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No. 46 • January - June 2008 • Page 148
 •  Initiatives

Roraima (Brazil) -- Amajari: volunteer work in the heart of the Amazon

In January 2008, during the school vacation period in Brazil, a group of students from several Brazilian university centers took part in a volunteer project in Amajari, in the Brazilian State of Roraima, in the middle of the Amazon jungle.

Of Brazil's twenty-six states, Roraima is the farthest north and the most isolated. It is also one of the poorest, with a large part of the population lacking the most basic services.

The Amajari 2008 project was the initiative of a number of university centers in São Paulo, Ribeirão Preto, and Rio de Janeiro. Its goal was to provide spiritual, medical and dental assistance for a small community in Amajari, and to carry out some much-needed masonry repairs in the local chapel.

For six months beforehand, many students helped with the logistics: sending several tons of construction material donated by benefactors; obtaining donations of medical and dental equipment; planning the repairs in the chapel, etc.

From the first day, the work of medical attention and dental education was begun. The community had not seen a dentist for over a year; and the last doctor had come four years ago. Over 300 people were assisted as well as taking care of two emergency cases.

The pastoral care was also a very important part of the project. The diocese of Roraima, which covers an area larger than France, has only a dozen priests, and many people have to spend months or even years without being able to receive the sacraments. The priest who accompanied the volunteers dedicated many hours to catechesis and the administration of the sacraments. In addition, he visited all the families in the community and celebrated Holy Mass every day.

The volunteers also made repairs to the chapel, provided the community center with a small library, and constructed a small house for the priest who visits periodically.

When they returned to their cities, the volunteers, besides the natural fatigue, brought back with them an experience that was greatly enriching. Some of them, who had been distanced from religious practice, decided to renew their practice of the faith.

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