The Ticuna community, the ambulance boat and Clinique La Prairie

At the southern tip of Colombia, in the vast Amazon rain forest near the borders of Peru and Brazil, lies the port of Leticia, a frontier town which is accessible to the rest of the world only by air or river. Nestled amongst stretches of dense Amazon jungle, some 70,000 Amerindians live in the area roughly the size of Britain. Divided in 17 distinct indigenous groups, they live in small villages on tributaries to the Amazon - the Loretoyacu River -  where life flourishes in abundance and the waters are teeming with fish as well as the legendary boto or pink dolphin. Some 580 species of birds and even more butterflies live in this green wilderness alongside numerous monkeys, iguana, ant eaters and jaguars.

The Ticuna community is the largest remaining population group of indigenous people living amid the vast department of Amazonas. Numbering about 8000 in Colombia, the Ticuna still live much as their ancestor did. Ticuna are horticulturists, fishermen, hunters and gatherers. Although some have adopted aspects of Western culture, the community has preserved most of its traditional way of living, native language and rituals. A very artistic community, the Ticuna have a very rich culture where dancing and crafts play a major role and happiness and peacefulness prevail. Yet, whilst the remoteness of their villages has helped them preserve their precious heritage, living conditions are tough with little medical help and access to clean water.

Although the Ticuna community receive Government aid, they were in desperate need of medical and dental treatment, educational material and water filtration. However, the most pressing issue was an Ambulance Boat to carry urgent cases to the hospitals in Puerto Navino and Leticia, the closest towns offering medical help, solely accessible by the river.

Led by the global charity, an expedition team of volunteers paid to provide help and support to the Columbian Ticuna community during the month of May 2017. One of the main objectives of the trip was to deliver an ambulance boat to the overall chief of the local villages. The funding for the boat came from Clinique La Prairie as a gift to the Ticuna Amerindian people to help save lives and bring access to the surrounding towns. As the team arrived in one of the remote villages, the Ambulance Boat was used for the very first time to save a child’s life dying from malaria. The baby was ferried in a critical condition just in time to the nearest hospital and returned home to his mother 6 days later alive and well thanks to the Ambulance Boat.

As the expedition came to an end, the president of the Ticuna communities, Rusbel Torres, and representatives of Clinique La Prairie exchanged notes of gratitude and hope for the future. Gregor Mattli, Chairman of Clinique La Prairie shares his gratitude: “Clinique La Prairie is proud to have participated in helping the Ticuna community with such an important need. Health and medical care should be accessible to all and we look forward to being involved in many more projects to help communities in need. We thank our representatives, Anna Nicholas and Colonel John Blashford-Snell, for their investment in this project, as well as the Ticuna community and volunteers for their warm welcome and support.”