Empowering Communities in the Heart of the Amazon

27 July 2020

Meet UQ Alumnus – Trilce Patron Lecca

Trilce Patron Lecca graduated from The University of Queensland with a  Master of Communication (Communication for Social Change) in 2016.  She now creates change through her work on participatory projects with at-risk communities in Peru. COVID-19 has placed these communities at greater risk, and as a result, Trilce has actively engaged with relief efforts aimed at small and isolated communities in the Peruvian Amazon. The School was grateful for the chance to speak with Trilce about her important work. 

Trilce taking a break from filming – 'Amahuacas reclaman salud.'

Making an Impact in Peru 

I started a personal project called IKUA, where we explain and teach about participatory video to different members of the community and they teach us about their culture and current situation. IKUA means knowledge in the Kukama-Kukamiria (Amazonian) dialect. I decided to name the project IKUA as I believe it is about sharing knowledge – of all kinds.

Delta, Patty and Melisa from the community of Nina Rumi, work on the storyboard for their film.

The main objective of this project is to work with adolescents from vulnerable communities throughout Peru to reinforce their cultural identity and to promote critical thinking. The lack of identity is a major problem in Peru since 'western' and 'modern' ways of life are continuously promoted to people through mainstream media.  IKUA tries to share information about how simple technologies can help us understand who we are, where we come from and where we want to go.

Erika and Yuliana checking the scene before moving on to the next one. The film is made in a linear form to avoid the use of editing programs and computers.

The project had its first session in Nina Rumi –  a small community in the Amazon province of Loreto and the participants had a blast making their own movie and showing it to the rest of the community.

Youth aged 10-14 participated in making a film about 'Tahina,' a girl that is new to Nina Rumi and runs into a local boy who helps her find her way around.

I also worked with Escuela de Cine Amazónico​, which is a film school that was created in 2014 as an effort to provide a space where people from different regions of the Amazon and rainforest of Peru could benefit from education in audiovisuals and communications. I was also part of the first class of graduated students who attended the course, Amazon Documentary Production. The course lasted a month in the city of Pucallpa in Ucayali.

During my training, I met one of the directors and my professor at the time, Fernando Valdivia, and we kept in touch during my postgraduate studies at UQ and well after I graduated. 

Fernado invited me to join him for a project with the Amahuaca community, to help him with a second participatory video workshop for the children in the area.

I flew from Lima to the capital of Ucayali (Pucallpa). Ucayali is a province in the rainforest area of Peru.

The Amahuaca community had a previous workshop a year earlier where they made a short film about their main traditions told by their elders.

From there I flew in a small plane to Atalaya, a small city mainly focused on commerce. 

I then took a small motorboat for 7 hours to the Inuya River where the Amahuaca community lives.  The name of their community is Nuevo San Martín and there are about 4 or 5 other communities in the Inuya River. The one at the 'end' of the Inuya is Inmaculada, which is supposed to have a health post that was completely abandoned and empty.

The amazon river is 6,575 km long and it's the world's largest river by volume. The entire basin is under pressure from hydropower production.

The communication in these places is scarce or non-existent, so you only hear about problems when you arrive.  We heard that a mother had died giving birth, that some people had also died of treatable problems, and we asked the participatory video group if it was something that they were interested in.  They immediately told more stories about people not getting help either from the state (western medicine) or healers.

We have to understand that some of these communities were uncontacted until about 60 years ago and the new generations don’t want to preserve their cultural traditions, including the language – they’d rather just learn Spanish.  The older healers no longer pass on their knowledge to the younger generations, so all the knowledge is starting to get lost. If you combine this with the state not being able to provide minimal health assistance, then you end up with an extremely vulnerable and at risk minority.

Peru has 47 native languages. 43 of them originated in the Amazon. 

View Trilce's Work

Video Caption: In the 21st century, there are large areas of Peru that do not have access to health care. In the Inuya River basin, in the Atalaya province, Ucayali region, a health post was built with drums and saucers, but it does not have any attending staff. For this reason, the Amahuaca people carried out a sociodrama that demonstrates what is happening and what has led to confirmed deaths.

Challenges of COVID-19 

Since the pandemic started, I have had to pause projects that involve participatory video, hands on education and group meetings. It is more difficult now to propose a project because internet connection, which would facilitate online classes, is not stable in Peru. During our mandatory isolation period (that lasted 107 days) I worked in different donation programs to collect money for small and isolated Amazonian communities. The difficult part has been coordinating with numerous small businesses and transportation companies to ensure that the medicine and food gets to the small villages and isolated communities.

I have also begun working as a consultant for an NGO (Evolve – Centro de Evolución) that started during the pandemic and is located 50km South from Lima. I have been hired to conduct a PNOA (participatory needs and opportunity assessment), which I learnt during my studies at UQ. I am very happy to be working with participatory communication methodologies during these uncertain times, to help the NGO understand the needs and opportunities of a specific group of people.

Participatory tools such as community maps give a better idea of how the community perceives their surroundings. 

UQ's Centre for Communication and Social Change 

My studies with the Centre for Communication and Social Change have been tremendously beneficial to my work in many ways. In my studies I learned and practiced several communication tools that I can now use with vulnerable communities here in Peru. I also have the resources to provide training that is uniquely designed for a specific community – taking into consideration their beliefs, traditions, behaviors and social complexities.

Additionally, I formed great connections with professors at UQ who are still mentors I stay in touch with. 

"Projects like this help us reduce the information and technology gap that we experience every day in this fast-paced world.  They also provide a space for people that lack opportunities – to have more access to education and the tools required to talk about themselves in a way that empowers them."

The School looks forward to seeing Trilce continue to create change by implementing communication for social change practices in Peru. 
Story by: Olivia Brown
Research by: Dr Kylie Navuku