Mershona Parshall, Director Shipibo Joi
The Divine has a way of directing things greater than what I can conceive in my small minded human way. I have been traveling to the Peruvian Amazon yearly and sometimes bi-yearly since 2007. Each experience with the indigenous people and specifically the Shipibo has brought me to places within myself and within the natural world that have altered my perspectives and changed my world view.
In 2009, when I raised money for a Shipibo Congress in Pucallpa, I never imaged the invitation to participate would lead down the path of starting Shipibo Joi. Shipibo Joi’s mission has always been to be fluidly responsive in making a contribution to the Shipibo. Personally, it has been a gesture of reciprocity for what the Amazonian healers have contributed to my own well being. Over those years, my contribution grew into writing grants, selling artesania in fair trade markets for the Shipibas, bringing medical supplies, reading glasses, building a new roof for Maroti Shobo, coordinating mid wife workshops with Alianza Arkana, and sponsoring retreats for adolescent Shibibo girls.
At times the burden of the needs of the Shipibo people has been overwhelming. A thousand hands reaching out with need as the forest continues to be stripped through illegal logging, oil concessions and now palm oil companies who slash and burn the forest in order to produce palm oil for the needs of the insatiable West. The people of the forest who have lived by her medicines and the sustainable use of her abundant resources are increasingly hungry with no skills to adapt to the demands of the dominant culture nor to survive in a monetary system.
In addition to extractive interests, from every direction of the globe, the medicines of the forest are being stripped by Westerns who reach into the pocket of the forest attempting to treat their own soul sickness from the imbalances of Western culture with the ancient knowledge of the grandmothers and grandfathers. Ancient wisdom that their own children are turning away from for want of a cell phone, Western commodities, white bread and sugar.
The most recent trip to Pucallpa lead me to a crossroads. Had I given enough of my own time and resources to manage a sense of reciprocity and responsibility, quelling my own sense of guilt as every year I watch massive trees being shepherded down the Ucayali River on huge barges controlled by Peruvian and international mafioso. Perhaps my own life was shifting focus and direction within the world of my own work in North America. I asked a respected friend to assist me in a quiet two weeks in Pucallpa where I would bring my usual supplies for the Shipibo determined to be a listening to my future relationship with the Shipibo, Shipibo Joi and the great Amazon forest. Another motivation for this trip was to deliver a message stick from an Aboriginal elder to a Shipibo elder to fulfill a request to create relationship between these two indigenous cultures and continents.
In preparing for this trip, I found myself in conversation with various friends, and then found these words coming out of my heart – “Do you want to come?” Within a month there were 6 people who reported feeling a strong calling to join me and my solitary trip turned into a group. The gestalt of the group became something greater than I could have ever planned – a group of light workers being introduced to the beauty and contradiction of the Shipibo culture, the people I call the Keepers of the Plant Medicines.
The two weeks we shared together in Pucallpa turned into a profound calling to come out of the shadows of small projects and take on a larger mission for Shipibo Joi in partnership with the NGO Alianza Arkana.
The Genius Loci – Spirit of Place
The Genius Loci of the Amazon and her indigenous keepers need our massive assistance. Without the Amazon forest the people who have been the caretakers of her medicines will no longer exist. They will be dissolved in poverty into the dominate culture, no longer remembering their own relationship to nature. So, it is time for all Westerners who benefit from the medicines of the forest to recognize our collective responsibility to reciprocate with our financial resources to protect, preserve, and regenerate the forest for the people who have generously shared their wisdom and knowledge with so many around the world. The calling is to awaken our collective conscience, recognizing that true healing happens through the circle of reciprocity.
Here are the projects that you can support:
- Funds to assist Alianza Arkana to work with indigenous organizations in Peru and Peruvian nonprofits regarding establishing land titles for Shipibo communities. Through legal titles the communities can protect their land from extraction interests.
- Expand the permaculture demonstration project already begun by Alianza Arkana. This project involves not only planting food but creating medicinal gardens. This project can be replicated in other Shipibo communities.
- Support reforestation projects to bring the Genius Loci back to communities that have experienced deforestation of their lands.
- Support the ecosocial justice program of Alianza Arkana.
- Pay the salary of Professor Eli Sanchez, a Shipibo dedicated to preserving Shipibo cosmovision, language, myths, history, and knowledge for future generations.
- Support an intergenerational program of elders teaching Shipibo youth their ancestral wisdom and knowledge.
You are welcome to contact me and designate how you would like your donation to be distributed if there is a project you specifically want to support.
Previous 2013 Update
We made great progress in 2013 on our projects. We have developed a core group of midwives, provided medical supplies, reading glasses, sponsored Girls for the World, and as you will read below, Shipibo Joi funded a new roof for Maroti Shobo. As I look forward to 2014, Shipibo Joi remains committed to being a vibrant and responsive organization advised by the people it serves.
Please consider a tax deductible donation to Shipibo Joi.
MAROTI SHOBO HAS A NEW ROOF!
For the past two years, Shipibo Joi has been raising money to build a new roof for Maroti Shobo, a collective of 24 Shipibo women who have a market place in Yarinacocha. In October, we selected a contractor and hired a supervisor, Edwin Raul Zavallos Chota, to manage the project. Funds for rebuilding the roof came from donations to Shipibo Joi with a contribution from the women of Maroti Shobo. Maroti Shobo’s contribution was donated artesania for Shipibo Joi to sell towards the new roof fund. The money from these sales contributed about 1/4 of the total cost.
Shipibo Joi is very happy to report that the roof was completed in November 2013 just as the rainy season began. We also replaced the roof behind the Maroti Shobo market. This space comprises a large meeting area where Shipibo gatherings are often held. Here are pictures of the roof in the rebuilding process. You can see that it is a huge area. Special thanks to Edwin who kept the project moving forward and Dr. Paul Roberts for his assistance.
There remains additional improvements that are needed to the property that includes redoing the bathrooms and a new security door. Donations for these projects would be greatly appreciated.
SHIPIBO JOI MIDWIFE INITIATIVE
Nine Christiane is a German midwife who has been volunteering for Shipibo Joi during 2013. Nine has been working as a midwife since 1982. She first gained experience as a midwife in hospitals in Germany and then began working independently providing prenatal, birth, and post natal care.
Through out the year, Nine has been visiting numerous Shipibo communities to develop a relationship with the midwives and familiarize herself with Shipibo midwifery practices. Nine has learned a great deal about plant use, prenatal massage and care, and delivery practices. Nine is also identifying where birthing practices may be improved, including the basics such as hygiene. Nine’s on the ground, hands on contribution to this initiative has been invaluable.
One of the goals of this project is to develop an integrative midwifery model to improve birth outcomes in jungle communities that occur far from health posts or the hospital in Pucallpa. The integrative midwifery model will embrace traditional knowledge and incorporate holistic aspects of natural childbirth used in the west.
SHIPIBO MIDWIFE MEETING
We conducted a Shipibo midwife meeting and training at Maroti Shobo in October 2013. Ten midwives representing eight Shipibo communities attended. Medical supplies brought by Shipibo Joi included, scissors, clamps, gauze, thermometers, face masks, surgical gloves, an infant stethoscope, alcohol, bulb syringes, measuring tapes, cotton cords, baby clothes, receiving blankets, and aprons for the midwives to share with other midwives in their communities.
We intentionally kept the meeting small so that we could have a more intimate discussion about traditional birthing practices, what works, what needs improvement, and what are the challenges. Nine led the meeting and provided training on how to use the supplies correctly. Nine, and Shilpa Darivemula, a visitor/volunteer from the USA, also traveled to Dinamarca, a Shipibo community along the Ucayali River. Nine met with the midwives of that community to provide them training and additional medical supplies.
We continue to learn about Shipibo midwifery and hope to conceptualize an integrative model that will improve birth outcomes and reduce maternal mortality in the next year.
GIRLS FOR THE WORLD
Two potential sites for Girls for the World programs were explored in October. We decided on a community that will be accessible during the rainy season for the next five day retreat that will occur in February 2014. We hope to have 15 girls and the participation of a few Shipibo women as mentors. Shipibo Joi will continue its involvement in this program through financial support and assistance during retreat. We will also follow up with the girls from the first program that was conducted earlier in 2013 in the Shipibo community of San Francisco.