After enjoying a successful career as a freelance fashion and advertising photographer in Los Angeles for over 15 years, Nancy Santullo felt that something was missing. She had an internal longing for more, and was compelled to step out of her comfortable world in search of deeper meaning in her life.
In 1999, Nancy made a trip to the Peruvian Rainforest. There, she found a connection to the people of an indigenous village – to their beauty – their hearts, and their vision of what the future looked like for their children and community. Nancy saw that access to clean water, and sanitation that did not contaminate their surroundings, could fundamentally alter their vision. It could be a future they would define from a place of strength, holding fast to their environment, their traditions, and their culture. She also saw a need that resonated in her, something she wanted to direct her energy and talent toward, something she wanted to change for the better. It was on this trip that Nancy decided she would make this her life’s work, her calling.
That was 10 years ago. She has been working with the indigenous people of this region bringing them clean water, dignified sanitation and health education ever since. The essence of her activism is not only a functioning clean water source, or creating better hygiene and health — it is the building of a community that values, maintains and benefits together from its existence in their village.
Her vision is to create the first replicable model of culturally appropriate WASH (Water Sanitation and Health) programming for indigenous rainforest cultures in the southeastern Peruvian Amazon. Once this is accomplished, the programs expand out it to countries such as Brazil, Indonesia, and Democratic Republic of Congo. Including Peru, these are four countries with the largest rainforest coverage, biological diversity and indigenous populations.
“It’s a mix of modern technology with natural resources,” Santullo says. “With that combination, the people receive the advantage of the modern without losing their connection to the natural. We honor their way of life while helping them make these changes for themselves. House of the Children is that structure which cares for life,” she says. “I always say that what I do is disguised as water and sanitation, but what it’s really about is awakening the hopes and desires of the people.”
Visit Nancy Santullo for more information.