Medical Ministry International in Amazon
Medical Ministry International first travelled to Colombia in 2004, under the leadership of Willie and Janice Hunter and at the invitation of Antonio and Ruth Cortes and the Iglesia Cruzada. Due to the remote Amazon regions, Medical Ministry International teams typically provide medical, dental, audiology, and preventative health education for the Indigenous persons in these areas.
Juan Alan Muñoz was born in 1972 to a Colombian father and an Irish mother, who were called to be missionaries in the Amazon jungle of Colombia. Juan Alan studied Economics at university in Northern Ireland and Finance in Bogotá, Colombia. He has been working in the area of business administration in the health sector of Colombia since 1996. He began serving with Medical Ministry International as National Director of MMI Colombia in 2004 and as CEO of Clinica Leticia in 2013. He is a father of three children: Juan David, Andres Felipe, and Isabella, who also help Medical Ministry International. Juan Alan spends his time between Bogotá and Leticia, always with a cup of coffee in hand. Juan Alan and his wife, Leonor work closely with Medical Ministry International in planning the projects in the Amazon Region and other areas of Colombia.
The Yavarí River Amazon Project teams deliver primary care and dental services in a 200 km radius around Leticia, Colombia. Leticia is an ideal location to serve patients from three different countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Medical Ministry International supports Clínica Leticia, which serves 80 emergency and 120 medical patients daily, as it increases capacity to serve the region. Each day our teams travel down the river and set up clinics in local rural villages. Although it is not physically demanding, Yavarí River Amazon projects are considered an extreme project due to basic lodging accommodations and elevated exposure to certain diseases. If you have a servant’s heart and an adventurous spirit— join us and experience the Amazon!
Update from Juan Alan Muñoz, Project Director, in March 2019 after purchasing a second boat to reach remote villages of the Amazon:
We are happy to have the new member “Rick Skinner” join “Survivor I.” This is a tribute to a man who came to Colombia 16 years ago and began this journey of showing Real Love, Real Life to the people of Colombia.
Medical Ministry International has formed an alliance with a clinic in Leticia (Clínica Leticia) where a moderate level of health care can be provided such as surgeries and deliveries. In the Amazon region, many patients are transported weekly to Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, due to lack of advanced medical machines and specialists. Clínica Leticia is working to upgrade its facilities to reduce the number of air transports.
In some villages, there may be a person with basic medical training, but their resources are usually extremely limited. Many times there is no medicine available. Therefore, the villagers wait until they are extremely sick before even considering getting medical attention. The other factor that affects the villagers is distance: often health centres are far away from their village and the cost of gasoline is too high to afford transportation.
Cervical Cancer Screening
With a $75,000 grant from Stronger Together, Medical Ministry International partnered with Eve Medical to pilot a HPV screening program for women in remote communities along the Colombian Amazon and tributaries using new Canadian medical technology. Women that carry a high risk HPV strain are susceptible to cervical cancer, the most frequent cancer in this population. By testing for common STIs, Medical Ministry International also identifies and ensures treatment for women who may experience infertility, ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, preterm delivery, or health risks for their newborns.
Medical professionals in Amazon clinics utilize HerSwabTM technology, designed and manufactured in Canada, to perform pap smears for Amazon tribal women. Once collected, samples are transported to a lab for HPV and STI testing in Bogota, Colombia.
Results are collected and tracked by MMI Amazon staff. The women with positive HPV results are transported and connected to a follow-up program executed by Dr. Gutierrez, the gynaecologist at the Medical Ministry International partner health center, Clinica Leticia. Dr. Javier holds a Masters in Epidemiology and has 20 years experience in the Amazon. Each woman will receive additional diagnostic care, specialized treatment, and if necessary, surgery and cancer treatment. The cost of treatment provided by Clinica Leticia will be government-funded. MMI Amazon has successfully bridged this gap in the Colombian health care system by identifying patients on Medical Ministry International medical teams who required advanced follow up from Clinica Leticia.
In the Amazon Region, Medical Ministry International serves three countries: Brazil, Colombia, and Peru. Road access is not available in this region; only river and plane. Because of this, if a Brazilian needs medical care, for example, they must travel by boat up to six or seven days to Manaus. Peruvians must travel three to four days up to Iquitos. Colombians must take a plane to Bogotá.
The Yavarí River region is inhabited by Peruvians and Brazilians belonging to the Ticuna tribe. These people live in communities that range from 80 to 600 people, and each village has a leader that works with a small council. The large families live in wooden homes and have a chakra where they farm and cultivate land for their living. Healthcare access is supported by outreach programs with Clínica Leticia and MMI.
* Project Description: Yavarí River, Amazon project teams will join forces with Clínica Leticia. The team usually stays in tents and travels by boat to seven villages. The primary goal is to provide physical, spiritual, and emotional care to the Indigenous populations. In each village we often see 150 patients, or cover 50% of the villages need.
CLICK HERE to view MMI Amazon Packing Suggestions
96 m (314 ft)
Hot and humid
Average Temperature 27°C (80.6°F)
Travelling on a Project
Entry & Exit Requirements
Travelers are required to have a valid passport for the duration of their stay. Travel visa is not required.
• Americans: Click here for information found on the US State Department website.
• Canadians: You will be asked to fill out a form for a TOURIST visa at the Bogotá airport. Canadians must pay a Colombia Reciprocity Fee - Effective December 1st, 2014, Colombia began charging a reciprocity fee to citizens of Canada arriving at an airport in Colombia.
The fee of approximately $88 CAD (or 160.000 Colombian pesos) per person is valid for a single entry into the country, and is payable by international credit card or debit card. If made in cash, the payment must be in Colombian pesos. A dedicated counter will be available to Canadian citizens who must pay the reciprocity fee before proceeding to immigration control. The fee does not apply to Canadian citizens who:
• are under the age of 14 or over the age of 79
• hold a valid visa to enter Colombia
Passengers who are unable to pay the fee will not be allowed into Colombia.
Travelers to Putumayo, Meta, Gorgona (Cauca), Tayrona National Park (Magdalena), and Caquetá must produce proof of yellow fever vaccination, as it will be required by airlines for flights to these departments.
Click here to view the most current entry/exit requirements for Canadians
• International: Please contact MMI office or Raptim Humanitarian Travel for visa requirement if needed.
Please email ALL CREDENTIALS upon application, as these must go to the Project Director in the country to be translated and then taken to the Ministry of Health to get temporary licenses prior to your arrival.
• For everyone, we need:
- Colour Scan / Photocopy of Passport (photo page)
- Colour photo for your name badge (any good photo, we can adjust size)
- Travel Itinerary
- Supply Lists
• Medical Professionals, we also need your:
- Current License (through time of project)
- Diploma (Techs, Nursing, Dental, MD and Board Certifications)
- Curriculum Vitae or Resume (this also will help the Project Director know your skills & experience to assign you a task on the project, especially for 1st time participants)
• Health Care Students: Letter of Good Standing from your school (including year of study and graduation date).
• All MINORS travelling with only one parent, or without their parents, will need a letter from BOTH parents stating that it is OK for the child to travel with one parent or an appointed guardian. The letter should be signed and notarized. MMI needs a copy of this letter, and the parent or guardian should carry the orignial letter while travelling.
Once you have been accepted on the project, you can contact our designated travel agency to arrange your travel and coordinate your arrival the team.
Raptim Humanitarian Travel: www.raptim.org
• US Applicants: Travel costs are arranged directly with the travel agent and are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
Contact our “Serve Team 2”: ServeTeam2.firstname.lastname@example.org
Direct Toll Free: 1-844-882-3233 and ask for the agents by name or extension.
Lead Agents – Claudia (ext. 13302), or Michael (ext. 15004).
• Canadian Applicants: Donations to MMI for travel are in addition to the Participant Project Donation.
Contact our “We Partner” team: email@example.com
905-465-4300 or Toll Free: 1-844-442-6978 & ask for the agents by name.
Lead Agents - Anca (ext. 32327), or Connie (ext. 31771)
• International Applicants: Travel arrangement can be procured locally or following the Canadian instructions above.
• Airport: Vasquez Cobo airport in Leticia (LET) via El Dorado International Airport Bogotá (BOG) on one continuous ticket.
We strongly recommend that you consult a travel clinic, as they are aware of outbreaks and can suggest preventative immunizations. Specifically, inquire about malaria prophylaxis. All routine immunizations should be up-to-date. Please check the following website for the most current information.
• Americans: https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/colombia
• Canadians: http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/tmp-pmv/countries-pays/country-pays-eng.php?id=352
Accommodations and Meals
The team will be sleeping in tents inside a school or house. While on the river, bucket showers or bathing in the river is common. Electricity is available only from 6-10pm. It will possibly be muddy or rainy, so waterproof boots and jackets are recommended.
• Laundry Service: sometimes available for additional fee
• Hot Water: No
• AC: No
• Phone Service: check with your cell phone provider, roaming is very expensive.
• Wifi/Internet: Only on the first and last day of the trip, while in Leticia
• Voltage: 110V/220V, depending on village.
• Meals: MMI will provide meals for the team. Dietary restrictions can be indicated on your application and we will do our best to accommodate your needs. Be sure to bring your own re-usable water bottle with a wide mouth for refilling. Purified water is supplied. If you would like to bring snacks to have throughout the day, please bring items such as peanut butter, granola bars, trail mix or pretzels and crackers in sealable containers (like Ziploc bags).
Extreme Amazon: The goal is to provide delicious and balanced meals, but there are times when refrigeration is not possible; so, local food from each village like fish and jungle meat (such as crocodile) is served. Vegetables are not easy to come by in the jungle.
• Language: Spanish (official)
- Roman Catholic: 90%
- Other: 10%
• Government: Presidential Republic
The money in Colombia is called the Colombian Peso (COP). MMI staff will help you exchange money. All major credit cards are accepted in Colombia. Visa and MasterCard are the most commonly accepted. You must bring US dollars in good condition - torn, stamped or old bills will not be exchanged. Also, $1 bills are not useful in Colombia; they are exchanged for less than other bills. $100.00 bills that are older than 2006 or start with the series CB are not accepted.
The Amazon is an incredibly unique place. It is the world’s largest rain forest and river system, and the most biologically diverse place on Earth.
The Amazon contains millions of species, most of them still undescribed, and some of the world's most unusual wildlife. It is one of Earth's last refuges for jaguars, harpy eagles, and pink dolphins, and home to thousands of birds and butterflies. Tree-dwelling species include southern two-toed sloths, pygmy marmosets, saddleback and emperor tamarins, and Goeldi's monkeys. The diversity of the region is staggering.
More than 30 million people, including 350 indigenous and ethnic groups, live in the Amazon and depend on nature for agriculture, clothing, and traditional medicines. Most live in large urban centers, but all residents rely on the Amazon’s natural bounty for food, shelter, and livelihoods.
A vast region that spans across eight rapidly developing countries: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana, an overseas territory of France.
2 30 S, 46 00 W
Terra firme uplands, but seasonally inundated bottomland rain forest occupies the floodplains
5.5 million km²
Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana
Tropical rain forest
General ground level - 100 m
Neblina peak - 3,040 m