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Amajari (Brazil) -- Volunteer project in the Amazon region

During ten days of their summer vacation in January 2007, some thirty students and young professionals took part in a program to help families in the village of Trairão, in the Amazon jungle. Trairão has almost 700 inhabitants scattered on small parcels of land. One of the most isolated and needy villages in the area, it forms part of the township of Amajari and is 140 miles from Boa Vista, the capital of the State of Roraima, in the extreme north of Brazil.

The volunteers, who attend formative activities of the Prelature in various cities in Brazil, have worked on the project for months and drawn up a complete program: urgent medical and dental assistance, health and first aid classes, basic notions of computer use and installation of computers, catechism classes for children and adults, and renovation of the village chapel.

As a first step, Pedro Paulo Magalhães, a computer consultant, coordinated a campaign of donations that lasted six months. This raised enough money to purchase three tons of construction material for the chapel, 5,000 doses of medicine, two dental chairs, six computers with printers, an antenna to access the internet, etc. The Ministry of Aviation put a transport plane at their disposal. Airline tickets were also obtained for the students. A family donated the liturgical items needed for the chapel: statues, vestments, altar coverings, and a tabernacle.

The project also had the help of a Cooperator of Opus Dei who is an officer with the Seventh Jungle Infantry Battalion quartered in Boa Vista. He provided vital logistical support, especially in regard to transport of the students and material on the dirt roads through the jungle.

The project was also assisted by Father Michelino Roberto, a priest of the Archdiocese of São Paulo and a Cooperator of the Priestly Society of the Holy Cross, who celebrated Holy Mass each day and gave catechism classes.

The students were divided into work teams. Under the direction of Doctor Marcio Makoto Nishida, the medical team handled 459 consultations, one emergency birth and an emergency intervention resulting from a work accident. Doctor Rafael Yagüe, professor at the Dental School of the University of São Paulo, with the help of two students took care of 160 dental consultations and gave ten hours of classes on first aid and hygiene, which included the distribution of material for oral hygiene. In the village school, 6 web connected computers were installed and 30 hours of classes on the theory and practice of computer use were provided.

The team in charge of restoring the small village church also worked intensely. The new chapel was inaugurated with the celebration of the Mass of St. Josemaría attended by all the families in the village. At the end, everyone sang the Salve Rainha [Hail Holy Queen] before a statue of our Lady.

The residents of Trairão gave the students the best that they had: fish, poultry, and fruit. The volunteers had the satisfaction of being able to help the most needy. As one of the students, Leonardo Sakuramoto, said on his return to the São Paulo airport: “I’ve never worked so hard in my life, but this was the best vacation I’ve ever had.”

Romana, No. 44, January-June 2007, p. 157-158.