Just a Drop, the water-aid charity for the international travel and tourism industry, is on a rescue mission to help preserve a remote tribe of South American Indians.
Explorer and president of Just a Drop, Col. John Blashford-Snell, Britain’s answer to Indiana Jones, sets out later this month.
The Visit USA Association UK raised over £4,000 at their Independence Day Ball earlier this month to help buy the equipment for the ambitious project.
Peter Moss, chair, Visit USA Association UK said, “This is the fourth year that the Visit USA Association has raised funds for Just a Drop, whose work is hugely important and worthwhile. It is our chance to give back a little to those in far greater need than ourselves. ”
“We are delighted with the record sum of £4,000 that we raised at our annual Independence Day Ball, and I now throw the gauntlet to the UK-US travel industry to do even better next year.”
Blashford-Snell is taking a 20-strong team of water engineers, doctors, dentists and nurses to brave steamy tropical heat touching 34C or more and malaria-infested swamps. The tribe has no direct contact with the outside world.
Fiona Jeffery, founder and chairman of Just a Drop said, “The tribe lives deep in the Ecuador jungle and has been poorly treated by unscrupulous oil companies that have left their traditional hunting grounds and water sources heavily polluted with crude oil. Near access to clean water is vital to avoid serious sickness, particularly among the children. They manage to collect some rainwater, but mostly they are forced to use the dirty water from a nearby creek which they use for drinking, washing and cooking.”
“It’s a terrible situation for a people who, against all the odds, are fighting to maintain their heritage and culture. This is the kind of situation where Just a Drop is likely to be their only hope. Other charities are simply not in a position to take on such projects, where the degree of difficulty, even to get to the community we want to help, is extremely high,” Jeffery continued.
Just a Drop is installing a water pump for the tribe and building latrines for their school and local clinic.
“Once in Ecuador, it’s going to take up to three days by vehicle and canoe,” said Blashford-Snell, Just a Drop’s president. “It’s certainly not the most conducive of places to get to, but the 130 villagers of Zabalo are desperate for clean water.”
Two visits have already established a friendly relationship with the tribesmen. An expert survey of the area has also taken place. The Cofans have proved remarkably enlightened about how to sustain their ancient lifestyle.
“They are keen conservationists and want to promote eco-tourism,” said Blashford-Snell. The village is surrounded by unexplored forest, home of over 800 species of birds, 150 mammals and thousands of species of plants, many of which are used for herbal medicine.”
Blashford-Snell and the team will be encouraging their self-help efforts by setting up a small heritage visitor center and producing a leaflet encouraging strictly responsible tourism to the region.
Fewer than 1,000 Cofans remain, mostly living in Ecuador. The tribe became world famous because of their determination to protect their rainforest home from the oil and mining industries. The Ecuadorian government has now assigned the largest extension of rain forest land ever to be given to any native group to be protected by the Cofans.
Thanks to the goodwill of the international travel and tourism industry, Just a Drop, which celebrates its tenth birthday this year, has helped over 850,000 people in 28 countries.
They specialize in building wells, hand pumps, bore holes and latrines, as well as run health and sanitation programs to remote communities worldwide.
Log on to www.justadrop.org for further information. If you wish to make a donation today, please visit www.justgiving.com/justadrop/donate