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Jun 9, 2020

The role of Vaga Lume in Brazilian Amazon pandemic

Acetate masks donated to Cururupu (MA) health unit
Acetate masks donated to Cururupu (MA) health unit

Vaga Lume is constantly learning and seeks to understand its role in this pandemic, which, unfortunately, has had a major impact in the Brazilian Amazon. Only in the state of Amazonas, the largest state in the region, 48,785 confirmed cases and 2,250 deaths from COVID-19 until June 6th.

This virus has exposed to the world three important things about the Amazon: first, it is a region that is well populated. This confronts the stereotype that, in the forest, there are a few tribes in remote areas. Specialists say that there are only 30 to 40 small tribes deep in the forest without contact with the outside world. In the Amazon there are millions (24 to be exact) inhabitants that occupies riverbeds of the forest and its interiors. The second thing, related to first one, is that these communities are well linked to each other. The virus did spread quite rapidly because boats go through many of the regions of the Amazon. These boats carry around 150+ passengers and stops very often in the communities through the rivers. So, the virus got well adapted to travel by boat. In a recent study, Tefé, a city which is a hub to the western Amazon, had around 25% of people infected by the virus. This leads to the third conclusion: that public policy is not efficient in this region, and basic services just don’t work. There are very few ICUs in Manaus, Belém, Macapá and Rio Branco, but none in the smaller villages, so that is why mortality rate is bigger.

To understand our role in this context, we followed two of our values: "Listening" and "Humanism". We held consultations to understand how we could act building a bridge between those who need contributions and those who want to contribute. To protect and support 960 volunteers and rural communities in the Amazon, Vaga Lume started a humanitarian campaign that has already distributed: 8,050 cloth face masks for the communities, 2,100 acetate masks to support the hospitals and health units and 1,200 units of alcohol gel. In addition, we mobilized psychologists to provide support to volunteers and communities. Throughout this process, we continue supporting education and culture, rethinking the roles of the library and the books in context.

Facial mask delivered to Caju Una community
Facial mask delivered to Caju Una community
May 7, 2020

Vaga Lume's volunteers' Tales and Poetry Challenge

Marluce and the poetry in Portuguese
Marluce and the poetry in Portuguese

How are our volunteers in the Amazon doing during the quarantine?

As shown in our last report, Vaga Lume has reimagined ways to keep volunteers engaged and involved with writing and reading during the current situation.

In order to do this, we released a series of challenges for the communities we support. Today we want to share with you one of the results of the “Tales and Poetry Challenge: COVID-19 and the quarantine”, in which volunteers sent us poems and stories with their reflections on the current scenario and the perspective for the future.



The pandemic exists in books and movies

In this generation, I’ve never seen such thing

Sad reality, in this unequal world.


If we give it a thought

We come to the conclusion,

Everything became apart, so there can be union


If we cannot unite the world

Let us start with ourselves

Get your family together

And speak as one


Rebuild what is broken

Forgive what needs forgiving

Resolve what needs resolving

Love who needs loving


When all this is over

Family must arise strong

For it must restart,

with the certainty that dodged death


But for those that lost,

Do not be shaken

Here I give you a hint

Get happiness in that place”


-Marluce, Vaga Lume's volunteer since 2013 from Corre Água community – Macapá AP

Apr 10, 2020

Quarantine in the Amazon

Vaga Lume's team online meeting
Vaga Lume's team online meeting

Vaga Lume is an organization that promotes literacy for children in the Amazon, impacting the
lives of over 12 thousand children every year. As anybody would imagine, promoting literacy
means that we also build libraries to be spaces where books are stored, lent and cultural
activities take place.

In this context, we are re-shaping the ways we understand our work to combat COVID-19 in
the rural areas of the Amazon.

A quick note about Brazil’s medical infrastructure in the Amazon: there are only 0.68 intensive
care unit beds for every 10,000 people (USA accounts for 3.5, Germany 2.9, Italy 1.3), and
these beds are concentrated in the biggest cities – Manaus, Belém, Rio Branco, which means
that in this vast territory (area approximately 2/3 of USA) there are millions of people that
would need to travel many days by boat to have the proper medical attention.

With this said, we need to understand our role, our limitations and our strengths to combat
this emergency.

In Vaga Lume, as we understand our work, the first thing we do in new situations is to listen to
the people in the communities we support to learn with them how our work could be relevant,
what is to be in quarantine in these communities and what kind of help is more useful. We
already had the chance to start these conversations and this is what we have learnt:

Reliable information: with the many resources of information and fakenews, Vaga Lume is a
reliable source of information to spread to the communities we support about the dangers,
the simple measures everyone can take to avoid being infected, and when to ask for help.

Reading during quarantine: our libraries are closed for activities, but reading shouldn’t stop.
The libraries are lending books to children before they are actually closed. In some places
Whatsapp groups are more active now as a way to exchange ideas about reading and books.

Online meetings: Internet is more available than we usually think in the Amazon. In 70% of the
communities we work, we have some kind of connection. Connecting our volunteers in ZOOM
meetings or conference calls has revealed to be very good to share information about good
practices in the libraries, to understand each other needs, and to exchange ideas about COVID-
19 emergency.

Empathy: When the virus started spreading in São Paulo, where our main office is located, in
the southeast of Brazil, we received many calls from the people from the Amazon worried to
know how our team was, if we were safe and taking care of ourselves. This shows that Vaga
Lume´s Community is an important resource to exchange ideas and even to find comfort in this
difficult time.

Although we are still looking for answers, we are moving forward to find ways where reading
aloud or doing activities with children can be a joyful experience in this time of quarantine in
the Amazon or in our own houses.

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