Many people believe living in a village deep in the Amazon Jungle is easy – all you need is a hammock and a couple of trees and nature will take care of you. Trapping animals, fishing, collecting fruit, nuts, palm leaves – that’s easy, as long as you have a machete, you’re fine. Medical plants, natural repellents, camouflage from jaguars and other predators, the jungle will offer you everything. So, when we talk about little villages, like the ones where our fly fishing guides come from, there’s an impression it’s a paradise, and for most locals it is. In collecting biographies for our new website, there was a unanimous answer to the question, where do you prefer to live? In the city or in the village? Peace, the abundance of fish, game, wood for building, knowledge of indigenous people, all this is priceless for anyone we’ve come across in Amazonian country. What if that peace is broken? Not just by the expansion of the city and trade, but, let’s say, by a disease? Could you possibly survive with a disabled member of the family in a village in the middle of a jungle, 4 hours away from any small primitive Medical stop and another 20 hours to Manaus and a real medical center on a passenger boat? Amazonian people know how to sort themselves out, but here’s a story of Felipe and his father, the people who inspired our Care&Share Program.
Ronaldo, aka Doca, is one of our leading guides for our Amazon Operations. A simple man, always cheerful, religious and hardworking to the extreme. He’s got two kids, Felipe and Gabriel. Gabriel is 12 years old and just like Doca himself, he is already helping the family to grow their food, go out fishing and maybe soon will be able to start hunting. In Amazonian villages kids join their parents in these chores as soon as they can carry some weight. His brother’s story is different.
Things haven’t been easy for Felipe since he was in his mother’s belly. Doca’s wife had a tough pregnancy, aggravated by a number of infections among other things and when time came to give birth they decided to go to Barcelos, a town on Rio Negro that has a little more advanced hospital. Turns out, Doca’s wife didn’t make it through the 30-hour-long boat trip. Felipe was born on the way, right in the small boat. What doctors in Barcelos said 2 days later is that Felipe had a lack of oxygen during the birth process and as a result he now has cerebral palsy and is Tetraplegic.
We never knew much about Felipe, even though we’ve been talking to Doca every time he’s got access to some sort of communication. Doca doesn’t talk about his struggles very often and, actually, always looks like he’s happy with his life. He loves the village, the river and the forest. He keeps inviting us to explore more of the river and even to where Brazil Nut grooves are or where lagoons are full of fish. But in 2019 for the first time we heard we couldn’t have Doca on our team. He had to stay with his son as Felipe needed him more and more. And Doca was going to quit doing what he most loves for his kid. Felipe had basically gotten too big and heavy at age 11 for his mom to care for him every day. He was hard to lift, feed and bathe.
A day in the life of a kid with cerebral palsy in a little village in the middle of the Amazon is hard to imagine. The parents need to pay attention 24 hours a day as Felipe can’t even express whether he’s hungry, feeling pain or just needs his back scratched. If no one is making an effort he’ll stay in the hammock all day long. Doca wants him to live and interact. For 11 years he’s been carrying his son all over the village, things like taking him to see relatives and to the church on Sundays. He tries to figure out what Felipe likes most to eat. All food has to be processed and turned into a liquid state. But Doca noticed Felipe gets more active when he sees yogurt. And getting yogurt to Terra Preta village is quite a challenge.
Twice a day 4 different types of remedies are given to Felipe. He also goes with his father to Manaus 4 or 5 times a year to see the doctor that will check his weight and adjust the dosage of the remedies. That’s another journey that’s not easy at all. Back in the village, tasks like taking Felipe out are getting harder – the boy is already 11 years old, weighs 55 pounds and is 4 ft 1 inch tall. So, if Doca doesn’t make an effort every day, between fishing, making manioc flour, harvesting avocados, bananas, brazil nuts and other village chores, Felipe will get to spend them in the hammock.
Now is the first time we see Doca asking for help. To provide his son with a better life in the village and at home he wants to buy a wheelchair and a bathing table. He has already arranged wood for making part of the house bigger and to fit the bathing table. He’s worked hard to save for both devices. Turns out, the last two years haven’t been easy for Doca. Going to Manaus more often for appointments with Felipe’s neurologist involves spending more and working less. Working with us on Rio Novo and Labirinto da Tartaruga helped a whole lot, but still not enough to face the new challenges 2020 brought to all of us.
So, of course when we heard Doca needed help we didn’t think twice – we’re sure that anyone who’s ever met him would not leave him alone in his journey. And we’re making this fundraiser for Felipe the priority of the Bucket List Fly Fishing Care&Share program.
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- Frank Cavaliere
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Fundraising team: Bucket List Fly Fishing (2)
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