Goodman is seen here with Madam Nagbila Aisetta, of Burkina Faso, who was awarded the Africa Prize Award for Leadership (the African “Nobel Prize”) in 1999 on behalf of all the African women food farmers who feed the continent of Africa. (Photo by Yasmin Goodman)

by Len Lear


Yasmin Goodman, a resident of Chestnut Hill since 1996 and of the Hill House for 12 years and of a Woodward house before that, has become a leading advocate of the indigenous people who live in the Amazon rain forests of Ecuador and Peru. For years they have been fighting encroachment by big government and big corporations that have already turned so much of the world’s rain forests into moneymaking machines and poisoned some of the world’s most pristine environment.

Goodman’s journey as an activist began in 1982 when she became involved with The Hunger Project, an organization founded in 1977 that works towards the sustainable end of world hunger. It has ongoing programs in Africa, Asia and Latin America, where it implements programs aimed at mobilizing rural grassroots communities to achieve sustainable progress in health, education, nutrition and family income.

“I traveled around the world looking at the hunger issue and the chronic subjugation of women,” explained Goodman. “We went to Bangladesh, India and Burkina Faso, two weeks for each trip. We met extraordinarily resilient people. I met Lynn Twist, head of fundraising who wrote a powerful book called ‘The Soul of Money.’

“I always wanted to make a difference in the world. I learned who feeds Africa. It is 100 million women farmers, but they are considered lower than cattle, but a woman from Burkina Faso, Madam Nagbila Aisetta, was awarded The Africa Prize Award for Leadership in 1999 as representative of all the African women food farmers who feed the continent of Africa. That prize is like the Nobel Prize in Africa. People walked miles just to see her. The prime minister sat next to her. Madam Aisetta was on the cover of their version of Time magazine. I saw how important it was to recognize the extraordinary contributions of women to feed that country.”

Lynn Twist went to the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador in 1995 for the Pachamama Alliance. (Ed. Note: Pachamama Alliance is a global community, started in the Amazon rainforest, that offers people the chance to learn, connect, engage and travel to the rainforest for the purpose of creating a sustainable future. The word “Pachamama” means “MortherEarth” in the Achuar language.)

This encouraged Goodman to go there also, first in 2006 for two weeks and then in January, 2018, for three weeks. She promised the indigenous people she met that she would spread the message about preserving the rain forest when she returned. The Achuar people, whom Goodman has met, live in an area of two million acres that is the most ecologically diverse area in the world. “We need to protect that ecosystem,” Goodman said.

Seen here are three of the Sápara people in the village of Llanchamacocha in the heart of the rainforest of Ecuador. Mukasawa (center), also know as grandmother , is one of only five people in the world who still speak the original language of the Sápara people, of whom there are only about 500 left in the world. (Photo by Massimo Martino)

According to Lynne Twist, in order to preserve the Amazon rain forest, “We would need to change the dreams of the north.” The Chevron Oil Company “went in and trampled the rain forest. They (the residents of the rain forest) cannot understand why anyone would want to do this to Mother Earth.”

Goodman has become a facilitator (trainer) for symposiums called “Awakening the Dreamer; Changing the Dream” that are held in various locations to bring attention to the extreme commercial threats to the Amazon rain forest and its people. The first one was in Philadelphia in 2005. “We have great people on the board,” Goodman said. “Some did video clips. We brought in world experts. Creating a sustainable environment is the goal. There is a lot of meditation (at the symposiums). It’s like you’re visiting family. They want to share their wisdom.”

Although environmental activists from around the world visit the Amazon rain forest, it is extremely difficult to get there and to live there, where modern amenities do not exist. Goodman and others have to walk through mud for hours to get to their destination and endure other hardships. But they all feel it is well worth the sacrifices.

“We swam in the Amazon with pink dolphins,” Goodman said. “We walked the jungle in silence. The Achuar and Sapara people have a very spiritual connection to the earth. I was there to learn about that connection. The first time I went, I thought, ‘What the hell is this?’ This time, though, I was just there to learn what they had to teach us — experience the spirit of the jungle. No distractions. Your body calibrates to the rhythms of the earth.

“Nujan, our guide, and I had a wonderful time. They’re just open arms. The men are up front. The women are just starting to come forward. There is extraordinary communication between the Achuar people. In 2006 they had no running water. Now there is some. We did a lot of ceremonies with the shamans and ate lentils, rice and plantains. One man walked for four days to come and cook the food

“The Achuar were the warrior people. They were never conquered by the European explorers, the conquistadors. Now they have all put down their swords, though, to fight for the rain forest, which is their home. They are fighting for all of us. When we destroy part of the rain forest, we destroy the atmosphere. They are not funny people with painted faces,. They are fighting for all of us. We are all interconnected.”

For more information, contact (rainforest issues), (The Hunger Project) and/or (Yasmin Goodman).