By John Anderson

This Saturday and Sunday, local non-profit Jungle Hearts will be holding a yard sale in the Chuck’s Steak House parking lot. The event will run 8AM-2PM on both days, rain or shine. Proceeds will be used to expand the medical care provided by local pediatrician Nancy DeTora next February when Auburn students make another expedition into the Amazon jungle in Ecuador.


Dr. DeTora will run a medical clinic in the Quechua village of Sani Isla during the trip, and funds are needed to purchase medications and supplies. Proceeds are also needed to pay the $70 extra bag fees charged by American Airlines. A few years ago, travelers could check two bags and that made bringing in medications, school supplies, shoes, and clothing relatively easy. American now only allows one free bag on the flight to Quito, Ecuador.

Jungle Hearts was founded by Nancy Thompson and Mike Harris after they traveled to the Amazon with former AMS science teacher Mark Blazis and visited the Sani community in February of 2012. On the Jungle Hearts web site Nancy says, “My heart swelled at the warmth and generosity of the Quechua community and I cried as I left this beautiful place, forever changed.” Recently, Jungle Hearts shipped 2 computers and a printer to Sani Isla where solar panels will allow their use.

Since the mid 1990’s, Mark Blazis has led two trips nearly every year to Ecuadorian Amazonia during the winter and spring school vacations. Initially, medical personnel were brought for the safety of the Auburn students. Dr. DeTora went on the first trip and has returned many times. From the start it was obvious that residents in these remote villages lacked any medical care, so the clinic concept developed.


70-100 Quechua Indians visit the clinics each trip, and some walk for hours to see a doctor. Others come by boat on the Rio Napo. While Quechua communities have at least one Shaman, their ceremonies and teas only treat certain maladies. The nearest hospital to Sani Isla is in Coca, a 3-1/2 hour boat ride away. Unfortunately, the hospital will only treat someone if they have the cash to pay for it. There is no health insurance or free care like in the United States. More than once, Auburn travelers have come up with the money to send a Quechuan for more advanced care in Coca.

It is very touching that a small group of Auburn residents have adopted a community so far away and so remote. During each visit, the Sani community puts on a spectacular lunch for their 30-40 guests. They make chocolate from freshly picked cocoa beans and serve traditional Quechuan foods like steamed fish and plantain. While the Sani people take the gifts from Massachusetts, they also give back with a bit of their culture. This is worth the trip