Brazil: Blogging from riverside communities in the Amazon

An interesting blogging initiative called Mocoronga Network [pt] is taking place along the riversides of the Amazon, Tapajós and Arapiuns rivers in the Amazon forest. ‘Mocorongo’ is the name given to those who are born in the city of Santarém, State of Pará, the region's biggest urban center. Youngsters from riverside communities located in the municipalities of Santarém and the neighbouring Belterra have joined forces to express themselves, exchange news and learn about the world on the web.

The project is part of the work that the NGO Saúde & Alegria [Health and Happiness, pt], has been carrying out in the region since 1987. The PSA, as the NGO is known, drew the attention of the world when it put a team of doctors and clowns onboard a boat and headed down the river, offering primary health services to communities in isolated regions. From the start, their methodology combined medicine with circus activities, as they believe associating health care with play breeds better results. When you see them trying to teach dozens of school children to brush their teeth – which is not a habit in the region – you immediately see the logic in this strategy!

Abaré’s educators dressed for a day’s work. Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.

Today, having gained much international support and acquired a fully equipped hospital boat called Abaré, the PSA partners with municipalities to transport their doctors to the communities and also mobilize volunteer specialist doctors from all over the world to carry out sophisticated interventions otherwise not be easy region, for instance cataract surgery.

The Abaré hospital-boat parked at a riverside community on the Tapajós river. Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.

Although the main focus of the PSA Project is health care, they very soon realized that health problems have interdisciplinary solutions which have to do with the local economy, the environment, education, access to information and political organization. Different initiatives began and one of them is to strengthen the social communication resources of these communities, both in the way they communicate amongst themselves and the way they communicate to the world outside.

Thus, the Mocoronga Network [pt] was born out of a project that empowered local youngsters to become community reporters, by teaching them to produce radio programs, videos, newspapers and blogs on the Internet. Each community has its own media unit with basic equipment: sound systems, editorial desks, video equipment and an Internet connection which they manage in their own manner (so far, six have been equipped, but they aim to reach 31). Local schools are important partners. The main desk is situated in Santarém, at the PSA’s headquarters, from where staff members disseminate important regional news. These youngsters receive information to feed into the community and also post their own reality, daily challenges and cultural activities to the outside world.

School children from a riverside community on the Tapajós river. Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.

The six communities which already have their own blogs through the Mocoronga Network are: Muratuba, Cachoeira do Aruã, Piquiatuba, Maguari, Belterra e Suruacá. The Abaré boat has its own blog too on the Mocoronga Network (all in Portuguese).

A view from the Abaré boat of a riverside community on the Tapajós river.
Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.

Recently, the Suruacá community reported [pt] on how the community joined forces to build their new community centre. The strength of the local men was much appreciated, as tree trunks had to be carried by hand:

Como na comunidade não tem transporte adequado para este trabalho árduo, a madeira é conduzida no ombro, na cabeça e de outras maneiras possíveis encontradas pelos próprios trabalhadores. A madeira fica com um percurso de 40 minutos do ramal de onde será conduzida com o auxilio de uma carroça-de-boi, diminuindo assim o sofrimento dos comunitários.

Since there is no adequate transport [to help with] this hard work, the wood is carried on shoulders, heads and in any other ways the workers find. The wood is some 40 minutes walk from the point where it will be conducted by an ox cart, diminishing then the suffering of the community workers.

Adriane Gama, from the PSA headquarters, has used the network to disseminate information about the risks that the upcoming carnival festivities present to children and youngsters [pt]:

Estamos no mês de carnaval, de folia e alegria. Mas, em se tratando de crianças e adolescentes, devemos ter cuidados redobrados nessa época para que muitas delas não seja abusadas e aliciadas por pessoas que violam os direitos fundamentais infanto-juvenis. Para contribuir com a diversão e segurança das crianças e adolescentes nesse carnaval em Santarém – PA, o conselho tutelar e várias parcerias devem unir forças para o sucesso do trabalho.

Carnival is coming up, a time for happiness and folly. But, as for children and youth during Carnival, we must double our care to ensure that they will not be abused or enticed by people interested in violating their fundamental rights. In order to contribute towards the fun and safety of the kids this carnival, the Santarém-PA tutorial council and other partners will join forces [to work] towards the success of their project.

Children from a riverside community line up for a tooth inspection.
Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.

The Mocoronga Network also disseminates international news to local communities. For instance, in the World Social Forum, which took place last month in the neighboring town of Belém, some youngsters participated in the event along with PSA’s staff and together they picked articles from media channels that represented their perceptions of the event. As an example, they published an article indicating a view that the Social Forum was conclusive on a number of issues, contradicting much of what had been said by the mainstream media.

A nona edição do Fórum Social Mundial (FSM) terminou neste domingo (01/02), em Belém, com a “Assembléia das Assembléias” adotando dezenas de resoluções e propostas que serão temas de um programa de mobilizações ao redor do mundo em 2009.
As 21 assembléias temáticas, assim, quebraram o que parecia ser um tabu do FSM, ou seja, adotar posições políticas comuns sob a pressão de milhares de grupos da sociedade civil, ansiosos por agarrar a oportunidade criada pela crise econômica global de uma mudança progressiva.

The 9th edition of the World Social Forum (WSF) ended this Sunday (01/02), in Belém, with the “Assembly of Assemblies” adopting dozens of resolutions and proposals that will be the themes of a mobilization programme all around the world in 2009.
The 21 thematic assemblies, this way, challenged what seemed to be a taboo for the WSF, which is the ability to define common political stances under the pressure of thousands of civil society groups who are anxious to seize the opportunity created by the global economic crisis to move towards progressive change.

With a variety of news from riverside communities produced by local youngsters, interesting tips from PSA staff and an increasing participation in significant world events, the Rede Mocoronga is an interesting way for anyone in the world to find out more about the lives of Amazonian riverside communities, learn about how they live, their challenges and concerns, as well as how they feel about world problems.

A river with a view. Photo by Deborah Icamiaba.


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