Roads, the Beginning of the End of an Ecosystem

by Mary Beth Gray, SND on October 22, 2013

in Blogs, Uncategorized

From Sister Kathleen Ryan, SND:   For the next several weeks, we welcome Sister Mary Beth Gray,  a trained Awakening the Dreamer and Wake Up (for young adults) facilitator for the Pachamama Alliance who  just returned from Amazon Rainforest as the guest writer of the JPIC blog.  This is the second  entry of the series.  Her journey continues….

Fundación Pachamama

On our final day in Quito, we visited Fundación Pachamama headquarters.  Wow!  What an organization!  An offshoot of the Pachamama Alliance, Fundación Pachamama is spearheading the local projects described below.

fundacion sign

Sign marking Pachamama Headquarters, downtown Quito


Eco-Tourism Boosts Economy and Preserves Nature’s Wonders

In the rainforest, there are no roads.  Roads are “the beginning of the end” of an ecosystem.  Once roads are built, trucks arrive, logging begins, and oil companies exploit the land.  We traveled on foot, by canoe, and by small plane.  No roads.

Eco-Tourism builds local economies while preserving the pristine beauty and biodiversity of the region.  Our Pacha Journey was an eco-tourism journey.  Everything was reduced, reused and recycled.  But eco-tourism goes far beyond that.

Eco-Tourism:  Solar Powered Canoes Coming Soon

Since there are no roads, the main transportation is via the rivers.  Currently, all gasoline must be flown in – greatly adding to the environmental cost.  Solar powered canoes will be eco-friendly, quiet and without fumes!  Solar powered canoes will allow passengers to be immersed in the beautiful sounds of the rainforest, and breathe in the clean air as they travel. The first two solar-powered canoes are under construction and will soon be in use.

Efforts Unite Against 11th Round of Oil

elizabeth and daughter Elizabeth, an articulate indigenous woman, spoke to us through a translator.  Elizabeth is ardent about preserving the Yasuni Region of the Rainforest.  She spoke passionately against the 11th Round of Oil.  It was very moving to see her daughter next to her, knowing the impact of oil drilling on her daughter’s future!



Special Project:  “Jungle Mamas”

We were thrilled to meet “Jungle Mamas” Program Director, Robin Fink and receive a first-hand update on this amazing project.

Robin FinkRobin describes Jungle Mamas as “a maternal health care program that saves lives at birth” among the Achuar.

achuary jungle mamas

“Jungle Mamas” in training
Photo Credit: Pachamama Alliance

 Safe birthing practices are of utmost importance.  If a mother is lost in childbirth, the family often disintegrates, and the children become orphans.

“Jungle Mamas” learn to calculate expected due dates, measure the uterus, take pulse and temperature, measure blood pressure, listen to the baby’s heartbeats with a fetoscope, and identify the signs of high-risk pregnancies early on – in preparation for potential transfers to hospitals outside the rainforest.  If hospitalization is needed, several days of travel are often required (by foot, by canoe, by plane, and then by ambulance to a hospital). So the family must have a plan in place.

(For more about maternal mortality, see Half the Sky by Kristoff and WuDunn, chapters 6 & 7 or view the film;  both are available through most libraries.

“Jungle Mamas” are Women Empowered

No one foresaw the effect of this project on the “Jungle Mamas” themselves.  The “Jungle Mamas” themselves have been empowered by taking on this educated leadership role and providing safe births for other rainforest mothers!

jungle mama kits

Birthing kits, ready to be wrapped in the traditional scarf for carrying babies (Photo credit: Pachamama Alliance)


For more information about the amazing “Jungle Mamas” Project, check out the video here.


Fundación Pachamama – Closing Thought

You would have to have a heart of stone not to be touched by the vision, dedication and tireless efforts these beautiful people are making to create a sustainable and just world!

Please join us for an Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, and let us explore what else we can do, together!  There is still time to register for an Awakening the Dreamer Symposium, Saturday, October 26, 2013 at Notre Dame Education Center, 13000 Auburn Road, Chardon, Ohio from 10:00am until 4:00 pm (lunch included)  The symposium is free and open to the public but registration is required.  Register by contacting

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Cathy Calamia October 23, 2013 at 4:40 pm

I am thoroughly enjoying Sister Mary Beth’s reflections
on this incredible journey.


Mary Beth Gray, SND October 23, 2013 at 5:06 pm

Thanks, Cathy! I was blessed by your friendship throughout the journey. And it’s something we’ve shared that we’ll never forget!!


Doris Acevedo October 23, 2013 at 9:07 pm

I am very thankful that Mary Beth is sharing these experiences. It is helping me revisit the trip we did together and get an inspiration on how I also may contribute something valuable to the world.


Mary Beth Gray, SND October 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm

Doris, you will certainly continue to make worthwhile contributions! You are doing so much already! And we’re all very excited about your plan to give Awakening the Dreamer in Ecuador to the government officials. Wow!!


Linda Severance October 24, 2013 at 7:28 am

Thanks for sharing your incredible trip and we enjoyed following your
trip on Tuesday. You 5 ladies are amazing..


Mary Beth Gray, SND October 24, 2013 at 10:47 am

Thanks for coming Tuesday evening, Linda! My life has been so enriched by these four wonderful women and this journey! The guests Tuesday night added a lot of depth to our presentation, too. I’m amazed and inspired every day by people’s goodness, generosity, and desire to make our world a better place. And it’s happening!!


Kathie Murtey October 24, 2013 at 1:23 pm

What a trip we had!!! I love the way you are sharing it. I can’t wait to read more. Hugs {{{ }}} Kathie


Mary Beth Gray, SND October 24, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Thanks, Kathie! My fellow travelers made the trip so special. It was great getting to know you. It’s a challenge to share an “experience,” because in so many ways it’s “beyond words.” Blessings!


Sand Symes October 24, 2013 at 8:42 pm

It is like reading a great book that you don’t want to end!
Mary Beth I am moved, thrilled and overjoyed to see how you are sharing your journey in this way. Your words, and the way you are sharing your experiences is moving other’s – and that my dear friend is the work of The Pachamama in ACTION! God bless you. You were a true Sister on the journey………deepest love and gratitude,


Mary Beth Gray, SND October 24, 2013 at 10:30 pm

We were all so moved by this journey, Sand, and you were a big part of that with your amazing warmth and care. I believe those must have been bats flying against my mosquito net that first night…you were so calming and kind. And that was Pachamama, too: all the generosity and kindness we received from each other!


Donna Mazzola November 3, 2013 at 10:35 am

This entry was a beautiful account of the actions that have come out the alliance with the Achuar — the courageous individuals that are part of Fundación Pachamama — Elizabeth, Robin, and others. When we visited the offices of Fundación that day, we were fresh out of the rainforest, our hearts wide open. I can still feel the scene you describe, Mary Beth, of watching Elizabeth’s daughter as her mother spoke. Thankfully, it still moves me. Thank you again for sharing these beautiful reflections.


Mary Beth Gray, SND November 3, 2013 at 10:44 pm

I’m amazed when I realize how many people are working to make our world a better place and to save the earth! I was inspired that day by the combination of “local” projects (solar canoes) and “larger” projects (changes in government, constitution, etc.) Our indigenous friends are certainly helping US to save our planet and live well together.


Lisa Novak November 5, 2013 at 1:45 pm

How very touching to hear about the “Jungle Mamas.” More to pray about and for in this loving endeavor!


Mary Beth Gray, SND November 5, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Yes, and the women are becoming empowered by helping each other. Compared to our culture and our world, the Achuar women are very subservient. So I was especially thrilled by the “Jungle Mamas” project.


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