American, Xena Radnor, visited Peru in 2017 to study plant-based medicines, like Ayahuasca, for personal growth and to film a documentary.
After arriving, she heard of a village called Belén, in Iquitos, which was told to be one of the most run-down and ignored places in the country. Because of its location, the Peruvian government does not send aid and their trash collects, yearly, in the rivers that run through the village. Their waste collects in the water and, every year, the water rises and takes the trash out to sea (or deeper into the Amazon jungle).
Xena was moved, and began rallying the locals to do something about the trash. It was not out of laziness, she found, that they did not keep the waterways clean, but because there was no trash removal system in place and little to no education about the value of sanitation.
She began her movement to inspire the locals to help clean the land they live on - and people came out. Hundreds, thousands. From surrounding villages, people poured into Iquitos to help clean. The children were the most excited to help.
Local and national news networks picked up the story and the movement gained speed. Donations rolled in, with which they were able to buy trash bags, gloves and suits for those that have to wade through the dirty water. In 11 days, they were able to remove 7,000 bags of trash from the river. The before and after images are incredible.
Here is some of what it looked like when the clean-up began:
Once the community came out, the effort went into overdrive. They were able to clean more than anyone had anticipated.
It has been a resounding success for the people that live on the waterway. Radnor continues to head the effort and is currently in the process of raising funds to continue bringing in more of the materials needed and to establish a school to teach the children about being clean.
Iquitos is located at the northern mouth of the Amazon and is considered a gateway to the "lungs of the earth," as one of the last, large, villages before the jungle really takes hold. Cleaning it and bringing it the attention it deserves is a huge thing people in the western world can do to help.
You can follow the project on Radnor's Facebook page and even help donate to her cause by sharing the message or funding the progress.
As Radnor barrels toward creating a non-profit, she is receiving donations for materials at:
PayPal and Venmo