Friday, 18 December 2009

Another look at Iguazu - Responsible Tourism

Looking back at my last visit to Iguazu (and my last blog), there were other reasons that made that trip remarkable, besides the gigantic volume of water in the Falls.

Besides doing the usual inspections and day trips to the National Parks, we also looked at some different activities in the region.

The reason is that, our clients, I am happy to say, are every day more engaged in responsible tourism. This is a broad definition and for many simply means being "greener" during their holidays but for some, responsible travel means giving back something to the local community.

So I requested our local partners for ideas and we were pleasantly surprised by the number of initiatives they have in Iguazu.

Firstly, we visited the local Guarani community of Yriapu, in the Argentinean side, where the youngsters are receiving training to work with tourism in a sustainable way. On a 2-hour visit they take you on a guided tour of their reservation telling you about the fauna and flora of the Misiones Forest and also of their traditions and way of life. A fee is paid that benefits the whole community and you also have the opportunity to buy their handicrafts at the end, if you wish.

The next day we visited a local NGO, CIENS, that grows medicinal plants near Itaipu. They are now associated with the Itaipu power plant to produce phytotherapic medicines according to the regulations from Brazilian Health Authorities. Their produce is distributed free to many health centres in the region, allowing doctors to prescribe them to those that can't pay for the expensive commercial options.

The last visit was the most inspirational. We had lunch at Lar Casa dos Anjos (LACA), a home for children with HIV/AIDS started a few years ago by a local woman, Solange de Sousa, at her own house. The children that come to the house, from a few weeks old to teenagers, have either been abandoned, or are orphans or have been removed by social services from their homes because of negligence or abuse. At LACA they receive medical and psychological care, an education and are assisted during the whole process of adoption. Many will never be adopted, however, and will remain there until adulthood. These long term situation ends up transforming the Lar into their true family home.

What could be a very depressive experience was in fact a very heart-warming one. The kids love the attention and are very welcoming. We had a very short time there but we left with the feeling that we would like very much to promote their NGO and help them to maintain their amazing work, so we are recommending to all our clients a visit when in Iguazu. The small contribution for the delicious lunch served helps with the running costs of the home but there are many other ways to contribute.

Website: the site is not updated frequently due to lack of time and resources.
Phone: +55 45 35223457
Staff does not speak English, but we would be happy to intermediate any contact;