in the jungle

Andy D'Amato chops a tree in the Ecuadorian jungle. His daughter Ruby in dark blue watches with a group.

Forget the tales of difficult journeys of getting to school that your great-grandfather may have told.

How about going about 21 hours, including six hours on a night bus and nine in a canoe on a river teeming with piranha?

And, as you go, you lug with you prefabricated bamboo sections of the school that you will have to build because there isn’t one where you are going.

That was the daughter and father dream trip that Ruby and Andy D’Amato went on to Ecuador last July.

The pair set out to help construct a school deep in the Amazon jungle with about 10 other representatives from Beyond Lagartococha, a non-profit that seeks to provide an opportunity for schooling and help preserve the traditional culture of the indigenous people there.

Last year, Ruby and two fellow Milton High School seniors, Elena Curran and Sarah Ford, raised about $10,000 at a fundraiser at the restaurant known for its use of lower case letters: the plate in East Milton Square. The plate’s owner is Suzanne Lombardi, Ruby’s mom.

“I wanted to see the process come full circle,” Ruby said.

For Andy, who had never been out of the country, it was “a crazy once in a lifetime trip.”

Lombardi added with a smile, “And I had to let them go.”

And, if wading up to their knees in mud in searing temperatures and uncovering a tarantula the size of a man’s hand weren’t enough to experience once, they hope to do it again, or at least the fundraiser portion of it.

A second fundraiser is being planned for Thursday, May 30 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the plate, this time to raise money to build a hut for the teacher who comes in by canoe to teach the children. Tickets will be available at and will be sold the night of the event.

This time, several of the people the D'Amatos met on their trip are coming to the states to take part in it and introduce older students from Ecuador to college opportunities.

More about this story can be found in the Milton Times May 23 print or online edition.

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