Steve Baker was born in 1949 and raised in Toronto, Canada. He graduated from the University of Western Ontario with a BA in Political Science. Soon after graduating, Steve met and married Peggy Belanger. Steve started his sales career working for high-tech medical manufacturers. After a time, he moved on to deal in art and handmade goods, which he bought directly from the artisans then sold to retailers across Canada and the USA. Steve and Peggy have one daughter, Katherine, who is currently working on a PhD in Paris. Steve and Peggy are both now retired and live in Key Biscayne, Florida, where Steve divides his time between working for the Isaias Rodriguez Anti-Malaria project, kayaking with Peggy and fishing.
Steve was lucky enough to have begun training in canoeing and outdoor skills from the age of 7. In his teens, he worked summers as a guide in Ontario ’s famous Algonquin Park. Steve has outfitted and led many rigorous wilderness trips all over North America, in places such as Temagami Wilderness Park, Quetico, the Boundary Waters, and the South Nahanni river. He and Peggy continue to spend a month canoe tripping in the bush in Northern Canada each year.
2001 marked a change in Steve’s life. Peggy accepted a post in Caracas from her employer. Steve sold his business and moved with Peggy. During the 5 years he and Peggy lived Caracas, Steve became involved with direct-action charitable work. He hooked up with two Amurtel workers with projects in Venezuela. Together they worked on projects to help poor coffee farmers in the mountains of Yaracuy and small-holding farmers in the Barlomento lowlands. Steve also worked with a Don Bosco home for street boys in the Caracas slums and with an Amurtel Neo-Humanist pre-school for barrio kids.
From 2001 to 2006, Steve spent at least a month each year in the Alto Ventuari region of Amazonas state traveling in the jungle by dugout canoe and by foot. It was here that he met the Cacique (grand chief) Isaias Rodriguez, under whose protection Steve was able to visit Ye'kuana and Sanema villages along the Ventuari river, and up into its headwaters tributaries, the Yatiti and Uesete rivers.
On each of Steve’s first trips, Cacique Isaias expressed his concern about how malaria was sickening and killing his people. Steve promised Cacique Isaias that he would do what he could to help fight malaria in the Alto Ventuari. Steve undertook a number of anti-malaria projects while living in Venezuela to try to fulfill that promise. Some were successful some not.
Late in 2006, Steve read the UN Millennium Report on Malaria for the first time. That report stressed prevention as the best method to fight malaria. In fact, it recommended that governments and NGOs worldwide concentrate on putting Insecticide Treated Bed Nets (ITNs) into the hands of as many people as possible in areas that are under threat from malaria. This epiphany occurred at exactly the time Steve and Peggy moved back to North America from Venezuela. From that time to the present, Steve has worked to buy bed nets, have them treated with Insect Shield technology, then take them to the Alto Ventuari for free distribution.
Cacique Isaias Rodriguez Memorial Anti Malaria Project
The objective of the project is to reduce the rate of malaria infection amongst the indigenous people, Ye’kuana and Sanema, who are the exclusive residents of the upper section of the Ventuari River – the Alto Ventuari – in Amazonas State, Venezuela.
Malaria is wide spread and on the rise throughout the Amazon basin. The disease sickens tens of thousands and kills thousands of people each year in Venezuela. The region of Venezuela with the highest incidence of the disease per thousand people is Amazonas State, home to a mostly indigenous population.
The indigenous people of Amazonas are some of the poorest in the country and often live in physically isolated communities, far from medical services. Malaria can strike any person exposed to an infected mosquito, but it is young children, pregnant women, and the elderly who are most likely to die of the disease.