Mapuche women in traditional dress, spinning yarn by hand, very common in most communities.
The Mapuche (which means ''people of the earth'') are the natives indigenous to Chile, who have only been exposed to the 'civilized' world during the last 100 years. There are over one million Mapuche in Chile, over 75% living in the Araucania region. They manage to survive in extreme living conditions, still using horses and oxen as means of transportation, growing and harvesting what they can from the natural resources they have around them.
The Mapuche are caught in the middle of two different lifestyles - the old traditional Mapuche way and the new modern world, of which they know little. Many of the old generation still only speak the native language, Mapudungun - their youth know very little of the language and even want to leave the old cultural ways behind.
The Mapuche Indians have very difficult living conditions; they lack proper hygiene, the children receive little schooling and many of their communities can only be reached by horseback. The goal of Mapuche Quest is to provide them with basic health services, using mobile units; and to hold skills-training workshops to help them cope with the modern world, and increase their knowledge of the resources around them.
We hope to build a Mapuche Cultural Center, both to provide an interpretive center of their cultural heritage and to provide a location where they can exhibit and sell their handmade crafts. Also proposed is an Operational Center, where vocational schools and experimental farming can be held, as well as a Distribution center set up for organising donations for distribution.
We have surveyed the needs of the communities in conjunction with the Town Halls of these areas, inquiring about their greatest needs, which include medical equipment and clinics. Presently there are just a few 1 or 2 room clinics in towns, with a few rotating medics, nurses or doctors who visit once a week, who service hundreds of people that live in extreme poverty, all scattered in the mountains.