The CGCHealth mission to provide clean water access in the Amazonian region recently led us to the San Martin community along the Nanay River. The Nanay River begins in the Loreto District, and unlike the other Amazon tributaries that are born from the Andes mountain range this river is sourced from the rainforest. The small community of 11 indigenous families now residing in San Martin were displaced from their original homes further in the rainforest by commercial logging, and relocated to their new homes in the protected Allpahuayo Mishana National Reserve more than 20 years ago.

We first heard about the San Martin community from a fellow nonprofit in Iquitos, Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA) that works to establish protected lands. Currently, SPDA partners with the San Martin families and the National Reserve to collaboratively form a lawsuit against the Peruvian government due to the pollution of the water source in San Martin. The lawsuit focus is on a dumpsite that the government established near San Martin without receiving necessary approval from the National Reserve. Chemicals from the dumpsite leaked into the water supply and caused an increase in diseases and skin rashes among the community. 

In response to learning about San Martin, we received permission from the National Reserve to enter the protected land, and met with the community to determine whether the community thought that CGCHealth’s health courses and water filters would benefit the members. All 11 families attended our meeting and at first were understandably apprehensive about another nonprofit entering their small community. However, after establishing a relationship and answering questions, the community expressed that they would like for CGCHealth to return and that was a need for water filters. In our conversation the communities shared stories of their difficulties accessing clean water. 

A week later we returned to the site joined by two medical students from the Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana (UNAP). The families gathered again in a classroom and learned about the symptoms, prevention, and treatment of common health issues in the region from the medical students and assembled the filters. Each of the families expressed their enthusiasm for a partnership with CGCHealth, and invited us to return. We will continue to visit this community monthly to maintain a relationship, address any necessary filter repair and maintenance, and to provide access to other human rights resources.

We feel privileged to gain the trust of such a strong and enduring community in this region, and committed to responding to the requests of communities like San Martin for access to clean water. In addition, we are grateful to be connected to a larger storyline that combats and addresses human rights issues in this region.

Written by Hannah Nusz