to move the extra construction blocks under Gustavo's house.  We did this through community work.  All of our neighbors came over to help move everything.  We supplied cookies, crackers, fruit drinks, and soda.  The group work is called a Minga.  Many hands make light work.  Think of this as the barn-raisings we had during colonial times in the States.

Would you like to help?  Our next construction time is planned to be in July/August of 2023.  We are always looking for volunteers.  Plan a trip to the Amazon and join us!

And thank you, from us and everyone in the village of La Libertad, to all of our friends, family, volunteers, and donors; without whose help, this would not have been possible.

Friday, November 25, 2022

Fall 2022, Amazon Pueblo News from the Jungle: Building, scholarships, solar power, and more!


Our mission is to support the education of indigenous youth in the Colombian Amazon.  We believe that through education they will become self-sufficient in sustainable employment/business.  The three ways that we help to support their education are:

  1. Direct educational support (scholarship program, assisting the local schools)
  2. Health support (building a community health center, helping students to attain medical care)
  3. Community support (assistance with transportation, agriculture, and infrastructure)

This is the news covering some of what we did in 2022!

School shopping in the city of Leticia.

The almost-complete roof on top of the concrete slab and columns.

The Quest to Build the Health Care Center: A story of concrete and metal in pictures
After years of fundraising and planning, we have finally started building the center.  From April to June of 2022 we bought materials, transported them, and found skilled workers to do the construction.  We have completed the first phase.  During 2023 we hope to complete the second phase, putting up...  READ MORE

This damage was caused by a powerful rain and wind storm.
Roof, rot, rats! The shocking state of the school buildings in La Libertad
This picture shows the deplorable state of the school buildings in the village of La Libertad.  The community school is in need of one more teacher.  No new teachers want to come here, and for... READ MORE

The trip back from buying school supplies in Leticia.
Going Upriver on the Amazon
Sometimes the journey is more fun than arriving at the destination!  We spend a lot of time on the river.  Going upstream can take up to twice as long as going downstream.  If we are in a large boat with a small motor, the trip can... READ MORE

Five of our scholarship students waiting to go to Macedonia.
Mayhem in Macedonia: The fight to save a school. A story in pictures.
In 2019, eight months before the pandemic, work began on a new "megacolegio" mega-school, in the village of Macedonia.  Then we started to hear of problems... READ MORE

Romario building the ladder to access the panels.
Solar Power Lights up the Village
Solar power is in La Libertad.  The solar panels' prices are half what they were when we started the project in 2012.  Accompanying the drop in prices has been an increase in efficiency.  What does that mean?  We're going solar!

We bought our solar panels and lithium-ion battery from Cristian at Emergy Sun in Leticia.  They helped us with installation tips and some technical support.  This is Energy Sun's fourth year in Leticia.  They have done projects... READ MORE

The project's director with our on-site director and two volunteers.
Daily Life Around the Village of La Libertad
We thought it would be nice to show some of the less intense day-by-day happenings in the village.  Here are photos of life and things around the project's buildings in the village.  At the end of the post to which this links, we have a video of the only working bike in La Libertad!  READ MORE

A scholarship student with a letter to his sponsors.
Education can save a life: School or coca fields and murder rates
While our reasons include education enabling the students to have improved work opportunities, more sustainable living conditions, and resistance to corruption, one of the largest parts is to give them the option to stay out of the illicit narcotics industry.  READ MORE

Lost in thought over a hamburger in Leticia.
Daily life around Leticia, Amazonas, Colombia
Here are a few pictures from daily life around Leticia, the capital of the State of Amazonas, in Colombia.  It is located at the frontiers of Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.  READ MORE

Would you like to help us?  
We are starting our fundraising drive for next year on Tuesday, November 29.  Please visit the donation page on our website for options.

or on Venmo

Mil gracias!

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Quest to Build the Health Care Center: A story of concrete and metal in pictures

Good news, we are doing it!

After years of fundraising and planning, we have finally started building the center.  From April to June of 2022 we bought materials, transported them, and found skilled workers to do the construction.  We have completed the first phase.  During 2023 we hope to complete the second phase, putting up the walls, doors, and bathroom.  We thank everyone who helped us to achieve our goals!

The almost-complete roof on top of the concrete slab and columns.
The roof is corrugated, painted metal on a structure of welded metal supports.

These medications are from Peru.  While untrained people are not allowed to
prescribe and give medications, the health center will give the villagers a clean
and an organized place to administer their meds.

This poster was on the wall of one of the health clinics in the city of Leticia.
It shows some of the illnesses and accidents common in the river communities.

Once the center is up and running, we hope to help sponsor
vaccination clinics.  It is easier for the providers to come to the
community during a scheduled time.

This boy had a skin infection from coming into contact with 
the unsanitary ground conditions during a soccer game.
An antibiotic cream helped to clear it up quickly.

This picture shows a terrible skin infection.  The man lanced a small boil
on his back with an unsterile orange tree spine.  Within five days the infection
advanced to the above stage.  Just days more without treatment and he may have
died.  If he had had access to the center, he could have used a disinfected needle
and he may have avoided the infection.

Luckily, he went to the hospital in the city of Leticia.  There he underwent
treatment with aggressive antibiotics and two surgeries to remove the infection.
He recovered within two weeks, but it will take up to a year for the skin to
completely regrow.

Many times the health problems in the village may be treated when they are small before they become more serious.  Basic things like small wound treatment and disinfection are all that is needed.  The health care center gives them an area to do these simple things.

We loaded the gravel into empty feed bags.

Next, we loaded the sand.

And last, the bags of cement.  Each bag had to be wrapped in plastic
bags to protect against water in the trip upriver.

After being placed in plastic, each cement bag was then placed
in a feed bag to make it easier to carry and more resistant to bag rips.

Then we carried the bags at the port of Leticia to our boat which
was docked at the Balsa Piranita, a floating raft.

When everything was loaded we could head upriver.
Our 35-foot wooden boat can transport no more than 2 and 1/2 tons.

Rebar to reinforce the cement.

At last, we are preparing for the construction work.  These are rebar
supports to be used inside the concrete columns.

Preparing the footings for the concrete slab.

Now it is really starting to look like something!

All work must be done by hand.  We have no heavy machinery in the village.

Doing the last part of the floor.  The floor had to be finished all at once.

The forms for the columns are up.

Now the columns needed a week to dry and harden.

While we were waiting for the concrete to harden we had time to
get the roof ready.  Originally, we planned to use wooden support for
the roof.  But we ran into problems.  The beams we had cut warped badly.
We decided to construct everything with metal.  This was a much more expensive
option, but one that we believed would give us a much stronger roof and much
better longevity.

It took us three trips in our smaller boat to bring
up all the metal beams.

The beams had to be sanded, cleaned, and painted with rustproof paint.

After some worrisome delays, the welders arrived.  We housed them in the
guesthouse, where they stayed for three days.  We also provided them
with food during this time. 

Many of the villagers have never seen a person weld.  During the work
there was a party-like atmosphere!

In this video, the welders are installing the
roof understructure.  Look for the two kids in the tree!

These "tejas" are four meters in length.  They come painted.
We had to go upriver to Peru to find them.  They are 
much less prone to rust.

The center is in the middle of the village, on a hill next to the school.

In the next phase of this project, we will be building the walls, doors, and bathroom.  The cinderblock pictured below will be made in the village.  We have sand that we can clean, sift and use.  We also have the forms.  All that is missing is the cement, water, labor, and bringing everything together!

One of the village kids shows an example of a cinderblock
we will use for the buildings.

Through the health center, we will achieve the following five things:
  1. Provide a place for the students and their families to receive basic health care.
  2. Provide a place for medication to be stored.
  3. Provide training to specific members of the community to treat illness and injury.
  4. Provide a secure place for health and community records to be stored.
  5. Provide an office and dormitory for visiting health care providers.

You can join us!

We are raising the funds to start phase two of the construction in 2023.  Your donation will help us to do this.  Our donation portal is at

But there is also the option for you, as a volunteer, of joining us physically in the village of La Libertad to help with the construction!  Our guesthouse, kitchen, and bathroom are clean and mostly comfortable.  Please contact us at for more information.