Alto Arapiuns Sustainable Development Program

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About us History Oral Health Project Communication Project Food Security Project Volunteers and Partners Fundraising and Donations Photo Gallery Titles

sombra_div About  us

Quem somosThe Alto Arapiuns Sustainable Development Program is a program of the Social Department of the Gliding Club of São José dos Campos – SP. This program is coordinated by the Social Director, aviator and airline captain Lelis Fachini Filho.

The Gliding Club was founded on March 20th 1957 and is a nonprofit organization with headquarters in São José dos Campos – SP (

The term “sustainable development” refers to development that seeks to meet the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (Brutland Commission). Within this concept, development encompasses the social, economic and cultural aspects of human beings living in harmony with the environment. It is from this point of view that the Alto Arapiuns program is directing its actions.

The Idea:

• Not to be a welfare project, but a project for development and transformation;

• To have the vision of an aviator – far seeing and far reaching, to encompass isolated and remote regions;

• To promote synergy by drawing on resources already available in the region, be they religious or humanitarian organizations, or volunteer professionals;

• To involve universities in designing projects with an academic and scientific basis;

• To attract funds already available for Voluntary Sector initiatives.

The Program Objective

To mobilize human and material resources in cooperative activities that contribute to the continuing health and empowerment of the communities of Alto Arapiuns, using aviation as a tool to leverage the time invested in such activities.

The Program “No’s or Not’s”

• The program is not a religious one, nor is it affiliated to any church; it is not accompanied by any form of proselytism;

• There are no partisan political connections, though efforts are made to work in conformance and harmony with public policy;

• It does not represent the specific interests of any company including those giving financial support;

• The Program is not in itself an NGO and is not associated with other NGOs;

• The Program makes no demands on the communities served, except a commitment from them to act responsibly with respect to the activities of the Program.

Alto Arapiuns Overview

Brazil is marked as much by its cultural and social diversity as by its biodiversity. Although statistics show that social inequality in the country has declined in the last 10 years, there is still a long way to go in order for sustainable social equality to be achieved.

A part of this diversity is reflected in the existence of communities living in remote places in Brazil where distances and natural barriers greatly hinder access to the basic necessities of life, as is the case of the communities served by the Alto Arapiuns Program.

sombra_div History

From the mid-seventies to the mid-eighties the pilot Lelis Fachini Filho flew in the Amazon region visiting both indigenous and non-indigenous areas. During this period he came into contact with reality as experienced by isolated villages in the Amazon area. In 1986 he entered commercial aviation. More recently his international flight roster has afforded him the time to re-dedicate himself to these people on a voluntary basis.

As a starting point the vision of an aviator should be associated with such a proposed endeavor. Flying over a territory a pilot can see farther, while the use of aviation shortens distances and overcomes natural obstacles.

In March 2010 the need to involve universities in developing a program with a high degree of professionalism was recognized. Accordingly the sociologist Dr. Sandro Dutra e Silva from the  University of Anápolis undertook a journey for the purpose of collecting impressions of indigenous communities and communities living on river banks in the state of Pará and poor communities in the scrub desert region of Piaui state. He then created a study group to examine the impressions gathered during the trip and plan the next steps.

In early 2011 the professor and anthropologist Edward Montenelli Luz joined the group and suggested that the focus be placed on the riverine communities of the Rio Arapiuns region. Reconnaissance flights were made ​​to confirm that the area had the desired characteristics for the implementation of a development program, that is to say, communities with difficult access living in a very remote and isolated region.


In August of the same year a research team formed by the anthropologist Edward Montenelli Luz, registered nurse Glaucy Lopes Sakai Passos and the educational professional Marisa Barros Moreira visited the area. Again, the use of aviation enabled the mapping of the communities to be undertaken and questionnaires were employed in assessing the needs and potential of those communities.

As a result of observations made during the survey, it was determined that the population chosen to participate in the program would be that comprising communities situated on the banks of Aruã and Maró rivers, tributaries that form the river Arapiuns. Specially those communities upstream of the falls of these rivers, Aruã and Maró. In a straight line these communities are distant between 120 and 150 kilometers from Santarém, however in a river bus boat, travel between Santarém and the communities takes two days or sometimes three. Altogether there are nearly 20 communities living on these two rivers, some with less than 10 families (minor) others with more (major).

During the survey period it was observed that in the population of children and teenagers, there was a widespread presence of decayed teeth and loss of permanent teeth. It was evident that an oral health education program could be of great value to the region and should be made a matter of priority.

A common desire voiced by the residents of these communities was to have some means of communication that would allow them to ask for help in case of serious illness or accident.

Another interesting observation was that communities showed they were tired of researchers and their extensive research into the region and longed for practical results.

In view of the above and not wishing to delay further, the aviator Lelis Fachini Filho and nurse Glaucy Lopes Sakai Passos, with minimal resources, set to work immediately. With the support of volunteer dentists, they initiated the Alto Arapiuns Oral Health Project.

Since then a second project has been started and a third is in preparation; the Communication Project and the Food Security Project.


saudebucalOral Health Project

This project began in November 2011 with the objective of improving the markers of oral health, in parallel with promoting a culture of healthy oral habits.

It is often heard “that health begins in the mouth.” Hence the project seeks to promote healthy mouths for children and teenagers aged from zero to fifteen through an emphasis on prevention; this includes educational activities, distribution of kits (toothbrush, toothpaste and dental floss), fluoride treatment, prophylactic prevention treatment, restoration treatments and extractions when necessary.

Moreover, having ‘beautiful teeth’ improves self-esteem and generates new opportunities. Through regular visits to monitor the communities, the intention is to establish a culture of hygiene and dental care.

This project is coordinated by Glaucy Lopes Sakai Passos who is a registered nurse and a teacher at the University of Anápolis. She is also responsible for bio-safety and clinical organization, together with Dr. Dirceu Alves Carvalho, dentist, who is responsible for the technical aspects of the clinic.

In addition to oral health education and dental treatment activities, research is also part of the project. Coordinated by Dr Regiane Cristina Amaral, dentist, specialist in and with a Master in, Public Health, this research consists of mapping the dentition of children and teenagers in order to scientifically measure the improvementin oral hygiene habits.

The project aims to reach eight major communities and eight smaller communities combining an estimated population of between 600 and 700 children and teenagers.

sombra_div  Communication Project Projeto de Comunicação

In the event of emergency the residents of isolated communities on the tributaries of the Arapiuns river use ‘rabetas’ (wooden canoes with stationary engines attached to long drive shafts) to go down river to look for a larger community with a working telephone in order to call for help. This can mean several hours delay before calling a river ambulance.

As an interim solution, two satellite phones were donated to the project to be placed in strategic communities as a means of communication in case of emergency. Since then, many emergency cases have been facilitated by the use of these devices, greatly reducing the time to reach a hospital in Santarém.

The project is looking for other ways of providing economical means of communication for the communities.

sombra_div Food Security Projectsegurancaalimentar

The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing “when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life”. Commonly, the concept of food security is defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences.

The Arapiuns communities have a nutrition system very close to indigenous communities whose staple diet comes from cultivating manioc, hunting and fishing.

In order to plant manioc they use the traditional Amazon ‘cut and burn’ system to create clearings in the forest for planting. The forest can regenerate itself when such communities are nomadic and move from place to place,  However with changes in land use in the Amazon due to permanent riverine settlements, the consequences are an impoverishment of the soil with no possibility of regeneration and a scarcity of game.This is already being reported by residents of these communities. Furthermore the Arapiuns River basin, due to the characteristic acidity of its waters, is not rich in fish.

The recommendation arising from these findings is that a Food Security Project should be developed in conjunction with the communities. This will build on traditional knowledge and introduce new farming techniques to improve soil quality and increase the productivity of manioc planting while at the same time diversifying crops and reducing de-forestation. Such a project will be good for the health of both the communities and the environment.

sombra_div Volunteers

The program and project coordinators, like all the professionals involved, are dedicated to the program voluntarily. Some have participated only once while others repeatedly. The program has included the participation of professionals in the following areas: dentistry, medicine, nursing, social work, engineering, law, economics, biology and aviation.

Each volunteer who participates in one of the projects receives proper orientation, completes a specific health questionnaire and signs a term of commitment. By the term of the commitmentthe volunteer agrees to follow specific guidelines, among which we highlight two:

1. Not to start or join in conversations of a political nature during their stay in the community,

2. To respect the community’s established religious authorities, to refrain from  discussions of a religious or doctrinal nature, or engage in religious proselytism. sombra_div Partners

In order to keep costs down as much as possible, the Alto Arapiuns Program has sought partners who could contribute in accordance with their own potential. Hence the air tickets to transport volunteers from various parts of Brazil to the city of Santarém, are donated by a national airline. The boats are borrowed from a local mission, and the program only pays for fuel and minor maintenance. This same mission also lends the program portable dental equipment. Another mission makes its amphibious plane and pilot available and again the program only pays for fuel and minor maintenance. Two other organizations donate part of the dental material used during the clinic sessions. The combination of volunteers and partnership results in a lean program from a financial standpoint.

parceirosingles sombra_divfoto Fundraising

The greatest contribution that the program can offer to the communities is the knowledge and experience of professional volunteers acquired over years of study and practice. Fortunately the project has found professionals with relative ease, who are willing to cooperate voluntarily.

The greatest difficulty has been getting the financial resources to meet the expenses of travel, accommodation and food for staff and equipment moving between Santarém and communities as well as for the consumable materials used in the educational and clinical treatment activities.

The program is currently assisted on a voluntary basis by a specialist consultancy experienced in submitting applications to companies allocating resources to the voluntary sector for projects that otherwise compete between themselves for attention.

However, until other funding sources materialize, the program has been supported by voluntary donations.

In addition to regular reports sent to donors and other interested parties, full transparency is practiced with respect to the revenue and expenditure of the program and financial statements are available on request via email As with the other financial operations of the Gliding Club, the program is also controlled by the Club’s Supervisory Board.


If you do not have a Brazilian bank account and wish to donate to the Alto Arapiuns Program, the most convenient way is by means of credit card using PayPal

If you want to make your donation in a different form, please send an e-mail to and we will be happy to provide you with specific information.

sombra_div Photo Gallery Titles

The photo gallery contains several albums where you can find out more about the program:

  • Tributo aos Fotógrafos Voluntários – Tribute to Volunteer Photographers
  • Localização Geográfica – Geographic Location
  • Transportes no Alto Arapiuns – Means of Transport
  • Educação em Saúde Bucal – Oral Health Education
  • Atendimento Odontológico – Dental Treatment
  • Biossegurança – Bio Safety
  • Só para Dentistas – Only for Dentists
  • Mapeamento Odontológico – Dental Mapping
  • Comunicação – Communication
  • SegurançaAlimentar – Secure Food Access
  • Ação 16 … Ação 1 – Action 16 … Action 1(images of each trip in descending date order)
  • Pesquisa inicial no Alto Arapiuns – Initial research into the Alto Arapiuns area
  • Primeiro contato com o Arapiuns – Our first contact with Alto Arapiuns

To access the Photo Gallery click here.


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