During 2007 we have, thanks to your support, worked on different themes and projects. As stated in our mission statement, all the work intends to strengthen the values and talents of the Wichi people. We must add that we also intend to defend their environment, this has been high on this years list of activities.
These are the areas we have worked on:
We moved our office to the centre of Salta City (Vicente Lopez 187) where we can also show the work done by the Wichi Painters we have been promoting for the past 10 years.
We have had the help of Pamela Gomez organizing the different projects and activities. This has been important so as to coordinate the logistics of all done. The biggest effort goes into the yearly marathon and the health theme that is tied to it (eye care). She will be taking a year leave to work in SAMS Ireland. We hope that from there she can also help us.
We have supported the Wichi leaders in their cry for protection of their forest and specially their fine woods. Never before have we seen how trees were chopped down to be sent illegally to China. This has been scandalous because it will prevent the Wichi in future to generate genuine income as there will be no wood to work with plus the loss of habitat.
On this subject we have worked on these areas:
Our constant (with other NGOs) pressure on the authorities through letters and meetings with the top official of the government produced Resolution Nº 948. that puts some control on illegal logging. All extraction permits were written off and all logs on the road have to be certified. This, in theory, is positive BUT we are still far from a real solution as the containers full of wood are leaving daily and these, for sure, are not legally certified. There are many rules but also many ways around them. There is a light of hope as the government has changed and there are new officials now with a more ecology mind. We will be carrying on with this effort in 2008.
Support (with other NGOs) for 8 community leaders to travel to Buenos Aires where they met with political leaders of Indian Affairs, Human rights, Ombudsman, Natural Resources, etc. The agenda was land rights and loss of forest to soy bean farmers. They also met with the senator (Miguel Bonasso) that has put together the new Forest Law that will stop tree felling for 1 years till land tenure is organized.
Support for Jose Molina (leader of Carboncito community) to travel to Buenos Aires (1600km away) to the 3rd Seminary on Natural Resources and Social Participation in the Mercosur economic block. (Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay & Argentina). It was organized by the External Affairs and Social Development Ministry. We filmed a video under the title: “Stop all this” which shows the terrible effect on communities of the sale of Palo Santo Wood to China. It´s done in Spanish, French, English and German).We are gratefull to Cristoff Kehr for helping us with this work. You can see this on YouTUBE.
In this area we have done:
A).- TAKING CARE OF OUR EYES. This project has been part of the 2007 Wichi Marathon held in July. We were supported here by a well known ophthalmologist, Dr. Fernando Di Lella, who traveled to the communities of Misión Chaqueña, Salim y and Carboncito. In two active days 72 patients were attended. From this iniciative we were able to:
Mobilize people from Buenos Aires to help with the frames for reading glasses. 48 Wichi recieved glasses.
Organize the operation of Pastor Rufino Gutiérrez who, due to acute glaucoma was going to loose his sight forever. He was operated by Dr Di lella and although he had lost sight in one eye his other one was saved.
Communicate the needs to our friends and contacts so that all could donate their used glasses. This was successful as we are still receiving bags of old spectacles that are then sent to the optician where he gages them and from there to the communities. We will carry on with this in future.
B).- We have worked on editing a flyer that deals with preventive info on diarroea in Wichi language. We hope this will give practical info for families on this subject that is the cause of malnutrition and infant mortality. We are very grateful to Bob Lunt for his continued support when we have to do any translating.
We receive from the communities the message that sport has to be promoted as there are no activities for the young. That is why we are involved in this area. The pit that they fall into, if there is no alternative for their spare time, is alcoholism. This has many secondary effects (violence, theft, health problems, etc). This is what has been done:
Inter Community football champinoship. Six teams played each other during three months. We hope to do this again with some changes that could prevent excesses. (All teams put 2 pesos each for each payer and the winner would take all. This went ok but after prize giving all got drunk and there was violence)
Wichi Marathon: more than 300 runners of all ages took part in this year´s event. Every year the organization is bettered although we still need a good computer program to get the prize winners fast. We were supported by the Foundation´s members and other volunteers. The Wichi themselves take more and more responsibility every year and it´s our hope that they will be able to do it by themselves in years coming. What is more difficult for them is the fundraising which has to be done via internet with contacts and friends.
Nike 10k Maratón: Nora Segundo and Eugenia Vallejos, came in first and second in their category and were given support by the foundation to go and run in Buenos Aires. Eugenia had also won in ´06 but for both it was a super experience to compete with 25.000 other runners. We plan to have this as a normal part of the Wichi Marathon’s fixture. We have to give special thanks to St. George´s College for giving them a place to stay on this and past trips.
Sport development Project. Due to our contacts with Nike we were asked to put together a sports program which we have done and presented t oto posible sponsor. It includes football, volleyball and the Maratón which Intend. To promote these sports with Wichi Teenagers (boys and girls).
MUSEUM AND BOTANICAL GARDEN:
We have had kids breaking into the museum through the window. They messed up the glass showcases and had a party in the centre room. All were drunk so the place was very messed up after they left. This has meant that we stopped investing in this project till there is a night watchman which we haven’t found yet. We will put the pressure on the local authorities so that they support this cultural anchor. There has to be somebody living there so the can take care of the museum and water the plants of the botanical garden. This last area will be of great importance to have as all that forest knowledge is getting lost. We will insist this coming year on this.
In order to put the pressure on local authorities we have put together the Museum needs an organised written Project. This Project is available to any interested partner.
This Little Project has given the school very sweet results. For the second consecutive year the five hives that were installed on a far end of the school compound gave a harvest of 40 kg of honey. This is given to the children to take home and part is sold to pay for books for the school. The work is coordinated by a bilingual teacher (Octaviano Gutierrez) who is also a member of the board of directors the Foundation. Kids from the upper grades help to clean, feed and harvest the hives so they have practical experience to be used once they are older. We hope to support students with hives for themselves in year ´08. This way there will be more enthusiasm to learn. As this is a very small project we need to get attached to other NGOs in the area to get the teaching for further knowledge.
DEVELOPMENT OF WICHI PAINTERS PROJECT:
For over ten years we have supported Wichi Art and it´s of great satisfaction to see how the artists are evolving. Since Litania Prado´s death (she was the first Wichi painter)in mid ´06 more painters have come in to practice. Slowly but steady we have seen how Laura (Litania´s sister) and Sarah Diaz (Litania´s sister in law) have gone ahead with putting on canvas their traditions and day to day life. It will have a big impact in the documenting of Wichi life for future generations. Reinaldo, was given a bicycle by the Foundation to visit other communities and that has meant that more young people started painting as we expected to happen. There is a need now to open up a market for these works as the only way that this can be sustainable is if they can be sold.
We will have an important exhibition in the top cultural centre in Buenos Aires sponsored by Pluspetrol a local oil company.
What we are pushing also is to develop other options to paint so we now have chairs, bowls, boxes and ladies clothes with the paintings. Twenty percent of the sale of these go back direct to the painters even though the work has already being paid for.
We finished the year with U$D766 in the bank. Still we have to print the diarrhea leaflets so it seems we will end the year near zero. This is healthy and normal and it’s our responsibility to share this news with you all and maybe you can count on your donations again. We would like to give special thanks to the SIWOK UK enthusiastic team of volunteers. Without them this could not have been done.
Many thanks for your continued support to the Siwok Foundation. We look forward to your help this year also so as to help the Wichi keep their environment and traditions alive plus gaining confidence and self esteem. God bless you all.
(Siwok Foundation President)