Pa. graduate’s quest becomes a career
STROUDSBURG, Pa. (AP) — When David Good first set off to find his mother in the Amazon rainforest, he wasn’t sure where the journey would take him.
At that time, it had been 19 years since Good saw his mother, Yarima, a native of the remote Venezuelan Yanomami tribe.
David Good hopes to eventually start fundraising to sponsor more trips to Costa Rica and Venezuela to study the Yanomami and Cabecar tribes.
The East Stroudsburg University graduate student didn’t know what to expect.
Prior to that summer 2011 trip, it had been years since Good left the United States — the last time as a small child.
The trip to Venezuela involved two years of coordination.
Once there, Good had to navigate the Orinoco River with a tour guide and translator, deep into the Amazonian rainforest, where few outsiders venture.
Living so remotely, Yarima was cut off from all forms of modern communication, and therefore Good had no way of knowing if she was even alive.
The trip changed Good’s life.
Yarima was alive and well, and Good, now 27, was exposed to a way of life he never experienced in the United States.
Good is the son of American anthropologist, Kenneth Good, who traveled to southeastern Venezuela to study the Yanomami tribe more than 30 years ago.
Kenneth Good was supposed to be there for 15 months, but instead became enamored with the culture, living there for more than 12 years.
It was during that time, Kenneth Good met a young tribal girl named Yarima. Eventually, their relationship developed into a romance, and the two married.
Kenneth Good eventually returned to the United States, bringing Yarima with him, but it wasn’t easy.
Having never experienced any type of technology, she was confused and at times frightened. Yarima also became isolated, spending most of her time in the couple’s Rutherford, New Jersey, home.
Entirely new to the American way of life, including the English language, Yarima was unable to communicate with anyone other than her husband.
When David was only 6, she made the painful decision to return to her tribe in the Amazon.
When David Good returned to see his mother in 2011, it was an experience unlike any other.
He was struck by the bare-bones nature of the tribe.
Everything in their lives — food, shelter, the baskets they weave and arrows they make — comes from the land.
In the middle of the rainforest, without the distractions of technology and demands of a global society, there was only the “simple essence of human communication,” Good explained.
Good has since made it his mission to address the needs of indigenous groups like the Yanomami, and to educate the world about their way of life.
“I want to rectify the world’s image of them. You still hear so many stereotypes, like they are ‘primitive,’” Good said.
In August, he started The Good Project, a nonprofit organization dedicated to these goals.
The organization is part of ESU’s Business Accelerator. In December, the group registered as a nonprofit in Pennsylvania, and it is applying for its 501(c)(3) status.
In November, Good did make another return trip to the Amazon, staying in his mother’s village, Irokai-Teri, for more than a month.
He also took a weeklong trip to Costa Rica to study and visit with the Cabecar tribe, one of the most remote groups in Costa Rica.
On May 24, he will take his first official trip with The Good Project, returning to the Cabecar village along with four ESU students to continue his outreach there.
Right now, he plans to focus The Good Project’s mission specifically on these two tribes.
It’s really difficult for remote populations such as the Cabecar and Yanomami to receive basic necessities like clothing and medicine.
Good hopes to bring supplies to these groups, but also wants to help preserve the Cabecar and Yanomami way of life and find out exactly what the tribes’ people need.
He is interested in ethnography — staying with the tribes for an extended period of time to “walk in their shoes” and learn about their daily struggles.
While Good doesn’t plan to spend as much time in the villages as his father did with the Yanomami, he would like to take extended trips between three to six months.
He also hopes to bring others with him, particularly people in the Poconos.
The group of ESU students traveling to Costa Rica in May is a diverse one, “which is exactly what I wanted,” Good said.
The group consists of a nursing major, biology major, math major and computer science major.
For an outsider, experiencing a third world culture for the first time is shocking, he said.
“As Americans, we just want to figure out how to go at them and solve them, but they aren’t really poor in spirit,” Good said of the remote tribes.
The tribes are free from many problems faced by modern society, such as depression, suicide and even diseases like cancer.
In fact, Good says he feels happiest at home in the Amazon rainforest.
“I never felt any happier than being alone in my hammock, rocking next to the fire at the end of a hard day’s work in the garden,” he said. “They are self-sufficient, they just live with less.”
Information from: Pocono Record, http://www.poconorecord.com/