By: Shelly Burningham

Human beings are diverse in many ways. We come from different lifestyles, religions, gender, race, and nationalities. Despite those differences, we all feel joy and pain.  Youthlinc has given me the opportunity to understand the world better.  Being exposed to different cultures has helped me appreciate more in life. I believe the more you interact with people from different cultures, the more you value and respect others in general.  We have seen first-hand how racial and ethnic division has hurt our society.  Doing our part to educate ourselves and treat others with deserved respect will help us overcome this divide.

Youthlinc has provided me with many memorable experiences.  I have enjoyed learning about different cultures, belief systems, religion, food, and traditions.  I have been awestruck by the beautiful surroundings I have seen.  I have celebrated in each unique custom I have encountered.  My most cherished experiences come from the new friends that I have made worldwide.  I have learned valuable lessons from them.  They have helped me appreciate my own life from a different perspective. 

My husband, Mark, and I led a Youthlinc team to Yanamano II, Peru. The village was located just off the Amazon river about 45 minutes by boat from Iquitos.  My favorite part of this trip was getting to know the villagers on a personal level.  There were only about 250 people in the entire community and so we were able to get to know each person by name.  They treated us like family and welcomed us with open and grateful arms. 

The sweet people in this village led a simple life but were so thankful for all they had been given.  Through their challenges, they learned to prioritize their needs. They smiled, danced and sang in spite of their hardships.  They celebrated festivals and came together to enjoy social occasions.  They are hardworking, courageous and resilient.  They lived in unity, helping each other as one.  Listed below are some simple things I have learned from my Peruvian friends in Yanamono II, Peru.

Ignacio (Nacho) Garcia Tecco has taught me the power of perseverance.  After Nacho was released from the military he met and married his first wife.  Together they had three children.  His first wife died from complications of diabetes.  He moved to Yanamono II where he met his second wife and married again.  Together they had two children.  One of his children died from skin cancer at the age of ten years old.

Nacho likes living in Yanamono II because it is quiet, calm and tranquil.  He gets up very early in the morning to work in the fields caring for yucca and plantains.  

Every fifteen days a boat comes to Yanamono II to pick up the produce.  A representative then sells the produce in Iquitos.  With the profits from the produce, they buy the food they need.

Nacho wants to thank Youthlinc for the water filters.  In the past, the water would collect from the rain and it was this water they would drink.  After a while, cholera broke out.  As a result, they began boiling the water before they could drink it.  Clean water has been a big problem for them and many people have become sick.  He said, “Please let Youthlinc know that the projects you are helping with like the water filters are a great help.”

Marcelina Revaili has taught me the importance of endurance.  She has lived her entire life in Yanamono and has suffered many things.  At the time we visited with her, she was seventy-nine years old.  Marcelina married and was widowed twice in her life.  Her first husband drowned in the river and her second husband died getting a hernia removed.  She also lived with another man, who was her partner, but he also died.  She had seven children with her first husband and one daughter with her second husband.  After her second husband died, her first born son died.  

This was extremely difficult on Marcelina because this son was the one that would help her with everything.

All of her children have left Yanamono except for one of her sons, Edmundo.  When she gets bored, she goes to visit her children in Iquitos.  She spends about two weeks in Iquitos and wants to come back to Yanamono to work.    She says, “I have worked my whole life and I still work because if I don’t work, who will provide for me?” 

Joaquin Lequerica Vasques is a great example of resilience.  Joaquin has had a difficult life.  His father abandoned him when he was little.  He had to work at an early age to help provide for himself and his mother.  Joaquin’s mother left him when he was fourteen years old.

When Joaquin was fifteen, he took a job from a Spaniard man working with wood.  It was very difficult work cutting down trees and then cutting the wood into pieces.  The friend brought the wood to Iquitos to sell for money. 

Joaquin also helped this same man pan for gold.  They cut their way through a very think jungle until they reached a big lagoon.  The group found many small pieces of gold that weighed a kilo in total.  Although Joaquin was promised proceeds from the sale of the wood and gold, the Spaniard lied to him and Joaquin did not receive any of the money.

Joaquin lives in Yanamono II with his wife and they have thirteen children.  All of them have left Yanamono II except for two of his children.  When the children were young, he cleaned a large, two floor convent. “One night a nun told me to come with her.  Some Indians had kidnapped one of the nuns.  They were looking for her and noticed that the doors were unlocked.  

They said that I was the one responsible and they blamed me and told me I couldn’t work there anymore.  The nun never returned to the convent.”

Regardless of the challenges Joaquin has experienced in his lifetime, he is grateful for his life, the village of Yanamono II and Youthlinc for the help they have given them.

Sonia Luiz Lequerica Chavez has taught me the importance of dedication and sacrifice to the community.  Sonia was born in Yanamono II and has lived in Yanamono II her entire life.  Her parents at the time of this interview were 63 and 68 and were still living in Yanamano II.  There were four girls and six boys in her family.

She met her husband when she was sixteen and they had their first child when she was eighteen. Her husband is Leonardo who is one of the village leaders and the preacher at the Catholic Church in Yanamono II.  Together they have six children and one grandchild.  She and her husband are very grateful they are able to serve the village in the community and in their church.  Her husband does not get paid for this service.  She says, “In Yanamono II, the people work together. If we have problems, we just talk about it and work together to fix the problem.”

I learn the importance of gratitude from Melita Inapi Falcon.  Melita was fifty years old at the time of our visit.  She was born and raised in Yanamono II.  Her parents were also from Yanamono II although not living anymore.  She has two brothers and five sisters.  Four of her siblings are living in Yanamono II.  She met her husband while he was working at the Explorama Tourism Lodge nearby.  Together they have seven children.

She said, “I like Yanamono because it is peaceful and for the good people that are here.  We help each other, we work together, we raise animals together. 

I love the plants.  For that reason, I don’t want to leave here.  I went to visit my daughter in Lima for three months.  I enjoyed it for a week and then I had to come home because I was missing Yanamono II.”

Melita works raising animals and cultivating plants.  She has a great knowledge about medicinal plants in the area and helps teach the younger generation how to use them.

These are just five of the forty interviews we had with villagers in Yanamono II.  I came to Yanamono II thinking of all the things we would do to help this sweet community.  I came away, however, learning much more from them.  Although they lack sufficient opportunities of education, employment, food security and basic amenities, I learned from them that you can always find things to be grateful for.  I learned that giving thanks for small and simple things can help us endure and be resilient when life’s challenges come.

Learning Lessons from the Villagers in Yanamono II, Peru
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