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Eyes on the Amazon

After driving nine hours into the Ecuadorian Amazon to study oil spills and other pollution sites, international affairs major Michaela D’Amico knew she was seeing her future as she peered into the murky, sticky depths of an oil slick.

Leading a group of concerned citizens and attorneys to an environmental clean-up site as part of her co-op position with Amazon Watch last winter and spring, the Northeastern University senior felt a rising passion for the work of the international human rights organization.

“When we were in the jungle with the lawyers taking pictures … I felt such a strong sense that we were helping the rights to the land for indigenous people who could not otherwise stand up for themselves,” she says.

The East Greenwich, Rhode Island, native’s enthusiasm for her work ran deep.

Every day, she juggled a multitude of tasks to assist Amazon Watch in its efforts to redress the pollution issues affecting the ecologically important area. Her primary duties included translating for the communications team, putting her minor in Spanish to good use. She also did publicity planning for documentary film “Crude,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival last year, and events planning for an international film festival in Ecuador.

Out in the rain forest, she led “Toxic Tours,” bringing groups of interested people to polluted areas, and filmed what she found, uploading one of her videos to You Tube and other alternative media.

Deeply satisfied with her efforts, the big payoff for her came when Amazon Watch successfully used a video she helped produce and photos to draw inspectors and media to some of the oil spills. She and her colleagues also issued 1,000 press releases, in English and Spanish.

“The work has made me want to do more on human rights and environmental causes that affect cultures and groups who lose their land,” she says. “Grassroots is where it all begins, and it makes me feel I’m working on a bigger, more important cause.”

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