Vanessa Sequeira's net

Words for Vanessa

Upon hearing of the passing of a just woman

written on Sept. 5, 2006 by Kirsten Barrett, who had met Ness in Rio Branco

"A just [wo]man's purpose cannot be split on any Grampus or material rock, but itself will split rocks till it succeeds."

-Henry David Thoreau

The ineffable feeling that we have lost a person that the world so desperately needs wounds our hearts. Vanessa Sequeira was such a person. Vanessa dedicated her life to the people of the Amazon who have the least. She worked indefatigably for many years in Peru and Brazil, first in NGOs, and more recently as an academic. Her primary interest was the people who make their meager living from the forest, and she was deeply concerned for their well-being. In her work, she reversed the idea of the impact of rural people on their environment and ventured to question how forest conservation affected local people. Such was the depth of her compassion for the people of the Amazon.

To meet Vanessa was to encounter a woman of strength and of tenderness, fearless and caring, a potent contrast. Vanessa said of herself, "I do things the hard way," which was her way of describing her untiring efforts.

Vanessa chose to come to Acre, though she could have stayed in Peru, because she did things the hard way. She sought out communities to work in that had not been visited by other outreach organizations because she did things the hard way. When one of the communities that she had worked in was threatened, she went directly to the police herself to complain vociferously about their treatment. She did not shy away from what she found difficult.

Vanessa found solace in her fieldwork. She was happy on the evening that she left for the field, welcoming the peace that she found there. Organizing her last minute details, she was going to the supermarket, she had forgotten to buy meat for her trip. She stayed to talk a while. She had a physical ease that belied her tenacity. She talked about her mother, who encouraged her to ease her loneliness in the city with a pet dog. We made plans to spend time together when she returned. Her noisy car sped her off to finish preparing for the field.

We may read what Vanessa has written, benefit from her work, commemorate her life. But in the absence of her person, we are left to grieve her passion, her fortitude, and her beauty.

Kirsten Barrett
Graduate School of Geography
Clark University

back to words